bonæ litteræ: occasional writing from David Rundle, Renaissance scholar

The Library of Humfrey, duke of Gloucester

A long-term project I have is a major study of the library of Humfrey, duke of Gloucester — its creation, its uses and its dispersals. This project was originally generously funded by a Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford, supported by the J. P. R. Lyell Fund. Several of my publications have touched on parts of this topic, as have some of my conference contributions.

As part of the project, I have produced a new listing of the manuscripts which once belonged to Humfrey which is downloadable as a pdf.


8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] a discovery I made a while ago; I have alluded to it both in print in Studi umanistici piceni and on this website but not discussed it in full. It is the fact that the sole copy of Frulovisi’s comedies, a […]

  2. […] and the other in the sixteenth century – leaves us, presently, with just under 50 manuscripts (the exact number depends on how you count them) from a collection which probably comprised, at a necessarily rough estimate, between 500 and 600 […]

  3. […] The picture above is the opening two stanzas of the prologue to the anonymous Middle English verse translation of Palladius’s Opus agriculturae (scroll down for a text and translation of the first stanza) in Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Duke Humfrey d. 2.  As you can see, the first line of the stanza is written down the side of the initial A and the other lines have phrases written in different coloured inks.  It was translated for Humfrey, duke of Gloucester (youngest son of Henry IV) between 1440 and 1447.  (On Humfrey as a reader, patron and book-owner, see recent work by Daniel Wakelin and David Rundle). […]

  4. Bradley Dubbs said, on 17 October, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Was doing some reading on Humfrey, wondered if anyone compiled a list of MS once owned by the Duke and, tada ….found your blog. Really interesting.

    I followed the url links in the PDF to the BL images and after admiring those, searched for other potential images. Found a few on the BnF gallica site (links below active as of October 2014) but did not find others. Will try to update if a find additional images.

    Each link (except #39) takes you to images of the MS as well as in some cases detailed provenance and additional sources.

    36. Bible Historiee (Historiale)

    37. Froissart, poems

    38. Christine de Pisan, lives of Charles V

    39. Boccaccio Decameron (microfilm only — no image)

    40. Le roman de Renart

    41. Panegyricus latini

    42. Cicero Epistolae

    43. Petrarch de Remidiis
    “Franc. Petrarce libri duo de remediis utriusque fortune”

    44. Jacques de Voraigne, Legende doree
    (Bibliothèque Mazarine)

    45. Livy, trans Bersuire
    (Bibliothèque interuniversitaire Sainte-Geneviève)

    If anyone can point me to research that discusses how some of the books in the Duke’s library were later found for example, on 1467 inventory lists with the Duke of Burgundy and later throughout Europe I would appreciate it.
    I am a retired from the tech industry but enjoy reading in more detail.

    From what I read the Duke did not have a will but some later sources mentioned one. Is there a remote possibility that a formal will existed or the Dukes wishes were known by his remaining friends in England and that following this, the books were conveyed to very distant friends and relatives on the continent. From a short read on the BnF site on provenance, there is a gap in some cases from the Duke’s death to later inventory lists. Is it more probably a case of there is little information on where some of the Dukes books were after his death and that they likely just passed through several book collectors and later were found in larger collections like the library the Duke of Burgundy.

  5. bonaelitterae said, on 19 October, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Many thanks, Bradley, for this useful comment – when I next update the on-line list, I will include the links you list (and some of the Oxford mss also now have images on-line): thank you for going to that trouble. The list as it appears here, but without the links, will soon appear in hard-copy in the _Bodleian Library Record_.
    You ask two questions: on the first, the most recent overview of the dispersal of his library is by myself in _Lost Libraries_, edited by James Raven. But I do not discuss specifically the move of manuscripts to Burgundy as diplomatic gifts: you might want to look at the excellent work by Hanno Wijsman, _Luxury Bound_.
    On the second, the issue of the will is contentious: the crown died intestate but the University of Oxford, believing that they would receive the rest of his library, were certain he had made one – and as Gilbert Kymer was their Chancellor and the duke’s former chancellor, they may well have been right. But it was lost and we cannot hope that a copy still exists. On all of this, you may find interesting (or not), my short article on ‘Unnoticed Manuscripts from the Collection…: Part II’ where I review the evidence and waht happened next. Enjoy!

  6. […] of the latest version of the listing of the Duke’s manuscripts, which has also appeared as a page here (what the print version does not incorporate are the links to images which, as you will see on that […]

  7. Bradley Dubbs said, on 15 September, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    ny known links (both in their activities or collections) between Humfrey and Balliol benefactor William Gray born 20-25 years after the Duke? Both have Oxford links and a family relation in the Greys of Heaton.

    According to a Balliol College history by Jones p.35 [1] , William Gray was son of Thomas Grey of Heaton (who was executed in England just before Agincourt in 1415; the book says 1416).

    Humfrey’s daughter Antigone married Henry Grey, Earl of Tankerville (c. 1420 – 1450) son of Sir John Grey, who was Thomas Grey of Heaton’s brother.

    Sir John died in 1421 in France so he would have had little if any interaction with his nephew William Gray. But possibly William and his cousin Henry Gray, with both fathers dead by 1421 might have been occasionally watched over by Humfrey and their uncle William Gray later bishop of London (as in p. 35).

    The interaction was limited likely between Humfrey and John Gray but with his son Henry probably more so. Humfrey was in France with Sir John Grey from 1415-18. Although they served there, I don’t know how close they became. I believe however Humfrey was in Rouen with Sir John Grey (see poem about Sir John “the comely knight”! at Rouen).

