RepositoryLambeth Palace Library
Alt Ref NoMS
Extentc5,000 volumes
Date9th century-20th century
DescriptionThe Manuscripts sequence at Lambeth Palace Library comprises a collection of material created by a diverse range of individuals and organisations, both within and outside the Church of England, covering not only ecclesiastical history but other subjects, ranging for instance through architectural, colonial, political and social history. The collections, dating from the 9th century to the 20th century, include some 600 medieval manuscripts (illuminated, liturgical, biblical, patristic and devotional works), as well as collections of papers of notable churchmen and societies.

The chief collections include Bacon Papers, Carew Papers, Shrewsbury and Talbot Papers, Fairhurst Papers, and Queen Anne Churches.

Notable churchmen and women include Gladstone and Lord Selborne, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, and Bishops A.C. Headlam of Gloucester, E.J. Palmer of Bombay, John Wordsworth of Lincoln, and G.F.P. Blyth, Bishop in Jerusalem.

Societies represented in the collection include the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, Church of England Temperance Society, Jerusalem and the East Mission Fund, the Anglo-Continental Society, and the Industrial Christian Fellowship.
AccrualsNumbered from MS. 1, the series continues to accrue.
ArrangementThe Manuscripts sequence comprises both single volumes and collections of material.
LanguageIncluding Latin, English, French
FindingAidsDescriptions in the electronic catalogue are partly based on the existing hard copy finding aids.

H.J. Todd, A catalogue of the archiepiscopal manuscripts in the library at Lambeth Palace (1812) [covers MSS 1-1221; superseded by later finding aids].
E.G.W. Bill, Todd Catalogue Revision: catalogue of MSS. 113...283 (typescript, 1981).
E.G.W. Bill, A catalogue of manuscripts in Lambeth Palace Library. MSS. 1222-1860 (Oxford, 1972), including (pp. 1-51) an account of the rebinding of manuscripts undertaken by Archbishop Sancroft which contains information supplementing the Todd and James catalogues for the earlier manuscripts.
E.G.W. Bill, A catalogue of manuscripts in Lambeth Palace Library. MSS. 1907-2340 (Oxford, 1976).
E.G.W. Bill, A catalogue of manuscripts in Lambeth Palace Library. MSS. 2341-3119 (Oxford, 1983).
The three volumes covering MSS. 1222-3119 each has an introduction giving an overview of its contents and (where known) the acquisition and custodial history of that sequence of manuscripts.
These finding aids (from MS. 3120) continued in typescript form in the Library.

Descriptions for MSS 3120-3469 available on the National Archives Discovery site <> as well as the Library catalogue.

Some large collections within the manuscripts sequence have their own finding aids (Carew [MSS 596-638], Papal Documents [formerly MSS 643-644], Bacon [MSS 647-662], Shrewsbury [MSS 694-710], Carte Miscellanee [formerly MSS 889-901], Commonwealth [formerly miscellaneous MSS], Selborne [MSS 1861-1906], Queen Anne Churches [MSS 2690-2750], Talbot [MSS 3192-3206], Fairhurst [MSS 3470-3533]).

Finding aids to particular categories of material comprise:
M.R. James, 'A descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts in the library of Lambeth Palace: The mediaeval manuscripts' (Cambridge, 1932). This publication records previous shelfmarks of the manuscripts of various types, and these are included in the electronic catalogue descriptions: former shelfmarks from Cambridge University Library; shelfmarks identified as dating from the late 17th century in alphanumeric format from A.1 to V.34; and later shelfmarks. For further explanation of these shelfmarks, see source guide to the Library's history available online:
A volume equivalent to M.R. James intended on the post-medieval manuscripts by Claude Jenkins was never published, but some preparatory material is kept in Library records at reference LR/G/1-2. Those drafts therefore sometimes contained more detailed descriptions of those manuscripts than were available elsewhere. However, in 2010-13 a project funded by the Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library re-catalogued the post-medieval manuscripts in the MSS sequence to MS 1221. These descriptions are available electronically; in addition, printed copies of the 79 manuscripts dated later than 1500 from the collections of Archbishops Bancroft and Abbot are available in the Library reading room. This printout also includes two manuscripts (MSS 225 and 468) owned by Archbishop Laud. It therefore records all the early modern manuscripts which were in the Library before its Cambridge exile in 1647-64. In addition there are also printed copies of the new catalogue descriptions for Carew-Sheldon material, for the Tenison material, and the Miscellaneous Manuscripts. Note that the project excluded the Wharton sequence (MSS 577-595) which was described in greater detail in the Todd catalogue.
See also M.R. James, 'The manuscripts in the Library at Lambeth Palace'. Cambridge: Cambridge Antiquarian Society, sold by Deighton, Bell, and Macmillan & Bowes, 1900. (4), 64p. (Cambridge Antiquarian Society publications. Octavo series, 33) [Lambeth Palace Library Z6622.L6L2(R); available online at:]; M.R. James, 'The History of Lambeth Palace Library', Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, vol. iii, part 1 (1959), pp. 1-31.
N.R. Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, volume 1: London (Oxford, 1969).
O.S. Pickering & V.M. O'Mara, The Index of Middle English Prose: handlist 13. Manuscripts in Lambeth Palace Library including those formerly in Sion College Library (Cambridge, 1999).
W.H. Frere, Bibliotheca musica-liturgica. A descriptive handlist of the musical and liturgical manuscripts of the middle ages... (1894), pp. 1-8, covers Lambeth manuscripts.
Lambeth Palace Library and its Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: Exhibition mounted for the biennial conference of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists 3 August 2007, ed. David Ganz and Jane Roberts with Richard Palmer (printed for the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists by Taderon Press, London, 2007). Copies available from Garod Books (email:
The Greek Manuscript Collection of Lambeth Palace Library: An Exhibition held on the occasion of the 21st International Byzantine Congress, London, 22-23 August 2006 (printed for Lambeth Palace Library by The Cromwell Press, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, 2006).

