Manuscripts of John Selden

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Arch. Selden. A. 1-76, B. 1-58, B. 62B; Selden Supra 1-36, 36, 37-102, 105-7, 110; Selden Superius 1-122
  • Dates of Creation
      8th-18th century
  • Language of Material
      Latin, English, Modern Greek (1453-), Ancient Greek (to 1453), Italian, French, Russian, German, Church Slavic or Old Slavonic or Church Slavonic or Old Bulgarian or Old Church Slavonic, Arabic, Old English (ca.450-1100), Spanish or Castilian, Portuguese, Hebrew, and Irish.
  • Physical Description
      364 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Manuscripts collected by Selden, including some mathematical, astronomical and astrological manuscripts. The majority of the manuscripts are in a variety of languages, mainly Latin, but also including English, Greek, Italian, French, Russian, German, Slavonic, Spanish, Portuguese, and Irish. The collection also includes many oriental manuscripts. MS. Arch. Seld. B. 62B, dating to the 18th century, was not part of Selden's original collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Selden was born on 16 December 1584, in Sussex, and matriculated at Oxford from Hart Hall on 24 October 1600, but left the University without a degree, and practised law in the Temple, acquiring a vast store of legal, oriental, and other learning. In 1621 he entered Parliament, taking up a position antagonistic to the royal claims. However, from 1640 to 1653 he represented his University in Parliament, and did it good service, especially during the Parliamentary Visitation. Among the many publications of 'the Learned Selden' was one in 1629 on the Marmora Arundelliana which eventually came into the possession of the University. He died in London on November 30 1654. Further details are given in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Conditions Governing Access

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

The collection was acquired by the Library in 1659, except for MS. Arch. Seld. B. 62B, which was purchased by the Library in 1725.


Collection level description created by Emily Tarrant, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

Falconer Madan, et al., A summary catalogue of western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the Quarto series (7 vols. in 8 [vol. II in 2 parts], Oxford, 1895-1953; reprinted, with corrections in vols. I and VII, Munich, 1980), vol. II, nos. 3134-3490*, vol. V, no. 27672.

The illuminated Greek manuscripts in this collection are described in detail in I. Hutter, Corpus der Byzantinischen Miniaturenhandschriften. Oxford Bodleian Library, 4 vols. (Stuttgart, 1977-82), and the illuminated Latin and vernacular manuscripts are briefly described in O. Pcht and J.J.G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1966-73); with an unpublished supplement containing a concordance of shelfmarks and addenda (1974).

Related Material

See also Selden Manuscripts (MSS. Selden supra 108-51).