Parish library collections

These collections were formed to support the theological and pastoral work of English parish churches.


Originally the property of the Reverend John Shaw, this library was bequeathed by him to the parish of Bengeworth, Evesham, Worcestershire in 1854. It consists mainly of theological and classical works from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

There are several notable Hebrew Bibles, including:

  • Sefer Ketuvium [c1566], printed in Antwerp by the great Renaissance scholar Christopher Plantin
  • Benjamin Kennicott's Vetus testamentum hebraicum (Oxford, 1776-80). This includes his Dissertatio Generalis where he published the results of his lifelong research into the textual variants of hundreds of Hebrew manuscripts worldwide.

Another specialism of the collection is Arabic language and culture, for example:

St Mary's Church in Warwick

The parochial library of St Mary's Church, Warwick, was established in 1701. It numbers about 1,400 volumes, mostly on theological subjects, including nearly 100 volumes published in the sixteenth century and over 600 in the seventeenth century. Amongst the books in this collection are several important Reformation texts, including:

  • Thomas Gascoigne's Myroure of Oure Lady (1530), a devotional treatise in English on divine service produced for the nuns of Sion in Middlesex, who had learnt to sing and pronounce Latin without knowing "the meaning thereof"
  • the first translation into English of Paraphrases of the New Testament (1548) by Erasmus, a commentary written as if it were in the voice of the original
  • several books published in Paris in the mid-1500s by the French poet Joachim du Bellay, who together with his fellow poet Ronsard founded the French school of Renaissance poetry, including the copy of his Poematum Libri Quatuor (1558) owned by the English Calvinist poet and dramatist Sir Fulke Greville of Warwick (1554-1628)
  • a first edition of John Donne's Pseudo-martyr (1610), his important personal contribution to the debate on how Catholics might take the Oath of Allegiance in good faith.


This library of more than 3,000 printed items was the property of the Reverend Thomas Wigan (1743-1818), minister of Wribbenhall, Worcestershire. He bequeathed it to the nearby town of Bewdley, where it served as a public library. The collection is a very good example of an educated and cultured eighteenth-century gentleman's library. It contains volumes of theology (with a substantial run of rare seventeenth and eighteenth century pamphlets), history, law, science and literature.

The collection includes:

  • copies of the revised second edition of De Architectura libri decem (published in Florence in 1522 with 140 woodcut illustrations) by Marcus Vitruvius, the first architect, which is the source of almost all that is known about classical Greek and Roman architectural theory and practice
  • a first edition of Pisgah-Sight of Palestine, a historical and geographical description of the Holy Land (1650). This includes an engraved plate of subscribers' arms shown as standards, twenty double-page regional maps and seven double-page plates, by Thomas Fuller. As Chaplain in Extraordinary to Charles II, Fuller sought to support an ideal balanced constitution of monarch and parliament with a tolerant established Church
  • the first edition of Paradise Lost (1668) with the fourth state of the title page and the introductory material by added Milton to help stimulate sales
  • the first edition of Gulliver's Travels (1726), which sold out in less than a week. Swift had secretly delivered the manuscript to his publisher Benjamin Motte. Motte cut or altered offending passages and inserted material in defence of Queen Anne in order to avoid prosecution for libel
  • a first edition of Matthew Tindal's Christianity as old as the Creation; or, the gospel, a republication of the religion of nature (1730), the seminal statement of Deism, in which he argues against scriptural revelation: “God designed all Mankind should at all times know, what he wills them to know, believe, profess, and practice; and has given them no other Means for this, but the Use of Reason.”