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The Recusant Library is open to researchers by appointment with the librarian. The entire collection is catalogued with the main library collection, all of which is available to search online. The online catalogue, and all information about library access can be found by clicking here.
The Recusant Library at Oscott College, with over 12,000 books and pamphlets, and 400 manuscripts, holds works of Catholic interest published between c.1470 and c.1850. There are, additionally, a number of historical, scientific and medical works.
The collection developed initially from two sources. First, the Harvington Secular Clergy Library which was assembled at the recusancy centre of Harvington Hall, Worcestershire. Founded in 1696 by Lady Mary Yate for the use of her family chaplains, it became a library for the use of priests of the Midland District.
As might be expected, this collection is particularly strong in controversial, catechetical and devotional works relating to the Church in England. The pamphlet wars of the 1670s and 1680s are well-represented. Bishop Milner acquired the collection in 1810 for the use of the College.
The scripture collection within the Library warranted a printed catalogue, (1971), to itself. In addition to the large number of bibles and New Testaments, the range of commentaries, concordances and scholarly dissertations reflect the breath of developing critical scholarship in both the Catholic and Reformed traditions. These include the 6-volume Complutensian Polyglott Bible of 1517, and the 8-volume Opera Omnia of Martin Luther, Wittenberg 1545-58.
The second source is the library of the Marchese Luigi Marini, purchased for the use of the new college by Bishop Walsh in 1839. This had been collected by L.G. Marini, Prefect of the Bibliotheca Vaticana, and the purchase brought us a large number of rare European works on classical antiquities.
The purchase included part of the library of Marini’s successor, Cardinal Garampi, (d.1792), and includes materials for scriptural studies, the ‘Dissertationes Biblicae’ and ‘Opuscula Theologica’, many of them from German Protestant universities, along with post-Reformation theological controversies, and works on European Church affairs, published between 1500 and 1750. Seventeenth and eighteenth century controversy includes works on Jansenism and Jesuit polemic.
Important additions to the collection were received throughout the nineteenth century. The library of the Hardwicke Bequest to the Wolverhampton mission, brought a large number of pastoral manuals and devotional works. Rev. Dr. John Kirk of Lichfield, (d. 1851), left us many books dealing with the English post-Reformation Church, and with French ecclesiastical history. Canon E.E. Estcourt’s (d. 1884) collection of original works relating to the English martyrs, and the extensive library of Mgr. John Crook (d. 1909), contributed a wealth of materials on church history, scripture, theology, and canon law. Recent printed acquisitions have been the libraries from the recusant missions at Brailes (Warwickshire), Brewood (Staffordshire), Sedgley Park School, and its successor, Cotton College.
An eclectic manuscript collection includes 16th Century recusancy material, including the Commonplace Book of Peter Mowle, “Leisters Commonwealth” and “An answere to a comfortable advertisement… concerning going to church with Protestants”. There are other contemporary accounts of the persecution of the Church in England.
The greater part of the Recusant collection was described by G. F. Pullen in three printed catalogues, published between 1964 and 1971. A number of items there listed are represented in the UK by fewer than four copies. Our many subsequent accessions have made necessary a thorough revision of the catalogues, and a presentation of the collection in a form more accessible to scholars.