Undiscovered collections: Sedbergh School Library

Teams from the Collection Management department have recently cleaned and catalogued the Sedburgh School Library Collection, which was deposited at the University of Manchester Library on permanent loan in 1972–73.

Sedburgh school was founded in 1525 by Dr Roger Lupton, Provost of Eton and a native of Sedbergh, and endowed by him with lands associated with a chantry. By 1528, the foundation deed had been signed, binding the School to St John’s College, Cambridge and giving the College power over the appointment of Headmasters. This link to St. John’s College probably saved Sedbergh in 1546-48 as it was a time when most chantries were being dissolved and their assets being seized by Henry VIII’s Commission.[1] Sedbergh was re-established and re-endowed as a Grammar School in 1551 and fortunes fluctuated on the character and abilities of the Headmasters. The constitution of the school was revised by the Endowed Schools Commissioners in 1874, when the buildings were greatly enlarged, and girls were admitted to the school for the first time in 2001. Sedburgh has an international reputation for its sporting achievements, and alumni include England rugby football players such as Will Carling, and the world cup winner Will Greenwood. There are also many other notable alumni from the fields of religion, science and exploration, the arts, business, politics, and the military, such as the businessman and politician, Brendan Bracken, 1st Viscount Bracken, PC (15 February 1901 – 8 August 1958).


The historic library of Sedbergh School in Cumbria (formerly the North Riding of Yorkshire) is a good representative example of an English public-school library. The collection includes over 250 European and English early printed books from the mid sixteenth up to the eighteenth centuries, mostly on subjects that would be expected in a school library – Greek and Latin classic texts, European history and religion are all very well represented. Prominent among these are an edition of Horace (Paris, 1519), historical works such as Matthew Parker’s De Antiquitate Ecclesiae et Privilegiis Ecclesiae Cantuariensis, revised by Samuel Drake (London, 1729), and religious texts, for example, the works of Peter the Martyr (Zurich, 1567), and Benedictus Aretius’s Commentarii in Quatuor Evangelistas (Morges, Switzerland, 1580).

As befits a school collection, the worn condition of many bindings indicates that these books have been well used over time, but the lack of graffiti, doodles and annotations suggests some unusually well-disciplined pupils. The same cannot be said for the remainder of the collection, which dates from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the majority of these books contain signatures, comments and pen trials. This part of the collection covers a broader subject range, including popular series, such as The Story of the Nations, a French ten-volume Histoire Générale, and Stanfords Compendium of Geography; works in Spanish, German and French, and books written by eminent former pupils, such as the journalist, poet and writer, Barry Eric Odell Pain (28 September 1864 – 5 May 1928).

The provenance of the Sedburgh School collection is particularly interesting. A proportion was acquired from other prominent public schools, but others came from lending libraries as well as overseas bookshops.

There are also numerous presentation volumes from eminent alumni, such as the aforementioned Lord Bracken and Barry Pain, but also from former students and teachers, some of whom were tragically killed in the First World War.

The collection is now fully catalogued and available via the The University of Manchester Library online catalogue.

[1] Sedburgh School (2015). Available at: (Accessed: 12 November 2015).

1 comment on “Undiscovered collections: Sedbergh School Library

  1. amazing

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: