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This article is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

From Chetham’s Library

11: I dreamed I saw St Augustine
Michael Powell
Invoice of first books

De Civitate Dei, fore-edge inscription from Augustine, Opera Omnia

IMAGE Top: Invoice of first books, 2 August 1655.

Bottom: De Civitate Dei, fore-edge inscription from Augustine, Opera Omnia (1541–43)

(© Chetham’s Library, 2018)

ALTHOUGH THE LIBRARY norm­ally dates its birth to the death of its founder Humphrey Chetham in September 1653, strictly speaking its foundation should be dated to August 1655. For, on the second of that month, Robert Littlebury, a haberdasher of London, parcelled up some two hundred and sixty-one titles in barrels and hogsheads and sent them on their way northwards. A week or so later his delivery arrived – the very first books for Humphrey Chetham’s Library in Manchester. Littlebury conveniently listed all of the books in rough alphabetical order together with their prices, as well as charges for the barrels and carriage. Folio books, numbered one hundred and sixty-six, came first, followed by ninety-five quartos. As starts go, this could hardly have been more auspicious, for the first authors on his list were Augustine, Aquinas and Aristotle. The honour of the first book went to Augustine of Hippo’s Opera omnia, edited by Erasmus and printed in Basel by Hieronymus Froben between 1541 and 1543. For this handsome eleven volume work, which was bound in eight with wooden boards, fore-edge inscriptions and a splendid roll binding compiled of astronomical and zodiacal figures, Littlebury charged the Library the sum of seven pounds. To put this ...

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