Sixteenth-Century English Books and Authors in the National Library of Russia, St Petersburg: A Preliminary Survey

R.W. McConchie, University of Helsinki

This report concerns the accumulation of English books in the foreign stock of the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg. While not nearly as extensive as its collections of French, German, or Polish books, it is nevertheless a significant resource which has not been studied so far. It is extensive enough to contain some highly significant items, to provide some perspective on eighteenth-century collectors and collections, and add to our view of English writers and publishers in the sixteenth century, particularly those with continental connexions. Not only are there some individual items of great rarity and interest, but the collection also offers a general sense of what enlightenment bibliophiles and scholars saw as germane to their cultural outlook. This report briefly considers the history of the library and the sources of its foreign books, as well as surveying the make-up of this accumulation, including the best-represented authors, places of publication, and the importance of English exiles and expatriates.

Книги и авторы XVI века в собрании Российской Национальной Библиотеки в Санкт-Петербурге: предварительный отчет

Р. В. МакКонки

Настоящий обзор посвящен собранию английских книг в иностранном отделе Российской Национальной Библиотеки в Санкт-Петербурге. Несмотря на то, что данная коллекция уступает по объему фондам французских, немецких или польских книг РНБ, она, тем не менее, включает в себя богатые материалы, которые до сих пор остаются практически неописанными. Это собрание, представленное несколькими особенно ценными книгами, позволяет судить о коллекционерах и коллекциях XVIII века и расширяет наши представления об английских писателях и издателях XVI века, особенно о тех из них, кто имел связи с континентальной Европой. Некоторые из этих книг не только необычайно редки, но и являются важными свидетельствами того, что именно библиофилы и ученые Просвещения считали неотъемлемой частью своего культурного багажа. В настоящем обзоре рассматриваются история библиотеки и происхождение ее иностранных коллекций, состав английской коллекции, включая наиболее полно представленных авторов, места публикаций, а также участие в ее формировании эмигрантов и выходцев из Англии.

1. Introduction

The research reported in this paper is being conducted on the English books in the early printed book collections housed in the National Library of Russia, St Petersburg. [1] The library’s collection of books of this period is stated as about 37,000 on the online catalogue, but is in fact larger than this and the number is being steadily added to. [2] One obvious reason at present is that no sixteenth-century Aldine or Elzevier editions in the Rare Books deprtment have been entered so far, although there are many from the Foreign Books Department. The present research work has been primarily on the sixteenth century collection, partly because the NLR’s online foreign books catalogue is divided at 1600, and partly because the increase in the number of books and cards to be searched in the seventeenth century is simply too great for the present researcher. Although the sixteenth century section of the foreign books collection catalogue is now online, it is still essential to search the old cards for reasons to be explained below. The library also holds a large collection of incunabula, not yet online, in its Rare Books Department, which has also been searched manually.

The reason for this research is that English holdings in continental collections are generally poorly represented in British and US bibliographies, and that the NLR collection has not yet been fully catalogued for various historical reasons. Since the work is incomplete and ongoing, this article is largely descriptive, and can make only tentative suggestions about what is to be learnt from this collection, and what might be added to our knowledge of early English printed books. Such specific questions as whether this part of the collection will shed any light on the book-buying activities of the Załuski brothers, or of the other seventeenth- and eighteenth-century collectors whose material is now housed in the library are intriguing issues which must remain unanswered for now.

This article is not concerned with detailed study of individual items of particular interest (cf. Frolova, this volume), but simply with a broad-brush description. I will briefly consider expatriates and exiles and their works, and the question of what this collection indicates about which British authors were published where on the continent. I will also adumbrate the collection’s holdings in works on the fate of Mary Queen of Scots and those of John Foxe the martyrologist, simply to illustrate the patchy nature of the holdings, despite their extent. [3]

2. A Brief History of the National Library of Russian and its Foreign Stock

In the latter half of the eighteenth century, the establishment of a public library in St. Petersburg had been a cultural priority, despite there being libraries attached to institutions such as the academies of the arts and sciences and the Hermitage. [4] Catherine the Great (1729-96) intended such a library as an expression of national aspiration and enlightenment principles. The order to construct a building for this library was issued in May 1795 (Pamfilov 1995: 10-11). Apart from being a repository for all Russian publications, it was also to reflect European culture and scholarship more generally. Its foundation came to mark ‘the start of a new chapter in the history of scholarship, culture and education in Russia’ (Pamfilov 1995: 11).

The foreign stock of the library was greatly augmented at the end of the eighteenth century by the Załuski Library (see Bieńkowska 2007: 9-11), a collection assembled in Warsaw by the Polish brothers Andrzej (1695-1758) and Józef Załuski (1702-1774), sons of a prominent family who were independently wealthy. Both the brothers were in orders, and both eventually became bishops. Józef’s opposition to King Stanislaw Poniatowski, at one time a lover of Catherine the Great, and his dislike of Russian interference in the affairs of Poland led to his imprisonment in Kaluga in Russia from 1767 to 1773. The brothers had been enthusiastically collecting books since their first visit to Paris in 1716-17 (see Witt 2005). They acquired the libraries of a number of earlier Polish bibliophiles, as well as collecting elsewhere in Europe, often through the activities of agents. Their massive collection, which eventually amounted to over 400,000 volumes, became Poland’s first public library. The Załuskis were inspired by the enlightenment and were encyclopaedic in their collecting interests, but did plan to establish a definitive assemblage of Polish printed material (Dżurak 18-20; see also Bieńkowska, and Chamerska 1990: 59-60).

Emperor Nicholas I

Image 1. The Załuski bookplate

Part of the collection was seized by Russian troops on the orders of Catherine the Great in 1794 following the second partition of Poland (1793) and the Kościuszko uprising, which was eventually put down by the Russian general Suvorov. Warsaw was looted, and much of the collection was moved to St. Petersburg. [5] Some Polish materials had already been obtained in the same way, such as the Radziwill collection, brought from Minsk in 1772 (Havu and Lebedeva 12). These acquisitions were made despite the fact that Warsaw had not so far come under direct Russian rule, finally falling into the hands of Prussia in the third partition in 1795. [6] This process of moving the books involved some loss of titles and dispersion, since it was essentially spoils of war, and must have suffered both theft and despoliation during its relocation. Catherine however took considerable interest in the new acquisition, and clearly had a plan in mind for a library to rival any in Western Europe.

Emperor Nicholas I

Image 2. The Załuski ex libris

Catherine approved a design for a new library building in 1795, and continued to take an interest in its progress until her death the following year. The bulk of the Załuski collection was thus eventually housed in a building on Nevsky Prospect in the early nineteenth century, where most of it remains. Some of the items from the collection were returned to Poland in the early 1920s under the terms of the Treaty of Riga (Bieńkowska and Chamerska 1990: 76), but were unfortunately destroyed by Nazi troops in October 1944 as part of their systematic destruction of Warsaw.

Other collectors contributed to the English holdings. Among the more significant ones, Piotr Dubrovsky was an energetic acquirer of materials for the library in its early years as well, although he was more interested in French material than English (Pamfilov 1995: 14). It may well be that much of the English material, being of less interest than French, German and Polish works, was acquired largely piecemeal. Another was the military engineer Jan Pieter van Suchtelen (1751-1836), who was born in the Netherlands, but became a prominent Russian soldier and diplomat, and was elevated to the nobility of the Grand Duchy of Finland as the Count of Liikkala. He amassed a large library of about 70,000 volumes, some of which ended up in St. Petersburg (for van Suchtelen, see Lankhorst 1998).

The Załuski collection was undiscriminating as to subject matter, an important consideration in determining the ultimate subject disposition of the English sixteenth-century books of the NLR. ‘The Załuski collection was put together in the same spirit as the information for the Great Encyclopedia: a representation of the totality of human knowledge’ (Witt 2005). The second director of the Imperial Library in St. Petersburg, Aleksey Olenin (1763-1843), ‘described the library at Warsaw as “absolutely encyclopedic” and possessing books of all disciplines, human sciences, and arts. The most numerous was the theology collection, and after that history and literature’ (Witt). This did not however prevent the brothers from accumulating multiple copies of many works, which may explain why the English holdings contain two copies of George Buchanan’s relatively unimportant Paraphrasis psalmorum Davidis poetica Leiden 1595, as well as further copies of Buchanan’s work published in Leiden and Antwerp and another without a place assignation. [7] Buchanan’s more significant works include a history of Scotland (Rerum Scoticarum Historia, 1582), of which the NLR holds copies published in Frankfurt in 1584 and 1594, and a work on Mary Queen of Scots, to whom he was a tutor in 1562. The collection also contains three copies of John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica issued in Frankfurt in 1591, and two of the Antwerp edition of the same work (1564). There are also two copies of the version of Camden’s Britannia which appeared in Frankfurt in 1590.

Emperor Nicholas I

Image 3. The bookplate of Count Suchtelen

3. The present project

The present study has resulted from the joint project established some years ago between the English Department of the University of Helsinki and the State University of St Petersburg and the Russian Academy of Science, known as Early English Text and Corpus Studies (EETACS). [8] At first, an effort was made to determine what might invite investigation, whether manuscripts or printed books. Early investigations showed that, in general, while forming a valuable collection and adding materially to our knowledge of the early printed book in England, the English works in this library have long been largely inaccessible as a body of work for various reasons. The present research project is an attempt to list the early English printed books up to and including 1600 in this collection. Although the original belles lettres card catalogue contains an English section, there has never been a catalogue of English books per se. Establishing the extent of the holdings in a specific area has always been somewhat hampered by the library’s old card catalogues, being compartmentalised along traditional subject lines. [9] The modest ‘English’ part of the belles lettres catalogue by no means contains all the works coming under the label ‘English’. Many works appear in other old card catalogues, and there is very little cross-reference between the separate catalogues, although it is extensively employed within them. Works by Sir Thomas More, for example, appear in the belles lettres and social science catalogues, but not elsewhere. Any one of these original catalogues will usually contain the unique reference to a work since cross-referencing is confined to within a catalogue.

