Gurney Miscellanea II

Scope and Content

Volume containing transcripts, notes etc., of various historical and legal matters in a number of hands, including those of Spelman, Dugdale and John Longford, Spelman's servant. The contents were listed in some detail by the Historical Manuscripts Commission: see the Twelfth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (London: HMSO, 1890), Appendix ix, pp. 158-9. The entries include:

  • folio 11: speech of [Sir] Robert Bell (later Baron of the Exchequer), in Parliament on the right of succession to the Crown, maintaining the title after Queen Elizabeth, failing issue, of the Lady Katherine [Grey], in descent from Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, the third daughter of Henry VII, 1566;
  • folios 82-84: confirmation charter by Edward III of the foundation of the priory of Maxstoke, Warwickshire, and foundation-charters (in the handwriting of Dugdale) of the priories of Coventry, Kenilworth and Miravall, in the same county;
  • folio 161: of the foundation of the Church of Canterbury; an extract (from the Register of St. Augustine's?), begins 'Sanctus Ethelbertus, rex Angliæ, qui suscepit Christianitatem';
  • folios 178-95, 196-204, 220-23v, and 205-219v (marked in three places not printed) contain three tracts on the legal terms in the year, in the autograph of Spelman; the original drafts, with many alterations. Cf. Spelman's treatise in the Reliquiæ Spelm., and two tracts by Francis Thynne and Joseph Holland in Hearne's Curious Discourses, 1720.
Since its examination by the Historical Manuscripts Commission nineteen folios have been removed from the beginning of the volume.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Henry Spelman (1563/4-1641), historian and antiquary, was born at Congham, near King's Lynn, Norfolk. He was educated at Walsingham grammar school and admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1580; he graduated BA in 1583. He then went to Furnival's Inn, and entered Lincoln's Inn in 1586 with the intention of studying law, but instead applied himself to the study of history and antiquity. It was about this time that he helped to found the Society of Antiquaries. In 1593 and 1597 Spelman was returned to Parliament for the borough of Castle Rising. During this time he wrote what may have been his first work, Aspilogia, a Latin treatise on coats of armour, though it remained unpublished until 1654. He was knighted in 1604 and served as sheriff of Norfolk from November 1604 until February 1606 and as a justice of the peace until 1616.

In 1612 Spelman moved to London, and within a year had completed and published De non temerandis ecclesiis: a tract of the rights and respect due unto the churches (1613). In 1617 he was named a commissioner to determine unsettled titles to lands and manors in Ireland. From 1622 Spelman served as an assistant to the privy councillors in the commission to investigate fees, following the reform of the courts of justice. When the commission was renewed in March 1623 Spelman was named a commissioner, and he became a mainstay of that and the other commissions appointed in 1627, 1630, 1634, and 1637. In 1625 he was elected to parliament for Worcester, but he resigned his seat in favour of his son John at the election held in the following year. In 1626 he published Archaeologus, the first part of his glossary of obsolete and barbaric ecclesiastical and legal words. In June 1627 Spelman was appointed by letters patent to the Guiana Company and was elected its treasurer. In the same year he completed his Codex legum veterum. The last work published by him before his death, De sepultura (1641), was a result of his appointment to the commission of 1627 into the taking of exorbitant fees.

Spelman died on 1 October 1641 at the house in the Barbican, London, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Source: Stuart Handley, 'Spelman, Sir Henry (1563/4-1641)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686), antiquary and herald, was born on 12 September 1605 at Shustoke rectory in Warwickshire. He never attended university, but was taught history and law by his father. His antiquarian interests developed through contact with a network of historically-minded gentlemen in his native Warwickshire and further afield. In 1630 Dugdale met Sir Simon Archer of Umberslade near Tamworth, who made available to Dugdale his extensive collections on Warwickshire families. In 1638 Archer took Dugdale to London and introduced him to Sir Henry Spelman, who, impressed by his skill as a collector and organizer of antiquarian material, recommended him to the Earl Marshall as a herald, and used his patronage to advance his fortunes.

In 1641 Dugdale undertook an ambitious tour of the cathedrals and major churches of London, the Midlands, and the North in order to record the monuments, inscriptions, and coats of arms in these places. In June 1642 Dugdale was summoned by the king to York in his capacity as herald. He was advanced to the position of Chester Herald in April 1644.

Dugdale's scholarly output from the 1650s to the 1670s was prodigious. In 1655 the first volume of Monasticon Anglicanum appeared, which he wrote jointly with Roger Dodsworth. This work established for the first time the importance of charters as a primary source for the writing of medieval history. The Antiquities of Warwickshire appeared in 1656; The History of St Paul's Cathedral in 1658; the second volume of Monasticon and a work on the Knights of the Bath appeared in 1661. He brought out Origines juridiciales in 1666, a substantial history of the law, lawyers, and the inns of court. The first volume of The Baronage of England eventually appeared in 1676; the second and third were printed together in 1677. In 1673 Dugdale published a third and final volume of Monasticon Anglicanum. Dugdale's career as a herald reached its zenith in 1677 when he was appointed Garter King of Arms.

Dugdale died on 10 February 1686 at Blyth Hall and was buried on 12 February in the church at Shustoke.

Source: Graham Parry, 'Dugdale, Sir William (1605-1686)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library, through the London booksellers Maggs Bros, at the Gurney sale held at Sotheby's on 31 March 1936 (Lot 199).


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Humpleby, project archivists, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles on Sir Henry Spelman and Sir William Dugdale.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Supplementary Hand-List of Western Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937 (English MS 880).

Custodial History

Former owners: Sir Henry Spelman; Rev. Cox Macro ('Number 119'); the Gurney family of Norfolk ('Number 32').

Related Material

The John Rylands Library purchased other manuscripts at the Gurney sale of 31 March 1936: see English MS 874, Minute Book and Documents Illustrative of the Dedham (Essex) Classis, 1582-89 (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 874), and English MS 875, Gurney Miscellanea I (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 875).