April 2015 Book of the Month: A Catalogue of Books Printed at the Theater in Oxford (1686)

Sheldonian catalogue of books (recto)

A Catalogue of Books Printed at the Theater in Oxford (recto): Fellows’ Library R.9.7(30a) Gall. (© Jesus College, Oxford)

This unique advertisement for Oxford University Press was discovered in the Fellows’ Library in 2009 by Professor Richard Sharpe, Fellow of Wadham College, and incidentally a good friend of the Celtic Library.

Professor Sharpe was editing a letter from the Irish historian Roderic O’Flaherty in which he thanks the polymath (and Jesus man) Edward Lhuyd for sending an “Oxford catalogue of printed books”. One such catalogue, from 1680, was known to be preserved in a volume of pamphlets collected by Principal Jonathan Edwards. Bound alongside it is this specimen, for a different year, previously unknown and unrecorded.

Sheldonian catalogue of books (verso)

A Catalogue of Books Printed at the Theater in Oxford (verso): Fellows’ Library R.9.7(30a) Gall. (© Jesus College, Oxford)

The titles listed in the catalogue date it to 1686 (the year Edwards was elected Principal) or possibly 1687. The University Press was then operating from the Sheldonian Theatre and Professor Sharpe has compiled a chronological list of these advertisement sheets to discuss how books were sold from the Sheldonian.

Many titles have been marked in ink, presumably by Edwards. It has not so far proved possible to match these to books which survive in the Fellows’ Library from his bequest, but we may speculate that Edwards was marking up the list either from, or for, his personal collection.

Owen McKnight (Librarian)

Sources and further reading:

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