This project began with searches in the stock catalogue most likely to contain early English printed books carried out by Svetlana Visharenko, which identified ninety-seven items. I continued in what were then open access card catalogues, eventually deciding that a full search of the Theological Department cards was justified. This has now been completed. Work on the small Greek and Latin catalogues and the polygraphia (miscellaneous) catalogue is continuing, and the law cataolgue will also be searched.

During the course of this project, as for many years previously, the Library has been working on its electronic catalogue, most of which is now available online, although during the period in which most of my work was carried out, it was still under development and not complete. This electronic catalogue vastly improves the card catalogue data, ascribes authorship and dates from standard bibliographical reference works where this has been possible, and includes invaluable cross-reference to copies of works listed in such bibliographies. The old cards, while generally acceptable, vary quite a lot in quality and accuracy as might be expected, suffering at times from illegibility and physical degeneration, and containing information which is sometimes rather whimsical in modern bibliographical terms. The online catalogue also makes fuzzy searching available to a limited degree, which is helpful. This electronic catalogue is divided into blocks, however, both subject and period, so that a complete sweep of the catalogue for specified data is still time-consuming and labour-intensive. Furthermore, such details as the printer and/or publisher are still not generally available online.

My job has been made somewhat easier by the relatively recent release of the sixteenth-century foreign books part. The present work has been restricted to the foreign sixteenth-century section, which has been swept by using various author, place, year, and Boolean searches. The results to date suggest that about 10-15% of the works located in the card catalogues are not yet in the online catalogue, which has meant a return to the cards, where this study was originally commenced. To illustrate, the online catalogue lists two works by the Franciscan philosopher and theologian Richard Middleton (?-1302/3), but four appear in my list. There are various historical reasons for books not being located in such a large library with such a complex history, including mis-shelving, loss of catalogue cards, and theft. The on-line catalogue thus greatly assists in the recovery of data quickly and accurately, but still does not permit a comprehensive overview of the holdings of English books, and the search for ‘lost’ items continues. A complete search of all the card catalogues is, however, beyond the ability of a researcher on limited time to complete. The only certain method is to go through the books themselves, provided they are correctly shelved. [10] Just to take another instance, neither of the two editions of dictionaries by Thomas Cooper appear in the online catalogue as yet.

The catalogue of the Theological Department was eventually chosen as indicative of the rest of the holdings; that is, more likely to yield authors and works not listed in the other catalogues, which are by and large more specialised. It is also the largest subject catalogue for the foreign books collection, as we have seen. Short of complete recovery of all relevant works, it was felt that this approach would at least maximise what could be found with finite resources. This was done for two reasons – one, that this catalogue had already been searched through to the letter K, and had yielded a large number of works; the second that religious works predominate in sixteenth-century publishing, at least numerically, and that such works frequently impinge on other areas. Thus, for instance, edicts of Elizabeth I on religious matters, published both in England and on the continent, which might well have been catalogued elsewhere, appear in a number of copies among the theological cards. Likewise, many works appear here which might well have been put in, say, the philosophy catalogue. Finally, the theological catalogue seems clearly to have been a single, comprehensive catalogue, even including works which might be regarded as marginal to that subject area.

Other NLR subject catalogues will be searched as far as time permits, but the range of authors and works captured by the Theological Department catalogue is considerable. Extensive sweeps for further works by authors thus identified have been conducted in the online catalogue. The present intention (3.7.11) is to finish searching the small Greek and Latin catalogues as well, using Brűggeman as a guide, although thus far the Greek catalogue has, unsurprisingly, yielded nothing of interest which had not already been found, known English editions of Greek authors in the sixteenth century being confined to just a few writers, such as Aesop.

The coverage is thus as extensive as resources permit, but by no means complete, and many more works will undoubtedly be found eventually. It is hoped that with time the library’s bibliographers and other scholars will unearth more volumes and make modifications and additions to the present list. So far not many of the books listed have actually been sighted by this researcher, although the librarians have, of course, checked all those now listed in the online catalogue. It seems likely that at least a few works with no place ascription will prove to be of English provenance as well. The part of the catalogue covering acquisitions since the 1930s has not been searched, despite that fact that a few items might be found. In general, we may assume that there is more to be identified, given sufficient time and resources, and that the list on which this survey is based is provisional only.