See also:
Commissioners on the Public Records 1801: Return of John Topham, MS Librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as to Lambeth Palace Library, dated 24 Mar 1800, App. T, pp. 387-9, in Second Report, 1801.
Commissioners on the Public Records 1912-19: 'Memorandum on the Lambeth MSS' by the Rev. C. Jenkins, dated 18 Nov 1914, in 'Report on the Public Records', Pt.III App., pp.82,3.
Samuel Wayland Kershaw, 'Art treasures of the Lambeth Library: a description of the illuminated manuscripts etc., including notes on the library... London, Pickering, 1873. ix, 108p. plates. [Lambeth Palace Library Z6622.L26]
PhysicalDescription[Annotation in the Green/Jenkins copy of the Todd catalogue: 'NB: Sancroft's catalogue of Lambeth MSS in MS Tanner 270 includes nos 1-244 as in Todd, and then begins a new numbering with the present no. 325 as "in quarto 1", while MS 522 begins an "8vo" series'].
AdminHistoryLambeth Palace Library is the historic library of the Archbishops of Canterbury, founded in 1610. It is the principal library and record office for the history of the Church of England, holding, in addition to the Archbishops' archives, material acquired from other sources. The collections of the Library's founder, Archbishop Bancroft, provide the core of the Library's manuscripts collection. Subsequent Archbishops and their Librarians have enriched the collection by gift or purchase of numerous items, quadrupling the collection in the last 50 years.
CustodialHistorySee the introduction to 'Lambeth Palace Library: Treasures from the Collections of the Archbishops of Canterbury', ed. Richard Palmer and Michelle P. Brown (2010).

The preface to the published catalogue by Todd (pp. [i]-xi) contains some remarks about the history and content of the Library.

Some material strictly forms part of the archive of the Archbishops of Canterbury, rather than manuscripts collected by or given to him.

Some comments on provenance etc. in M.R. James, 'The manuscripts in the Library at Lambeth Palace' (Cambridge, 1900). As defined in the Todd catalogue, the manuscripts comprise the following groups: Lambeth MSS nos. 1-576b; Wharton MSS nos. 577-595; Carew MSS nos. 596-638; Tenison MSS nos. 639-928d; Gibson MSS nos. 929-942; Miscellaneous MSS nos. 943-1174; Manners Sutton MSS nos. 1175-1221. [Note however for instance that some MSS given by Todd as Tenison, e.g. MS 765, actually bear a Cambridge shelf mark which means they must have Bancroft or Abbot provenance.]

According to M. R. James, 'A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of Lambeth Palace: The Mediaeval Manuscripts' (Cambridge, 1932), pp. 400-1, MSS. 245 to 324 inclusive 'were likewise not among those which went to Cambridge, and they are not included in Sancroft's catalogue. Some are in the Carew binding. Two at least belonged to Laud. One was given by Dr Ott, librarian, who died in 1756/7. But quite a considerable number are identifiable in a catalogue in MS. Tanner 275 in the Bodleian Library, which contains first a list of the Carew Irish collection and then a list of MSS. 'of several kinds,' 161 in all, which were found in Archbishop Sheldon's closet. I believe them, therefore, to be of Sheldon's procurement, and to have belonged to Carew. Sancroft has annotated this list. Many of these books are of post-medieval date and are not described by [James].' James notes those which are identifiable with certainty in this Carew-Sheldon list [see file level records]. 'A second batch is to be found between no. 489 and no. 522 ... In addition to which there seem to be some stray volumes from the Carew-Sheldon list in the sections Tenisoniani and Miscellanei'.

