Catalogue of St Mary's Nantwich Parochial Library

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1409
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      295 x 195 mm. 1 volume, 133 folios (12-131 blank). Medium: paper. Binding: full-bound in blind-tooled calf (?) over bevelled pasteboards. Condition: front cover detached and severely rubbed, spine severely rubbed, lower cover missing, final quire detached.
  • Location
      Collection available at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

Catalogue of the parochial library of St Mary's Nantwich, Cheshire. The volume was originally compiled in 1712, recording brief details of each work (author, short title, number of volumes, date and place of publication), and its pressmark. Books are listed according to size: [folio], quarto and octavo. The catalogue is extensively annotated, in ink and pencil, with additional imprint details, altered pressmarks, notes of books added or missing, and occasional comments such as 'A most valuable Book, but much injur'd'. Evidently the catalogue was used on several occasions in the 18th and 19th centuries for stock checking purposes, indicated by ticks or points against each entry. At the end of the volume are notes in pencil recording that there were 190 volumes in the library on 6 August 1846, and 188 volumes in the library and in the parish chest in the rectory on 19 July 1873. The catalogue constitutes an important record of one of the earliest Bray parochial libraries.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Reverend Dr Thomas Bray (1656-1730), concerned to improve the education and standing of Anglican clergymen, devised a scheme for establishing parochial libraries in England and its colonies during the 1690s. This project led to the formation of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) on 8 March 1699. In 1705 Bray formed a special committee for creating libraries, styled the Trustees for Erecting Parochial Libraries and Promoting other Charitable Designs. By 1729, when the Associates of Dr Bray was formed as a new management group, the Trustees had set up at least fifty-six parochial libraries in England and ten in Wales, each costing more than £20.

A grant for a parochial library at St Mary's Nantwich was included in Bray's accounts for 1695-99, and the existence of such a library by 1700 is recorded in a letter to the SPCK. The collection was augmented in 1699 with a donation from Samuel Edgley (d. 1721), vicar of Acton. The present catalogue records that there were 181 titles in the library in 1712, of which 96 now survive. Little is known about the subsequent history of the collection until December 1889, when the contents of the parochial library were transferred en bloc to the newly-founded Nantwich Free Public Library, where they remained until 1952. The books were then returned to St Mary's and housed in a room above the south porch, which may have been where they were originally housed. The library was donated to the John Rylands University Library in 2009.

The most significant printed book in St Mary's parochial library is Wynkyn de Worde's 1502 Sarum Hymnal, Expositio Hymnorum, one of only three known copies. The earliest book is a copy of Johannes de Turrecremata's Summa de ecclesia contra impugnatores potestatis summi pontificis et LXXIII quaestiones super potestate et auctoritate Papali ex sententiis sancti Thomae Aquinatis, printed by Johannes Trechsel (Lyon, 1496). Notable early English books include Samuel Purchas's Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), and a copy of Eikon Basilike (London, 1648). There are a number of pieces of provincial printing, mostly sermons and guidebooks printed in Nantwich and Shrewsbury, including two copies of William Tunnicliff's Topographical Survey of the Counties of Stafford, Chester and Lancaster (Nantwich, 1787), and John Smith's A Vindication of the Freedom of Pastoral Advice (Nantwich, 1775?). There is also a copy of The Complete Family Bible (Manchester, 1783).

Sources: Perkin, Directory of parochial libraries; Jacob, 'Libraries for the parish': see Bibliography below.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The catalogue was donated to the John Rylands University Library, along with the parochial library of St Mary's, Nantwich, in July 2009.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The catalogue was formerly housed with the parochial library in St Mary's church, Nantwich.

Related Material

The JRUL holds catalogues of the parochial libraries from Alnwick, Northumberland (Eng MS 1410), and Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire (Eng MS 1412).


Michael Perkin, Directory of the parochial libraries of the Church of England and the Church in Wales, revised edition (London: Bibliographical Society, 2004), pp. 291-3.

W.M. Jacob, 'Libraries for the parish: individual donors and charitable societies', in Giles Mandelbrote and K.A. Manley (eds), Cambridge history of libraries in Britain and Ireland, vol. 2: 1640-1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 65-82.

Geographical Names