3.1 Other bibliographies

Comparison of the details of each work has been made with the second edition of the Short-title Catalogue (STC) and the greatly expanded online version (ESTC). The STC, splendid though it is, is largely limited to the major British and American libraries, so that many works and indeed authors have escaped bibliographical notice in its pages, either wholly or partly (see section 6). The bibliographical information added to the NLR’s on-line catalogue is thus invaluable, even though some of it is based on older printed editions of these works. [11]

4. What is an English book?

Briefly canvassing the categories of publication outlined in the introduction to STC volume 1 (xxi-xxv), British imprints are all included, irrespective of language and nationality of author. Books published in English abroad are included, but the category of books ‘printed abroad in non-British languages’, excluded from the STC (xxii), is included here. False imprints for British places are included, despite being published abroad in reality, such as the Waldegrave productions falsely ascribed to Edinburgh, as well as editions of Nicolas Barnaud and François Hotman. Liturgies of British use have been included, as in STC, irrespective of place of publication. While the STC was more concerned with the imprint, I have been concerned to include any British writer without regard to imprint, and have also included works about Britain where they could be identified straightforwardly from the catalogue entry or are known to me to be such.

‘English’ for the present purposes thus means either published in Britain, written in English, written by a British author, that is, English-speaking and/or living in England or abroad, or some combination of these criteria. [12] Another category is those foreigners who lived in England or made a sufficiently significant contribution to be mentioned in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). Works published by a foreigner in England have been noted but not other works by that author, as in the cases of Erasmus and Peter Martyr Vermigli. Some remain difficult to decide by rule, most obviously Polydore Vergil (c.1470-1555), since he spent so long in England, and all copies of his works have been included. [13] This long list only includes four copies of the widely-read Anglica historia, however. On the other hand, Gerrit Vos (Gerardus Vossius), despite close connexions with England, including the grant of a prebend at Canterbury Cathedral and many English friends, does not appear on the list for lack of a title published in England (see Wikipedia: Geradus Vossius, despite being in the ODNB).

If it can be established, usually simply by the evidence of the name in the first place, and then by a check against the online ODNB, that the author is English but living abroad, all works have been listed. Arthur (Laurence) Faunt (1533/4-91), an expatriate living in Poland, is a case in point. [14] Faunt studied to become a jesuit in Louvain and Rome, and eventually went to a newly-established jesuit college in Poznan in 1581. He went on to publish a number of theological works. The library holds ten copies of a number of these, at least half published in Poznan. Another example is the catholic Robert Turner (d. 1599), an Englishman who was at the seminary at Douai in 1572, taught in Rome and Eichstatt, and eventually became a professor of eloquence at Ingolstadt and rector of that university. The library has four of his works, including one on Mary Queen of Scots.

People who could perhaps be described as denizens of England but not permanent residents present particular problems, and I have had to make some rather ad hoc decisions about whom to include and whom not. Polydore Vergil was in England for many years, so that all works and copies of works by him have been included. Erasmus is not represented at all, since the library holds no copies of his work published in England during his brief but important stay, but Theodore De Bry’s work as an illustrator was included in an account of the colony of Virginia, Thomas Hariot's Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1590), and all editions of that work, English or continental, have been included, the continental ones at least meeting the least salient criterion of being about England as well. [15]

This is a much more liberal interpretation of ‘English’ than was employed by the STC, but it seemed better to be more inclusive than less at this stage, especially since the list is not, even on these criteria, overwhelmingly large at about 1044 at the time of writing. [16] The issue of what to include in a national list is discussed by Karen Skovgaard-Petersen, in her review article on the catalogue of Scandinavian books in the British Library by Peter Hogg. Skovgaard-Petersen points out the pitfalls of imposing too strict a set of limitations (2009: 70-72), citing the example of the exclusion of the first edition of Linnaeus’s Systema naturae, held by the library, but excluded on the principle that omits works published outside Scandinavia and in a non-Scandinavian language. It was published in The Hague in 1735, and is of course a seminal work. Such ‘holes’ in the broader cultural view are unfortunate, and I have tried to avoid them by being inclusive, especially since English was a relatively minor European language in the sixteenth century, and publication on the continent and in a language such as Latin was culturally highly significant for an English author, a situation somewhat similar to that of the Scandinavian countries (see Skovgaard-Petersen 2009: 70-71). Thomas Linacre and John Case, whose works were well-known in continental editions, illustrate the point.

5. Author's names

Following the names in the hand-written NLR card catalogue is difficult, despite their not being in Cyrillic, given that there is so much variation in the forms, and inconsistencies in how to handle them crept in over the years. The works are listed as far as possible by the form of the author’s name as it appears in STC or the NLR catalogue, or in the case of authors not known to STC in a regularised form which is either the most usual form on the title-pages, or the best-known modernised equivalent where a form can be established from a source such as the ODNB. Other forms are listed as variants, and the entry for a given author lists the variants alphabetically under the head entry, including pseudonyms.

Pseudonyms are sometimes difficult, but some at least have been identified, such as ‘Pampolitanus’ for Richard Rolle and ‘Giles of Rome’ for Robert Kilwardby. Mainardi’s pseudonym, ‘Anthoni de Adamo’, would appear first under the entry-head. Hence

Adamo, Anthoni de (pseud. for Mainardi, Agostino, 1487-1563)

The jesuit Robert Parsons (1546-1610) published as both John Doleman and Andreas Philopater. An example of one which is so far unresolved is Gulielmus Rossaeus, author of De justa Reipub. Christianae in Reges impios et haereticos authoritate, Antwerp, 1592, whose identity has been variously suggested in various library catalogues as William Raynolds, William Ross or Rose, and Thomas Stapleton.

