The Thomason Collection of Civil War Tracts consists of more than 22,000 pamphlets, broadsides, manuscripts, books, and news sheets, most of which were printed and distributed in London from 1640 to 1661. The collection represents a major primary source for the political, religious, military, and social history of England during the final years of the reign of King Charles I, the English Civil War, the Interregnum, and the English Restoration of King Charles II. It is now held in the British Library.
London is the capital and largest city of the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
In the study of history as an academic discipline, a primary source is an artifact, document, diary, manuscript, autobiography, recording, or any other source of information that was created at the time under study. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. Similar definitions can be used in library science, and other areas of scholarship, although different fields have somewhat different definitions. In journalism, a primary source can be a person with direct knowledge of a situation, or a document written by such a person.
Charles I was the monarch over the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649.
Bookseller and publisher George Thomason (died 1666), who maintained a shop in the churchyard of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, methodically collected and preserved the works over two decades. The tracts consist of a broad range of writings, including sermons, songs, political speeches, debates, opinions, jokes, gossip, news reports, descriptions of the trial and execution of Charles I, accounts of Civil War battles, reports from Parliament, and several regularly appearing publications that historians consider the forebears of modern newspapers. Thomason's collection represents approximately 80 percent of the published works released in England during this period.
George Thomason was an English book collector. He is famous for assembling a collection of more than 22,000 books and pamphlets published during the time of the English Civil War and the interregnum.
Thomason frequently made handwritten annotations on the tracts, providing such information as publication dates and the authorship of anonymous works. During the turbulent years of the Civil War and the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell Thomason reputedly moved the collection several times to protect the more controversial works from destruction by government or opposition censors.
The Protectorate was the period during the Commonwealth when England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland were governed by a Lord Protector as a republic. The Protectorate began in 1653 when, following the dissolution of the Rump Parliament and then Barebone's Parliament, Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of the Commonwealth under the terms of the Instrument of Government. In 1659 the Protectorate Parliament was dissolved by the Committee of Safety as Richard Cromwell, who had succeeded his father as Lord Protector, was unable to keep control of the Parliament and the Army. This marked the end of the Protectorate and the start of a second period of rule by the Rump Parliament as the legislature and the Council of State as the executive.
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader. He served as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1653 until his death, acting simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republic.
Thomason appears to have entrusted the collection to the care of Thomas Barlow, provost of The Queen's College and former librarian of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, and a future Bishop of Lincoln. Between 1660 and 1664 Barlow offered the tracts, together with two copies of a manuscript catalogue to the university for £4,000 but the sale was not agreed. Thomason remained hopeful that they would be sold, and in his will dated 1664, he charged his three executors (Barlow, Thomas Lockey, and John Rushworth) with selling the collection to the University on behalf of his children.
Thomas Barlow was an English academic and clergyman, who became Provost of The Queen's College, Oxford, and Bishop of Lincoln. He was seen in his own times and by Edmund Venables in the Dictionary of National Biography to have been a trimmer, a reputation mixed in with his academic and other writings on casuistry. His views were Calvinist and strongly anti-Catholic, and he was among the last English bishops to dub the Pope Antichrist. He worked in the 1660s for "comprehension" of nonconformists, but supported the crackdown of the mid-1680s, and declared loyalty to James II of England on his accession, having strongly supported the Exclusion Bill, which would have denied it to him.
The Queen's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford, England. The college was founded in 1341 by Robert de Eglesfield (d'Eglesfield) in honour of Queen Philippa of Hainault. It is distinguished by its predominantly neoclassical architecture, which includes buildings designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor.
The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford, and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. With over 12 million items, it is the second-largest library in Britain after the British Library. Under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 it is one of six legal deposit libraries for works published in the United Kingdom and under Irish Law it is entitled to request a copy of each book published in the Republic of Ireland. Known to Oxford scholars as "Bodley" or "the Bod", it operates principally as a reference library and, in general, documents may not be removed from the reading rooms.
After Thomason's death in April 1666, the negotiations fell through and the collection remained in Barlow's hands, until they were acquired about 1677–1679 by the bookbinder Samuel Mearne on behalf of the Royal Library at the Palace of Whitehall. Mearne rebound the tract volumes in a uniform manner but was never paid for his work and so retained the collection. Eventually Mearne's widow sought and obtained the permission of the Privy Council in May 1684 to dispose of them on her family's behalf. Over the next four decades various members of the Sisson family (descendants of Samuel Mearne) endeavoured to sell the collection on numerous occasions to Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, the Bodleian Library, Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth, James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos, Frederick, Prince of Wales, the Radcliffe Library in Oxford and the antiquary and book collector "Honest Tom" Martin, but in each case the potential purchasers were put off by the high price asked.
