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. 74v.

[Fol. 74v, col. 1]

3d window

The 3d window hath therein these 2 escocheons at top:

1. Haxey (argent 3 gem buckles in fess (5) sable)

2. Sable 3 escallops & border ingrailed argent

4. At bottom of 2d light stands a white dove with this inscription on an escrowle issuing from her mouth: verbum caro factum est.

4th window

The 4th window is in the closset taken in at the S.-W. end of the library (6) & hath in it these coats thus placed:

1. Langley (paly of 6 argent and vert)

2. Bowet (argent 3 raindear’s heads cabossed sable)

4. Skirlaw (argent a cross of 6 bastoons sable)

North side

The north-side windows I recken from W. to E.

1st window

The first window hath therein these 2 escocheons etc.:

1. K. Henry 6 (quarterly; 3 fleur-de-lyz of France & 3 lyons of England)

2. Mowbray (gules a lyon rampant argent)

3. A challice with a wafer (7) upon it & severall rays of glory issing from it

4. A cherub

2d window

The 2d window hath these 2 escocheons, viz.

1. Percy & Lucy (quarterly; 1st & last, or a lyon rampant azure; 2d & 3d, gules 3 lucies hauriant in pale argent)

2. Nevill (gules a saltire argent)

3. (8) An old man’s face

4. A man head

[Fol. 74v, col. 2]

3d window

The 3d window hath these two coats at top, viz.

1. Ros (gules 3 water budgetts argent)

2. Clifford (checky or & blue a fess gules)

4. A lyon sejant

4th window

The 4th window hath at top these 2 escocheons of arms:

1. FitzHugh (1. Azure 3 chevronels embraced in base & a chief or)

2. Vavasour (or a fess dauncette sable)

4. A lyon passant regardant (9)

(5) fess followed by colon, indicating suspension of 'e'?

(6) b of library written over g or y.

(7) A challice with a wafer corrected from A cup with an apple by striking through A cup, the n of an, and apple, and writing A challice above A cup and wafer below apple.

(8) 3 written over 4.

(9) n of regardant originally written with one minim; second minim written over t, and t rewritten.

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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&figure=2, accessed 07 August 2020