6. A broad view of the NLR holdings in English books to 1600

6.1. Incunabula

The NLR houses a large collection of incunabula. [17] It has long been known that there are no works published in England or in English among them, so that the only category of books of interest for the present list are works by Englishmen or Britons published elsewhere, and editions of authors of earlier periods, such as the seven editions of John of Holywood (Sacra Bosco), the earliest from 1472; four printings of works by William of Ockham, seven each of John of Garland and Michael Scotus, three of Robert Holcot, the oldest dating from 1478, at least five of Mandeville, plus some post-incunables (see title pages PDF). There are also at least two post-incunable editions of Bede.

6.2 The best-represented authors

Faced with such a large accumulation of early books, questions will naturally arise about the provenance and composition of the collection. Perhaps the most obvious is who is best represented. The numerically largest holdings are those of Polydore Vergil (54), John Case (18), Thomas Linacre (17), Alexander Alesius (Allane), George Buchanan, John Fisher, John Jewel and Thomas More (15); Bede and John Duns Scotus (14); Mandeville and Thomas Stapleton (13); Peter Martyr Vermigli (12), Laurence Faunt, John Garland, and Reginald Pole (11); John de Sacrabosco (John of Holywood) (10), Michael Scotus and Nicholas Sanders (9), and John Bale, John Barnes, William Fulke, and Henry the Eighth (8). There are also ten copies of The Book of Common Prayer, but several of these are undated and may prove to be seventeenth-century editions. These figures may change a little as the list is refined, but it will serve to indicate the relativities between authors and perhaps interests as well. It is apparent that Scots such as the Lutheran theologian Alexander Allane (Alesius) and Robert Rollock also have considerable listings. There are more early seventeenth-century copies of Rollock in the collection, but these have been excluded by the cut-off date of 1600. Kirk (2004) points out that Rollock was popular on the continent, being published in Geneva, Heidelberg, and Herborn.

6.3. Geographical distribution

A further question is how they are they distributed geographically. At present, the list yields the following provisional spread of imprints for Britain itself:

Authors by location

Image 4. Geographical representation of authors. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Number of imprints






















(7) False Imprints

The bulk of the Oxford editions are the works of John Case published by Joseph Barnes, while the Cambridge works by Martin James, John More, William Perkins and William Whitaker and an edition of Lysias are those published by John Legate, apart from an early work by John Borough (Johannis de Burgo). Most of the Edinburgh imprints are known to be false. What is more interesting about this collection from this point of view is that it reveals something of the extent to which Englishmen were printed on the continent, as well as who tended to be printed where.

Basel imprints total 63, mainly the works of Polydore Vergil, but there is a generous sprinkling of other authors printed there as well. Venice yields 35, including works by John Duns Scotus, Polydore Vergil, Michael Scotus and, perhaps surprisingly, Mandeville. Paris's 39 seem relatively evenly distributed between authors and titles. Cologne, with 30, tended to publish Bede and John Fisher, and Quentell produced John of Garland there as well a number of times, but otherwise the spread is broad. Lyon, with 26, concentrates on Polydore Vergil, but is spread otherwise. Linacre and Alexander Alesius are mainly represented by works published in Leipzig, which has 24 in all, these two authors forming a large majority.

6.4. Expatriate writers

It is also revealing to see the English expatriates in a stronger light than would normally appear in ‘north Atlantic’ bibliographies, especially since there were so many who either fled or were exiled during the religious upheavals and controversies in the sixteenth century. There are some who are represented only slightly in the standard British bibliographies, and some who do not appear at all. An example of the latter is Arthur (Laurence) Faunt (1554-1591), who is well represented in the NLR collection, but does not appear at all in the ESTC. The NLR has no less than eleven publications of seven different works by him, but of course the Polish emphasis, dominated by productions from Cracow, is apparent throughout. Robert Parsons (Persons) (1546-1610), a catholic who left England in 1574, became a jesuit, and spent most of the rest of his life in exile, is represented by five items. Parsons also published under the pseudonyms John Doleman, Philopatris, and Andreas Philopater.

6.5. Works not in the ESTC

To take a few examples of works which have escaped the ‘nth Atlantic’ bibliographical tradition, the collection includes an edition of Robert Rollock’s Tractatus De vocatione efficaei published in Herborn in 1600 (see title pages PDF). Likewise, a work by Lois de Blois (Luidovicus Blosius), his Canon vitae Christianae spiritualis London, 1585, does not appear in ESTC. Consolations for all troubled consciences s. l., (‘1600?’ in the NLR catalogue) may well be the work by William Perkins listed in ESTC as published in 1623 or a variant thereof, or may perhaps turn out to be another edition altogether. The status of this volume has yet to be determined. Florence Wilson (?-1551 or after) the Scottish humanist, does not appear in the ESTC at all, but a copy of his Commentatio quaedam theologica, published in Lyons in 1539, is in the NLR collection. The work entitled The exposition of Daniel the Prophete gathered oute of Philip Melanchthon, Johan Ecolampadius, Chonrade Pellicanes out of Johan Draconite &c. s. l., 1545 does not appear in ESTC and, despite its English title, may have been published on the continent. Likewise a work in a Strassburg edition by the martyrologist, John Foxe (Johann Foxus) Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum maximarumque, per totam Europam... Argentorati [Strasbourg], 1554, printed by Wendelinus Rihelius, a forerunner to his famous Acts and Monuments printed for an English audience while Foxe was in exile in Strasbourg (Freeman 2008), does not meet the ESTC criteria for inclusion, but is an important work from the English point of view. Rihelius was already known for reformist printing, having produced several of Calvin’s works (Parker: 15-22)

It is of course particularly interesting to find a work or printing which was published in London but is unlisted by the ESTC. A case in point is Lodowick Lloyd’s The History of the Hebrews, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Scythians, Parthians etcede. London, 1590. [Not in STC, ESTC, or Brydges and Haslewood: 3, xix] It is possible that this work is a separately published section of his The Consent of Time (1590), both an account of errors in the computation of time in the ancient world and an extensive comparative history covering a number of peoples, which is also in the NLR collection.

We should perhaps take an example of a contemporary English issue with ramifications outside England itself in relation to the NLR collection, which is particularly strong in French publications of the sixteenth century. A great deal was written and published on the fate of Mary Queen of Scots after the Rising of the North in 1569 and her eventual execution in 1587, both in England and on the continent. The NLR holds at least some of this material, such as two separate editions of Adam Blackwood’s Martyre de la Royne d'Escosse, douairière de France, 1588, published in Antwerp and Paris, the latter bearing the false imprint ‘Edinbourg’, and William Cecil’s Justitia Britan[n]ica liquet perspicue aliquot in eo regno perdictos cives seditionis authores London, 1584 (see title pages PDF). This work was published by Vautrollier in London simultaneously with editions in Dutch (by Schilders, Middelburg) and Italian (Wolf, London) (see Giry-Deloison, 226); but the library holds none of the latter, despite the contemporaneous popularity of the subject on the continent, especially in France (Giry-Deloison, 233). Blackwood and the jesuit Robert Parsons, the latter well represented in the NLR collection, espoused the cause of English Catholics generally, while Cecil and the government worked to counter their influence (Giry-Deloison, 237). Another supporter of Mary in exile, David Chambers, is represented by two works in the NLR – Histoire abbrégée de tous les roys de France, Angleterre et Escosse Paris: Iean Fevrier, 1579, a Załuski volume, and La recerche des singularitez plus remarquables, concernant l'éstat d'Escosse Paris: Iean Fevrier, 1579. The holdings on this this topic are thus significant but nowhere near complete.

Finally a brief consideration of the NRL holdings of works by the martyrologist John Foxe (Johann Foxus) will demonstate the extent to which they are unsystematic, at least as regards English holdings. The library has a Strassburg edition by Foxe, Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum maximarumque, per totam Europam... Argentorati [Strasbourg], 1554, which was a forerunner to his famous Acts andMonuments printed for an English audience while Foxe was in exile in Strasbourg (Freeman 2008). It also has a French translation (Troisieme partie du recueil des martyrs. - s. l., 1556), but does not have any of the minor works published by Oporinus while Foxe was working for him during his exile. [18] Thus the NRL has copies of various works by Foxe, including the early Strasbourg martyrology but not the great martryology itself, first published by John Day in 1563. The library does however hold two editions of the attack on Foxe by Nicholas Harpsfield (Dialogi sex, contra summi pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatores, et pseudomartyres (Antwerp 1573 and 1576) (see Freeman 2008). [19] His Papas Confutatas (1580) is held, but only in the translation by James Bell in the same year, not the original Latin version and, finally, the library also has a copy of his last work, Eicasmi, seu Meditationes, on the book of Revelations, published in 1587.

7. Conclusions

The current state of this work is too early to hope for firm conclusions, but a few suggestions can be made. One matter which will require further work is identifying the sources of the English works in this collection as far as is possible. Frolova has been occupied by this question in her studies of individual works (see Frolova, this volume), and Kisseleva (2004) has outlined the potential of this approach. [20] The way in which collections became dispersed and were reassembled throughout early modern Europe is obviously a considerable source of information about cultural and intellectual trends. This also applies to the various marks of ownership, ascriptions, marginalia, and so on which many books contain. Book annotations represent ‘important secondary sources for historical and cultural research’, as Kisseleva puts it (2004: 1). Questions certainly remain – for instance, is there something to be learned from the make-up of a collection which was come by in an ad hoc rather than an organised, principled way? How aware were the Russian and Polish accumulators of English material? How much of this material was simply what came along incidentally with large collections of other works? Finally, it seems that this collection will shed some important light on our knowledge of English books and British authors, especially those with continental connexions who do not appear in standard bibliographies or who are only poorly represented.


