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James Manuscripts


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The collection consists of notes and extracts by James, mainly historical. The forty-four volumes catalogued below are collectanea, with a strong Protestant bias, largely from manuscript historical sources.


  • Creation: 15th-17th century


5.06 Linear metres (46 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • Latin
  • English
  • French
  • English, Middle (1100-1500)
  • English, Old (ca.450-1100)
  • Italian
  • Greek, Modern (1453-)
  • Russian

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. James 1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. James 1-43, 43*, 43**, 44

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 13054


James Manuscripts

Biographical / Historical

Richard James, born in 1592 in the Isle of Wight, was the nephew of Thomas James, Bodley's first librarian. He matriculated as a commoner at Exeter College, but migrated to Corpus as a scholar, and thence took his BA degree in 1611. In 1615 he was elected to a fellowship. For some years James travelled extensively in Wales and Scotland and on the continent, going to Russia as chaplain to Sir Dudley Digges. At some time before 1623, when he was already engaged upon his life of Becket, he returned to Oxford. In 1624 he was working with Selden on the Arundel marbles, and about 1628 became librarian to Sir Robert Cotton. In this capacity he earned the scorn of Sir Simonds D'Ewes, who described him as 'a short, red-bearded, high-coloured fellow' and states that 'James, being a needy sharking companion, and very expensive, ... let out or lent most precious manuscripts for money to any that would be his customers'. One such bargain cost him dear, for he and Cotton and others were imprisoned for circulating a political tract. He must, however, have increased his patron's collection in equally dubious ways, for he more than once refers to manuscripts as at 'Magd. Coll.' which are now in the Cottonian library. James died 28 December 1638. Further details are given in the Dictionary of National Biography.

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. 3838-3880.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The manuscripts were acquired by the Library in 1678.

Related Materials

Other MSS. in his hand are MS. Selden Supra. 62, MS. Greaves 63-64, and notes by him are in the MSS. nos. iii, xxii, and xxiv of his friend Brian Twyne's Collectanea.

James Manuscripts
Collection Level Description by Emily Tarrant; EAD version 2020 by Alice Whichelow
EAD version 2020
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom