See 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.