[1] For a brief account of its holdings, Kostaki 2000, 3-7.

[2] The figure presently stands at 37,530, last updated on 9.5.2012. See here for the most recent count.

[3] Work has been done on English items in other collections in the former Soviet area; see, for example, the study of the item from the so-called 'Shakespeare Library' forgeries by William Henry Malone, held in the Warsaw University Library (Czapnik 2005 and Kilpiö, this volume), or the article on the Jenkinson map of Russia in the Wrocław University library (Szykyła 2005).

[4] Count Alexander Stroganov and others had authored a plan for such a library in 1766 (Pamfilov 1995: 13).

[5] This was by no means the only time a Polish collection was taken; see Dżurak 2011. Most of the royal library of Stanislaw Poniatowski (1764-95), for instance, ended up in Kiev (Bieńkowska 2007: 10).

[6] It eventually did so after the Napoleonic wars.

[7] Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

[8] The EETACS project, founded by Professor Matti Rissanen and others in 1995 is a joint project intended primarily to explore the manuscript and early printed book resources relating to England in the National Library of Russia and the Library of the Academy of Science in St. Petersburg. On early English printed books in the Academy library, see Pitulko 2003 and her article in this volume.

[9] These departmental divisions have been and indeed still are apparent in the way the library works. Communication between departments such as Rare Books and Foreign Books are still limited by administrative arrangements, which also seem to have hindered the production of a fully integrated catalogue.

[10] The assistance in this respect supplied by Olga Frolova of the Foreign Books Department has been invaluable.

[11] The very large extension of the ESTC material to 1800 has also greatly increased the time the work is taking.

[12] I have found no works in Welsh so far, such as STC 3170a.

[13] He first came to England in 1502, and proceeded to amass a number of livings and prebends.

[14] He was born Arthur Faunt, and took Laurence as a religious name.

[15] A card does exist, however, which incorrectly ascribes an early continental copy of De Copia to London.

[16] ‘British’ was considered as a descriptor, and is sometimes used in this paper, but in fact the non-English British component is relatively small. This might have necessitated including books printed in Brittany; for further information, see Walsby 2011.

[17] For a brief account of the incunabula, see Pamfilov 1995: 86-89.

[18] Such as Germaniae ad Angliam gratulatio, a work hailing the restoration of protestantism in England which was printed by Oporinus in 1559 (Freeman 2008).

[19] Harpsfield published this work under the name of Alan Cope, the Catholic exile.

[20] She identifies in passing some manuscripts which come from the massive collection of Sir Thomas Phillips (1792-1872)


National Library of Russia, St Petersburg,

English Short Title Catalogue

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2011) OUP

Gerardus Vossius entry in Wikipedia

PDF of title pages (6MB)


Sixteenth-century works

Anon? (1545) The exposition of Daniel the Prophete gathered oute of Philip Melanchton, Johan Ecolampadius, Chonrade Pellicanes out of Johan Draconite &c. S. l.

Barnaud, Nicolas. (1574) Dialogi ab Eusebio Philadelpho Cosmopolita in Gallorum et caeterarum nationum gratiam compositi. Edinburgi [Edinburgh] [false imprint].

Barnaud, Nicolas. (1574) Le réveille-matin des François et de leurs voisins / Composé par Eusebe Philadelphi Cosmopolite, en forme de dialogues. Edimbourg [Edinburgh] [false imprint]

Blois, Louis de (1585) Canon vitae Christianae spiritualis. London.

Blois, Louis (1585) Canon vitae Christianae spiritualis. London.

Buchanan. Georgius (1595) Paraphrasis psalmorum Davidis poetica; Item tragoedia "Iphthes". Lugduni Batavorum [Leiden].

Camden, William (1590) Britannia. Siue florentissimorum regnorum, Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae, et Insularum adiacentium ex intima antiquitate chorographica descriptio, authore Guilielmo Comdeno. Nunc tertio recognita & ... adaucta, primiumq in Germania in lucem edita. Francofurti [Frankfurt am Main]: Apud I. Wechelum, impensis P. Fischer, & haeredum H. Tackii.

Cecil, William (1584) Justitia Britan[n]ica liquet perspicue aliquot in eo regno perdictos cives seditionis authores. Londini [London].
Florio, John (1591) 12 trees to the Italian & Engl. tongue, & 600 Ital. proverbes. London.

Foxe, John (1554) Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum maximarumque, per totam Europam Argentorati [Strasbourg].

Foxe, John (1580) The pope confuted... / Translated out of latine into english by James Bell. London.

Foxe, John (1554) Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum maximarumque, per totam Europam. Argentorati [Strasbourg].

Foxe, John (1587) Eicasmi, seu Meditationes Joannis Foxii in Sacram Apocalypsin. Londini [London]: Geor. Byshop.

Foxe, John (1556) Troisieme partie du recueil des martyrs. - S.l.