    At any rate, Humfrey did acquire the marriage of Sir John Grey’s son. A CPR entry shows that in Jan 3, 1434/5 the marriage of Sir John Grey’s son Henry Grey was granted to Humfrey and he and Antigone had daughter Elizabeth at an unknown date and a son Richard in about 1437, ten years before Humfrey died.

    I don’t have much on William Gray but could he have begun his collecting in roughly this mid-1430s timeframe when Humfrey’s links with the Grays may have become closer? Could he have been encouraged by Humfrey?

    I have not come across mention of a possible link in any literature citing for example Humfrey’s letters, though the Balliol College history p. 35 says William made copies of Humfrey’s very new book donations to Oxford at roughly this time. It looks like William was in Italy (1444?) about three years before Humfrey died, so possibly he was in contact with some of Humfrey’s humanist network just before or after he died.

    Even if there is no evidence, you have to wonder who inspired William Gray’s interest in humanism and collecting (and I apologize if this topic is already covered in your or other research). Possibly the inspiration just happened being in Oxford or possibly it was Humfrey (who has a link back to the Bohun illuminated MSS) or his bishop uncle or through his mother’s Neville link. Any Grey of Heaton history of book collecting might be lost but there is the Scalacronica by ancestor Thomas Gray of Heaton a few generations previously (see King, ‘Scaling the Ladder: The Rise and Rise of the Grays of Heaton’).

    Thanks for the blog. I look forward to more.

    Bradley Dubbs

    [1.] Balliol History:

    I just recently was putting the following notes together for something else and then stumbled on William Gray:

    **Humphrey Duke of Gloucester (1390-1447) m. NN
    Humphrey was born in 1390. [2.1] He married firstly Jacqueline of Hainault. [2.2] He married secondly Eleanor Cobham. [2.3] He died in February 23, 1447. [2.4] He had a daughter Antigone by an unidentified mistress. [2.5] In January 1434/5, Humphrey was granted the marriage of his future son-in-law Henry Grey [2.6] who would marry his daughter Antigone. His arms, quarterly France and England, a bordure argent, can be seen for example in Bodleian MS Duke Humfrey d. 2. [2.7]

    [2.1] Vickers, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, p. 1-2; Given-Wilson, Henry IV (2016) p 69.
    [2.2] Vickers, p. 126-30; Complete Peerage, vol 5, p. 736.
    [2.3] Vickers, p. 205-6; CP, vol 5, p. 736.
    [2.4] Vickers, p. 293; A month after his death, CPR 1446-53, p 45: March 24, “Appointment, during pleasure, of James Fenys, knight, lord of Say, Thomas Stanley, knight… to hold and dispose of the goods late of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, who died intestate…”
    [2.5] Vickers, p. 335; CP, vol 5, p. 736, (note g).
    [2.6] CP, vol. 6, p138, note a: “On Jan 3, 1434/5 the marriage of Henry, son and heir of John Gray kt and Joan his wife was granted to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester for 800 pounds (citing CPR, 13 Hen VI, m 27).
    [2.7] See Illuminated initials (fol. 1r):

    **Henry Grey, Earl of Tankerville (c. 1420 – 1450) m. Antigone

    Henry Grey (son of John Grey of Heaton Northumberland) was born according to WRB Robinson, at Pontesbury on August 11, 1420. According to the DNB he was born about 1419 (aged a year and a half or more in his father’s April 1421 inquisition post mortem). [3.1] Henry Grey, Earl of Tankerville married Antigone, illegitimate daughter of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. He died January 13, 1449/50. [3.2] They had a daughter Elizabeth Grey but her year of birth is not recorded. Her brother Richard Grey later Lord Powys was thirteen years old when his father died so born about 1437. He had livery of his inheritance in 1458. [3.3]


    [3.1] WRB Robinson, “Edward Sutton (d.1532), Lord Dudley and Powys: an early Tudor Marcher Lord,” Montgomeryshire Collections vol. 86 (1998), p62. citing 8 Henry V, PRO, C 139/107, 11th document before end of file). See: See also Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) (2000) p. 862-3, Biography for Sir John Grey.

    [3.2] WRB Robinson, p62 (citing TNA C 139/140, no. 30). CP vol. 6, p138-9; CP, vol 5, p. 736, (note g). Antigone’s father Duke Humphrey and Henry Grey’s father John Grey of Heaton, both fought at Agincourt and later served together in the spring and summer of 1418 in Normandy (see DNB Biography for Sir John Grey). Henry Grey’s father John Grey may have met his future bride Joan and father-in-law Edward, Lord Cherleton of Powys in 1417 when John Grey was sent to Powys to bring the captured Lollard John Oldcastle back to London (Morris Charles Jones, Feudal Barons of Powys, Montgomeryshire Collections, Powysland Club, London (1868) p. 72.)

    [3.3] Bartrum, Welsh Genealogies, 1400-1500, “Bleddyn ap Cynfin” 38(A3); Dictionary of Welsh Biography (DWB), “Grey of Powys” entry: For Richard Grey’s age at his fathers death see WRB Robinson, p62.

  8. bonaelitterae said, on 18 September, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks, Bradley. Yes, these connexions are interesting and, yes, there is some sign of intellectual contact between Gray and Humfrey’s library. That said, it is also clear that Humfrey was not Gray’s only source of new works. I discuss this in an article published earlier this year but behind a firewall (e-mail me if you want a copy). I also suspect there is a sense in which Gray wanted to fashion himself as Humfrey’s intellectual heir, at least in the 1440s – later, when he is bishop of Ely, his humanist ambitions seem to have taken a back seat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: