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Nantwich Parochial Library

Date range: 15th-19th centuries

Number of items: 200 items.

During the 1690s the Rev. Dr Thomas Bray (1656-1730) devised a scheme for establishing parochial libraries in every deanery in England and Wales. This project led to the formation of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) on 8 March 1699. A grant for a parochial library at St Mary’s Nantwich was included in Bray’s accounts for 1695–99, and the existence of such a library by 1700 is recorded in a letter to the SPCK. The collection was augmented in 1699 with a donation from Samuel Edgley (d. 1721), vicar of Acton.

There were 181 titles in the library in 1712, of which 96 now survive. Little is known about the subsequent history of the collection until December 1889, when the contents of the parochial library were transferred en bloc to the newly-founded Nantwich Free Public Library, where they remained until 1952. The books were then returned to St Mary’s and housed in a room above the south porch, which may have been where they were originally kept. The parochial library was generously donated to The University of Manchester Library in 2009.

The most significant printed book in St Mary’s parochial library is Wynkyn de Worde’s 1502 Sarum Hymnal, Expositio Hymnorum, one of only three known copies. Its earliest work is a copy of Johannes de Turrecremata’s Summa de ecclesia contra impugnatores potestatis summi pontificis et LXXIII quaestiones super potestate et auctoritate Papali ex sententiis sancti Thomae Aquinatis, printed by Johannes Trechsel (Lyon, 1496). Notable early English books include Samuel Purchas’s Purchas his Pilgrimage (London, 1613), and a copy of Eikon Basilike (London, 1648).

There are a number of pieces of provincial printing, mostly sermons and guidebooks printed in Nantwich and Shrewsbury, including two copies of William Tunnicliff’s Topographical Survey of the Counties of Stafford, Chester and Lancaster (Nantwich, 1787), and John Smith’s A Vindication of the Freedom of Pastoral Advice (Nantwich, 1775?). There is also a copy of The Complete Family Bible (Manchester, 1783).

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