The manuscript numbering sequence roughly indicates the acquisition of material but, as the introductions to E.G.W. Bill's catalogue indicate, the provenance of some manuscripts is not known and some earlier acquisitions are described in the modern catalogues. E.G.W. Bill, A catalogue of manuscripts in Lambeth Palace Library. MSS. 1222-1860 (Oxford, 1972), p. vii, states that few manuscripts (with the exception of the Carlyle MSS.) were acquired during the 19th century. The rate of manuscript accessions increased after 1953, when the library was restored after the war, and papers relating to the history of the Church of England or supplementing the older collections were received by gift or purchase.

Some MS numbers were not allocated: MSS 1227, 1242-9, 1251, 1257, 1261, 1263-98, 1306-7, 1311, 1313-48, 1352, 1363, 1368-9, 1631. E.G.W. Bill, A catalogue of manuscripts in Lambeth Palace Library. MSS. 1222-1860 (Oxford, 1972), p. vii, states that, post-1812, occasional manuscript numbers after MS 1221 were allotted to rare printed books.

Some sections of the sequence have been transferred to other collections: MS 308 (Arches D 2349); MS 426 (MS. 1112); MSS 643-644 (Papal Documents); MS 771 (MS. 1370); MSS 889-901 (Carte Miscellenee); MSS 902-922c, 944-50, 966-1021, 1800 (Commonwealth); MS 1034 (MS. 2086); MS 1049 (printed ref: 1569.6); MS 1065 (printed ref: 1548.3); MS 1092a (printed ref: 1483.3); MS 1173 (Convocation); MS 1174 (MSS. 2559-98).

Some manuscripts described in the Todd catalogue of 1812 are now missing. MS 17 was already missing at that time, but Todd provides this description from the 'old catalogue': 'Politeia Ecclesiastica Anglicana, seu Tabulae Disciplinae Canonicae, usurpatae in Ecclesia Anglicana, a Cosino formatae A° 1589.' He adds: 'Vide autem N°. 324'.

MS 591 was also already missing when the Todd catalogue was compiled, as is evident by his note:
'Codex deest, cujus descriptio in veteri Catalogo sequitur:
Notae cujusdam Viri eruditi descripta ex Margine Exemplaris [Francis] Godwini de Praesulibus Angliae, quod fuit olim Sethi Ward, Episcopi Sarum; quae quidèm Notae ex Registris Sarisburiensibus ferè desumuntur, et Episcopos Sarum praecipuè spectant. pag. 1.
Arma seu Insignia Gentilitia omnium ferè Angliae Archiepiscoporum, et Episcoporum, in praedicto libro elegantèr admodùm suis quaeque locis depicta ab Edwardo Walker Milite, Proto-Faeciali, et exindè ab Henrico Wharton translata, terminisque seu Verbis Heraldicis reddita. pag. 7.
Excerpta ampla ex Vita S. Ricardi, Episcopi Cicestrensis, scripta per Radulphum de Bocking, confessorem ejus. pag. 26.
Excerpta ex Testamento ejusdem Episcopi. pag. 30.
Excerpta brevia ex Libris quibusdam MSS Bibliothecae Publicae Academiae Cantabrig. pag. 31.
Obituarium Coenobii Abendoniensis. pag. 32.
Excerpta ex Chronico insigni Roberti de Torineio, Abbatis S. Michaelis de Monte. pag. 33.
Excerpta ex Chronico Monachi Abendoniensis, de Morte Thomae [of Corbridge] et Successione Willelmi [Greenfield], Archiepiscoporum Ebor. A°. 1304, notatu digna. pag. 35.
Excerpta ampla ex speculo Edwardi III. Regis, quod ipsi inscripserat Simon Islip, Archiep. Cant. pag. 37.
Ex Epistolis Theobaldi, Archiep. Cantuar. pag. 40.
Excerpta ampla ex Chronico insigni Coenobii Abendoniensis. pag. 41.
Ex Libro quodam de Privilegiis Academiae Cantabrig. pag. 44.
Excerpta ex Collectionibus M. Roberti Hare, Antiquarii Cantabrigiensis. pag. 45.
Ex Instrumento insigni publico Actorum in Convocatione Cleri Cantuar. A°. 1529, Nov. 5. circa divortium Henrici VIII. Regis. pag. 45.
Nomina omnium Personarum Ecclesiasticarum dictam Convocationem tunc constituentium in utraque ejus Domo, omniumque Quaestionibus a Rege tunc propositis assentientium, et ab iisdem dissentientium. pag. 46.
Excerpta plura ex Collectionibus dicti M. Roberti Hare. pag. 53.
Ex Testamento Henrici V. Angliae Regis. pag. 55.
Extracts out of the Journal of the House of Lords, A°. 1. Elizabethae, pag. 57.
Notae de quibusdam Libris MSS in Biblothecâ Publicâ Cantabrigiensi. pag. 59.
Nomina Episcoporum, aliorumque Clericorum insigniorum deprivatorum in Anglia sub initio Regni Elizabaethe, ex Nicolai Sanderi Libro de Visibili Monarchia Ecclesiae. pag. 60.
Notae de quibusdam aliis Libris MSS in Bibliothecis Academiae Cantabrig. et Excerpta brevia ex iisdem. pag. 63.'

MS 569 is now missing, but the description provided by Todd (under the erroneous reference 570) is: 'Liber fundamentorum Religionis Mahometanae, ubi de legibus, de virtutibus, et vitiis, agitur à Lanceloto Addison, S. T. P. Decano Lichfeldensi, ex Africâ in Angliam delatus, et Biblioth. Lambethanae A° 1670 dono datus. Vide L. Addison's "West Barbary, &c. 8vo. Oxford, 1671" ubi, ad finem "To the Reader;" This Manuscript is the first part of the Mustadarif, or, as the Talib expounded it, The Clean Book. It was composed by Alfachì Mahumed Ebn Ahmed Alchab, & copyed into that fair letter, wherein it is now extant, by Ali Ebu Abd'alrháman ebn Mahumed, a native of Suz, who finished it in the second moneth Giamadi, anno Hegirae 1005." Codex chartaceus, in folio.'

MS 771 was described as missing by Todd, although he suspected that it might have been MS 785. David Wilkins' catalogue of 1720 gives MS 771 as the third volume of a series (MSS 769-771) on the University of Cambridge.

MS 855 was also missing when Todd compiled his catalogue, but he reports that it was described in the 'old Catalogue' as "the Armes of all the present Nobility of England truly drawn and illuminated by James Cathcart". He also notes MSS 887 and 888 as missing, but provides the 'old Catalogue' descriptions: "Archbishop's Precedence in the King's Chapel, &c.;" (MS 887), and "Catalogue of the Archbishops of Canterbury from Peckham to Abbot inclusive;" (MS 888). MS 887 was subsequently discovered by Samuel Wayland Kershaw, Lambeth Librarian, in 1902.
CopiesSome of the mediaeval manuscripts are available on microfilm from World Microfilms Publications, arranged in 8 sections: 1) Old English, French etc., 2) law, 3) illuminated, 4) humanistic, 5) theology, 6) biblical, 7) liturgy, 8) patristic manuscripts. Copies of the microfilms may be available in other libraries.

Copies are also available from the British Library Microform Research Collections:

Photographs of a large number of the illuminations and rubricated initials in the mediaeval manuscripts may be purchased from the Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, London, WC2R 0RN (Conway Librarian). Permission to purchase copies must first be given by Lambeth Palace Library. Colour prints from the Courtauld negatives are available to browse in Lambeth Palace Library reading room [reading room finding aids nos. 28-33].

For selected digital images see the online image system:
This includes a feature to browse by type of manuscript:
RelatedMaterialNot all Archbishops' collections of manuscripts came to Lambeth. A large quantity of Archbishop Sancroft's manuscripts and papers was bought from his executors by Thomas Tanner (1674-1735), in whose bequest they entered the Bodleian Library in 1736.

However, the Tanner MSS at the Bodleian also include catalogues of Lambeth Palace Library material:
MS. Tanner 268 ff. 137v-170r
MS. Tanner 270
MS. Tanner 274
MS. Tanner 275a
PublnNoteVarious manuscripts cited in 'Canterbury 1162-1190', edited by C.R. Cheney and Bridgett E.A. Jones. London: Oxford University Press for British Academy, 1986. lxxviii, 283p., 8 plates. (English episcopal acta, 2) [Lambeth Palace Library H5107.C2]

For Humanistic Manuscripts, see Paul Oskar Kristeller, 'Iter Italicum: Accedunt Alia Itinera' (1989): "A finding list of uncatalogued or incompletely catalogued humanistic manuscripts of the Renaissance in Italian and other libraries" [Lambeth Palace Library Z664.L2 6.16]

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