Samuel Mearne was an English Restoration bookbinder and publisher whose work is considered a high point of pre-industrial bookbinding. He and his sons, Charles and Samuel Jr., were one of the group referred to by historians as the Queens' Binder.
The Palace of Whitehall at Westminster, Middlesex, was the main residence of the English monarchs from 1530 until 1698, when most of its structures, except for Inigo Jones's Banqueting House of 1622, were destroyed by fire. It had at one time been the largest palace in Europe, with more than 1,500 rooms, overtaking the Vatican, before itself being overtaken by the expanding Palace of Versailles, which was to reach 2,400 rooms. The palace gives its name, Whitehall, to the street on which many of the current administrative buildings of the present-day British government are situated, and hence metonymically to the central government itself. At its most expansive, the palace extended over much of the area bordered by Northumberland Avenue in the north; to Downing Street and nearly to Derby Gate in the south; and from roughly the elevations of the current buildings facing Horse Guards Road in the west, to the then banks of the River Thames in the east —a total of about 23 acres (9.3 ha). It was about 710 yards (650 m) from Westminster Abbey.
Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, KG PC FRS was an English and later British statesman of the late Stuart and early Georgian periods. He began his career as a Whig, before defecting to a new Tory Ministry. He was raised to the peerage of Great Britain as an earl in 1711. Between 1711 and 1714 he served as Lord High Treasurer, effectively Queen Anne's chief minister. He has been called a Prime Minister, although it is generally accepted that the de facto first minister to be a prime minister was Robert Walpole in 1721.
In January 1754 Elizabeth Sisson approached Thomas Birch one of the trustees of the newly established British Museum, loaning him the 12 volume catalogue, but again nothing was to come of the sale during Elizabeth Sisson's lifetime. Finally, in 1762, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute purchased the collection on behalf of King George III for the bargain price of £300 (a fraction of the cost of forming the collection). In that same year King George III donated the collection to the new British Museum at Montagu House, where they were originally known as the "King's pamphlets" and added to the Royal Library Collection. In 1973, the museum transferred the Thomason Tracts to the British Library where they continue to be housed.
Thomas Birch was an English historian.
The British Museum, in the Bloomsbury area of London, United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection of some eight million works is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire. It documents the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It was the first public national museum in the world.
John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, was a British nobleman who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1762 to 1763 under George III. He was arguably the last important favourite in British politics. He was the first Prime Minister from Scotland following the Acts of Union in 1707 and the first Tory to have held the post. He was also elected as the first President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland when it was founded in 1780.
According to Thomas Carlyle, the Thomason Tracts were;
the most valuable set of documents connected with English history; greatly preferable to all the sheepskins in the Tower and other places, for informing the English what the English were in former times; I believe the whole secret of the seventeenth century is involved in that hideous mass of rubbish there (Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the constitution and government of the British Museum.
Many of the publications that comprise the collection are exceedingly rare. In fact, some are not known to exist anywhere else. The tracts are bound into some 2,000 volumes and housed at the British Library's main building at St. Pancras. Because of their rarity and fragile condition, the originals are not available to general researchers. However, the library maintains paper facsimiles in its rare books collection, and in 1977 University Microfilms International released a set of 256 microfilm reels containing the entire collection. The microfilms are available at research libraries around the world.
John Leland or Leyland was an English poet and antiquary.
Anthony Wood, who styled himself Anthony à Wood in his later writings, was an English antiquary.
Nathaniel Fiennes was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1640 and 1659. He was an officer in the Parliamentary army during the English Civil War and an active supporter of the republican cause during the Interregnum.
Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton was an important English aristocrat and courtier. He was suspect as a crypto-Catholic throughout his life, and went through periods of royal disfavour, in which his reputation suffered greatly. He was distinguished for learning, artistic culture and his public charities. He built Northumberland House in London and superintended the construction of the fine house of Audley End. He founded and planned several hospitals. Francis Bacon included three of his sayings in his Apophthegms, and chose him as "the learnedest councillor in the kingdom to present to the king his Advancement of Learning." After his death, it was discovered that he had been involved in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury.
The Asiatic Society was founded by civil servant Sir William Jones on 15 January 1784 in a meeting presided over by Sir William Jones, Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William at the Fort William in Calcutta, then capital of the British Raj, to enhance and further the cause of Oriental research. At the time of its foundation, this Society was named as "Asiatick Society". In 1825, the society dropped the antique k without any formal resolution and the Society was renamed as "The Asiatic Society". In 1832 the name was changed to "The Asiatic Society of Bengal" and again in 1936 it was renamed as "The Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal". Finally, on 1 July 1951, the name of the society was changed to its present one. The Society is housed in a building at Park Street in Kolkata (Calcutta). The Society moved into this building during 1808. In 1823, the Medical and Physical Society of Calcutta was formed and all the meetings of this society were held in the Asiatic Society.
The Percy Society was a British text publication society. It was founded in 1840 and collapsed in 1852.
Colasterion was published by John Milton with his Tetrachordon on 4 March 1645. The tract is a response to an anonymous pamphlet attacking the first edition of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. Milton makes no new arguments, but harshly takes to task the "trivial author".
The Harleian Miscellany is a collection of material from the library of the Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer collated and edited by Samuel Johnson and William Oldys between 1744 and 1753 on behalf of the publisher Thomas Osborne. Its subtitle was A Collection of Scarce, Curious, And Entertaining Pamphlets And Tracts, as well In Manuscript As In Print, Found In The Late Earl Of Oxford's Library, Interspersed With Historical, Political, And Critical Notes.
Antiquities of Mexico is a compilation of facsimile reproductions of Mesoamerican literature such as Maya codices, Mixtec codices, and Aztec codices as well as historical accounts and explorers' descriptions of archaeological ruins. It was assembled and published by Edward King, Lord Kingsborough, in the early decades of the 19th century. While much of the material pertains to pre-Columbian cultures, there are also documents relevant to studies of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Antiquities of Mexico was produced to make copies of rare manuscripts in European collections available for study by scholars.
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and the largest national library in the world by number of items catalogued. It is estimated to contain 150–200 million+ items from many countries. As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. The Library is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Henry Yates Thompson was a British newspaper proprietor and collector of illuminated manuscripts.
The Private Case of the British Library is a collection of erotic printed books, transferred from the British Museum in 1973. The collection is similar in purpose to the Enfer at the Bibliothèque nationale, the Δ collection in the Library of Congress and the Φ collection at the Bodleian Library.
The King's Library was one of the most important collections of books and pamphlets of the Age of Enlightenment. Assembled by George III, this scholarly library of over 65,000 volumes was subsequently given to the British nation by George IV. It was housed in a specially built gallery in the British Museum from 1827 to 1997 and now forms part of the British Library. The term 'King's Library' was until recently also used to refer to the gallery in the British Museum built for the collection, which is now called the "Enlightenment Gallery" and displays a wide range of objects relating to the Enlightenment.
The Stowe manuscripts are a collection of about 2,000 Irish, Anglo-Saxon and later medieval manuscripts, nearly all now in the British Library. The manuscripts date from 1154 to the end of the 14th century.
The British Library's Garrick Collection is a collection of early printed editions of English drama amassed by the actor and playwright David Garrick. The collection was bequeathed to the British Museum in 1779.
The Royal manuscripts are one of the "closed collections" of the British Library, consisting of some 2,000 manuscripts collected by the sovereigns of England in the "Old Royal Library" and given to the British Museum by George II in 1757. They are still catalogued with call numbers using the prefix "Royal" in the style "Royal MS 2. B. V". As a collection, the Royal manuscripts date back to Edward IV, though many earlier manuscripts were added to the collection before it was donated. Though the collection was therefore formed entirely after the invention of printing, luxury illuminated manuscripts continued to be commissioned by royalty in England as elsewhere until well into the 16th century. The collection was expanded under Henry VIII by confiscations in the Dissolution of the Monasteries and after the falls of Henry's ministers Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. Many older manuscripts were presented to monarchs as gifts; perhaps the most important manuscript in the collection, the Codex Alexandrinus, was presented to Charles I in recognition of the diplomatic efforts of his father James I to help the Eastern Orthodox churches under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The date and means of entry into the collection can only be guessed at in many if not most cases. Now the collection is closed in the sense that no new items have been added to it since it was donated to the nation.
Rev. Jeremiah Milles (1714–1784) was President of the Society of Antiquaries and Dean of Exeter between 1762 and 1784. He carried out much internal renovation in Exeter Cathedral. As part of his antiquarian research into the history of the parishes of Devon he pioneered the use of the research questionnaire, which resulted in the "Dean Milles' Questionnaire", which survives as a valuable source of historical information.