1414: John Neuton and the Re-Foundation of York Minster Library

James Torre's Description of the Library, c. 1690

Peter Young (York Minster)

The two-storey building attached to the west side of the south transept of York Minster was constructed c. 1420 to accommodate the cathedral school and library. The school occupied the lower floor, the library the upper. The library was moved to the restored chapel of the archbishop's palace in Dean's Park to the north of the Minster in 1810, but James Torre's manuscript volume 'The Antiquities of York Minster...', dated 1690-1691, includes an illustrated description of the fifteenth-century library room (York Minster, Archives of the Chapter of York L1(7), fols 74r-v), which is here published in full for the first time.

Following a general description of the room, Torre deals in detail with its windows, with sections for the west window and the south- and north-side windows. The sections for the south- and north-side windows have subsections for the individual windows, in which Torre describes the contents of their panels.

The main heading for the description of the room and the headings for each section and subsection within it are in the margins. Beneath the headings for the individual windows are drawings of the windows. In the drawings of the south- and north-side windows, the panels are numbered '1'-'4', from top left to bottom right, except in the drawing of the second south-side window, in which only the top two panels are numbered. The descriptions of the panels' contents, which are within the text block, are numbered correspondingly and are illustrated with drawings, also within the text block.

Editorial note

In the edition which follows, the spelling of the manuscript has been retained, except that consonantal u has been transcribed as v. In general, abbreviations have been extended silently, according to Torre's spelling or, where there are no textual precedents, modern spelling. (Note that the heraldic abbreviation b. has been rendered 'azure'.) Abbreviations of proper names have been extended in italics. Abbreviations which continue in common use and those which include numerals have not been extended. Text lost due to damage has been supplied in square brackets. Capitalisation, punctuation, and word division have been modernised, and the layout of the text modified for ease of reading.

York Minster, Archives of the Chapter of York, L1 (7), fol. 74r.

[Fol. 74r, col. 2]

The library (1)

The library is a chamber of an oblong (2) square, covered with lead & seiled under its flatt roof with oaken boards. In the midst is a long gallery (or walk) running from E. to W., which divides it into 2 parts, or sides, wherein are sett up frames, or classes, shelved on both sides for the convenient standing of books, which (according to their various learning) are now methodically placed under proper heads by the speciall care & industry of the Revd Dr Comber, precentor of the church. It is enlightned by 9 windows, viz. one at the W. end & 4 on each side.

W.-end window

That at the west end contains 3 lights & is now filled with new white glass.

The other side-windows have onely 2 lights apiece, divided in the midst by a transom (3). Those on the south side I recken (4) from E. to W.

S. side

1st S.-side windo[w]

The first south-side window is all of white glass, excepting in the upper part of it these 2 escocheons, viz.

1. Blank

2. Barry of 6 sable & or

2d wind[ow]

The 2d window hath nothing observable in more than 2 escocheons thus placed:

1. Scrope of Masham

2. Fenton

(1. Azure a bend or & fyle of 3 poynts argent; 2d. Azure 6 falcons’ heads erased or.)

(1) Repeated at top of left margin on fol. 74v.

(2) First o of oblong transformed from a.

(3) in...transom interlined.

(4) en of recken written over n.

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Photograph: Paul Shields (University of York); © The Chapter of York.

How to cite

Peter Young , 'James Torre's Description of the Library, c. 1690', in Hanna Vorholt and Peter Young (eds), 1414: John Neuton and the Re-Foundation of York Minster Library, June 2015, https://hoaportal.york.ac.uk/hoaportal/yml1414transcription.jsp?id=33, accessed 29 November 2020