Lloid, Lodowick (1590) The History of the Hebrews, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Scythians, Parthians etcede. London.

Rollock, Robert (1600) Tractatus De vocatione efficaei. Herbornae Nassoviorum [Herborn].

Turner, Robert (1588) Maria Stuarta regina Scottiae... martyr ecclesiae. Ingolstadii [Ingolstadt].

Wilson, Florence (1539) Commentatio quaedam theologica. Lyons.

Secondary references

Bieńkowska, Barbara (2007) ‘An Outline of the History of Research Libraries in Poland from the Middle Ages to 1945’ Polish Libraries Today 7, 5-18.

Bieńkowska, Barbara and Chamerska, Helena (1990) Books in Poland Past and Present. Ed. and trans. Zalewski, Wojciech and Payne, Eleanor R. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Brűggeman, Lewis William (1797-) A View of the English Editions, Translations and Illustrations of the Ancient Greek and Latin Authors Stettin: J. S. Leich.

Brydges, Sir Egerton and Haslewood, Joseph (1812) The British Bibliographer, vol. 3. London: For R. Triphook by T. Bensley.

Czapnik, Marianne (2005) ‘Edward Monying’s Account of a Visit to Hessen and the Forgery of the ‘Shakespeare Library’ ’ Polish Libraries Today 6, 52-56.

Dżurak, Ewa (2011) ‘Antecedents of the Warsaw Public Library’ Library and Information History 27.1, 17-31.

Freeman, Thomas S. (2008) ‘Foxe, John (1516/17–1587)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn., accessed 18 June 2011.

Giry-Deloison, Charles (2004) ‘France and Elizabethan England’ Transactions of the RHS 14, 223-42.

Goering, Joseph (2004) ‘Burgh , John (fl. 1370–1398)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press., accessed 18 Feb 2011.

Harris, Peter E. B. (2004) ‘Turner, Robert (d. 1599)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press., accessed 13 Feb 2011.

Havu and Lebedeva (1997) Collections Donated by the Academy of Sciences of St Petersburg to the Alexander University Library of Finland in 1829: An Annotated Catalogue. Publications of the Helsinki University Library 61. Helsinki: Helsinki University Library.

Houliston, Victor (2004) ‘Persons [Parsons], Robert (1546–1610)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press., accessed 15 April 2011.

Lankhorst, Otto S. (1998) ’Jan Pieter van Suchtelen (1751-1836) verzamelaar van boeken en handschriften: Oftewel hoe brieven van de maatschappij der Nederlandse letterkunde in Sint-Petersburg terechtkwamen.’ Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde 27-44. [In Dutch]

Kirk, James (2004) ‘Rollock, Robert (1555–1599)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press., accessed 18 Feb 2011.

Kisseleva, Ludmilla (2004) ‘Book Annotations as Historical Sources and their Use in Database applications’ European Cultural Heritage in the Digital Age. CERL Papers IV. ed. Shaw, David L. London: Consortium of European Research Libraries, 1-9.

Kostaki, Tatiana (2000) Russian Library Treasures: An Index of National and Academic Libraries Russian Cultural Briefings 1. Toronto: Russian Cultural Information Publications.

Murphy, G. Martin (2004) ‘Faunt, Arthur (1553/4–1591)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press., accessed 13 Feb 2011.

Pamfilov, Yury (ed.) (1995) The National Library of Russia 1795-1995. Barkhatova, Yelena, chief compiler, tr. Williams, Paul. Liki Rossii: Saint Petersburg.

Parker T. H. L. (1993) Calvin's New Testament Commentaries Edinburgh: T & T Clark

Pitulko, Galina (2003) ‘Sixteenth-Century English Books in the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg) Neuphilologische Mitteilungen: Bulletin de la Société Néophilologique/Bulletin of the Modern Language Society; 104 (2): 149-58.

Pollard, A. W. and Redgrave, G. R. (1979-1990) A Short-title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad 1475-1640. 2nd ed., Jackson, W. A. Ferguson, F. S. and Pantzer, Katharine F. (eds,) 3 vols., London: The Bibliographical Society.

Skovgaard-Petersen, Karen (2009) (review article) “Scandinavian Books in the British Library” The Library 7th series, 10.1, 66-73.

Szykuła, Krystyna (2005) ‘The Jenkinson Map of Russia (1562): A Research Summary’ Polish Libraries Today 6, 57-69.

Walsby, Malcolm (2011) The Printed Book in Brittany, 1484-1600 Leiden: Brill.

Wiedermann, Gotthelf (2008) ‘Alesius [Allane or Alan], Alexander (1500–1565)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008., accessed 18 Feb 2011.

William J. Connell (2004) ‘Vergil, Polydore (c.1470–1555)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, accessed 18 Feb 2011.

Witt, Maria (2005) ‘The Strange Life of One of the Greatest European Libraries of the Eighteenth Century: The Zaluski Collection in Warsaw’ FYI France., accessed 1.7.07.