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Leland Manuscripts


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Leland's manuscripts consisting of:

  1. 'Johannis Lelandi Londinensis, Antiquarij doctissimi et gravissimi Collectanea. Ex varijs authoribus, chronologis, manuscriptis, archivis, cartis antiquis, monumentis publicis et privatis excerpta, et in quatuor volumina digesta...' vols. 1-4
  2. The Itinerary of England and Wales, by John Leland, vols. 1-8


  • Creation: c. 1540-1555


0.84 Linear metres (12 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Latin

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Top. gen. c. 1, fols. 1-2].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Top. gen. c. 1-4, e. 8-15

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 13094


Topograhical manuscripts of John Leland.

Biographical / Historical

John Leland (c. 1506-1552), the topographer, graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge, and in 1530 was appointed keeper of the King's library. Under a royal commission he travelled widely through England and Wales in 1535-1543, just before the Reformation. His notes are therefore of especial value, and preserve many memoranda of buildings and libraries which soon after perished. Further details are given in the Dictionary of National Biography.


This is the well-known but imperfect and ill-arranged manuscript of the valuable Itinerary of Leland, bound in eight volumes but in no reasonable order: with some notes and papers by William Burton, who possessed at least vol. 8 in 1598.

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. 3117-3123e, 5102-5112*.

Custodial History

MSS. Top. gen. c. 1-4 passed at Leland's death to Sir John Cheke, from him to Humphrey Purefoy, whose son Thomas gave them to William Burton in 1612.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The manuscripts were presented to the Library by William Burton in 1632 and 1642-3. See letter of gift in MS. Bodl. 470. The 8th volume did not actually reach the Library till presented anew by Charles King, M.A., in or soon after 1677, and vols. 4, 6, and 7 came by Burton's gift rather later than the rest (1642-3).

In I748 there was published at Frankfurt Ein Brief von . .. Herrn Johann Locke, containing Locke's account and transcript of a supposed Bodleian MS. entitled 'Certain questions concerning Maconrye [i. e. Free-Masonry], written by kynge Henry the sixthe and copyed by me Johan Leyland Antiquarius': the letter is dated May 6, 1696. This mythical treatise is to be found referred to in many modern books on Freemasonry, such as W. Preston's Illustrations of Masonry, and even as early as the Gentleman's Magazine of 1753 (vol. xxiii, p. 417).

Leland Manuscripts
Collection Level Description by Emily Tarrant; EAD version 2019 by Alice Whichelow
EAD version 2019
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom