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Old Library: Catalogues and Research Tools

Catalogues and Research Tools

We are currently working on various projects to provide online research tools for the Old Library collection, including cataloguing our books to appear on the University of Cambridge's 'idiscover' catalogue. While this work is ongoing (classmarks CAM and M-R have been completed) we are pleased to announce that we now have in place a searchable shelf list of the Old Library’s oldest books (classmarks A-L). The shelf list also includes provenance information. To search the shelf list, click ‘ctrl + F’ and enter your search term.  Please be mindful of variance in transcription of hand-press era books (such as ‘Claudii or ‘Claudij’, ‘Sive’ or ‘Siue’). For this reason, you may prefer to search by author.

A significant proportion of the Old Library collections can also be searched online using the British Library's English Short Title Catalogue, the Universal Short Title Catalogue and Incunabula Short Title Catalogue.  Provenance information about the Old Library's Incunabula can be found on the Material Evidence in Incunabula database.

A list of the College's manuscripts can be found in the publication by James, M.R.: A descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts in the college library of Magdalene College Cambridge Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909. Please note that there have been subsequent donations of manuscripts to the collection since this catalogue's publication. Some of the Old Library medieval manuscripts are described on the Bodleian Library's Medieval Libraries of Great Britain website.

The Astell Collection

The identification of Mary Astell's personal library within the Old Library of Magdalene College was announced in 2021.  A running update of Mary Astell news relating to her library books is available on the Magdalene College Libraries' blog.

The collection is fully catalogued on the University of Cambridge's 'idiscover' online catalogue.

The Old Library maintains a bibliography of works relating to the Mary Astell collection.

Bibliography of Works Related to the Mary Astell Collection

Journal Articles

Bol, Geertje J.  "Mary Astell on Moderation: the Case of Occasional Conformity."  The European Legacy 28, no. 3-4 (2023), 294-312.

Brown, Deborah J, and Broad, Jacqueline.  "The Social Dimension of Generosity in Descartes and Astell."  Journal of the History of Philosophy 60, no. 3 (2022): 409-427.

Perry, Ruth, and Sutherland, Catherine. "A New Political Pamphlet by Mary Astell." Eighteenth-Century Studies 55, no. 3 (2022): 377-386.

Sutherland, Catherine. “Books owned by Mary Astell in the Old Library of Magdalene College Cambridge.” The Library 24, no. 3 (2023): 267-301. 


Donald, Athene. Not Just for the Boys: Why we Need More Women in Science.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023.

Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Bridge, Mark. “Mary Astell: Pioneering Feminist’s Library Unearthed at Cambridge University”. The Times, March 8, 2021, pioneering-feminists-library-unearthed-at-cambridge-university-h7dvlcfvx.

Shattock, Ella, “Forgotten Feminist Writings discovered in Magdalene College”. Varsity, March 9, 2021,

Sutherland, Catherine. “Mary Astell’s Books.” Magdalene Matters, no. 51 (2021): 6.

Swerling, Gabriella. “Handwritten Notes Reveal Mind of First English Feminist”. The Telegraph, March 8, 2021, reveal-mind-first-english-feminist/.

Blogs and Websites

Almeroth-Williams, Tom. “Ahead of her Time.” University of Cambridge, March 8, 2021,

Broad, Jacqueline and Catherine Sutherland. “An Astell Pseudonym Uncovered”. Project Vox, November 9, 2020, broad-and-catherine-sutherland/

Donald, Athene. “Women as Natural Philosophers: Choosing to Challenge.” Athene Donald’s Blog, March 8, 2021, as-natural-philosophers-choosing-to-challenge/.

Magdalene College. “Library Discovery Reveals a Science Student Way Ahead of her Time.” Magdalene College, March 8, 2021, discovery-reveals-science-student-way-ahead-her-time

Online videos

UCLA.  "The Reassembly of Mary Astell’s Personal Library within the Old Library of Magdalene College" by Catherine Sutherland, Youtube Video,

University of Cambridge. “Study with England’s First Feminist Mary Astell,” Youtube Video,

Magdalene College. “Mary Astell – The First English Feminist,” Magdalene College, streamed live on April 28, 2021, Youtube Video,

Last Updated: 23/05/2023

The Ferrar Papers

The collection of Ferrar Papers have been digitised and available via a subscription-based service at Adam Matthew Digital. For further information on this collection there is also our Ferrar Forum, including a collaborative handlist of the Ferrar Papers.


All the music in the Old Library dating from the eighteenth century onwards has been catalogued on RISM, including the Magdalene Partbooks.  The Peterborough Antiphoner (F.4.10) is digitised on the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music. It is a free resource; researchers are required to complete an online registration process.

The Peter Peckard Collection

Peter Peckard, former Master of the College, bequeathed a large number of books to the Old Library.  This Peckard Handlist shows how his books were arranged at his parsonage in Fletton, near Peterborough, at the end of the 18th century. The handlist also traces the majority of books to their current location in the Old Library.

Peckard Collection Handlist: Explanatory Notes

The Peckard Collection Handlist is an electronic inventory of books given to Magdalene College by its former Master, Peter Peckard (1718-1797). It is based on a manuscript catalogue of Peckard’s books created at the end of the eighteenth century (R.1.2), and matches the original item description, as it appears in the manuscript copy, to the corresponding book held within the College’s Old Library collections. The manuscript gives the precise location and arrangement of the books at the parsonage house in Fletton, where Peckard was Rector, therefore the handlist provides a detailed insight into a clergyman’s library in the late 18th century.

In instances where an item cannot be located and/or identified in the Old Library from the description provided, the fields have been left blank, but the transcript entry has been retained, so as to provide as complete a picture as possible of Peckard’s original collection– such entries might include “Horatius”, for example, or “an English Bible”, which are, on their own, insufficient for the purpose of identifying a specific reference with confidence.

In other instances, where an item can be identified, but cannot be located within the Old Library collections, complete bibliographic information has been included as a speculative indication of what is most likely to have been referred to in the transcript.

R.1.2 includes a number of entries for duplicate texts, though in most cases, only single copies of the text are present within the Old Library collections. This may be the result either of error or else it is possible that the collection was subject to a process of de-duplication, either at the point of the bequest, or subsequently.

The second tab in the handlist records all ‘Unsorted’ entries for books listed in the Old Library catalogue as items associated with Peter Peckard, but which do not appear in R.1.2 and therefore cannot be matched accordingly. It is possible that some of these items were given to the College by Peckard before 1798, the earliest date cited in R.1.2, which would explain their absence from the inventory.

Peckard Collection Handlist

The Valerie Eliot Bequest

In 2013, the College received a bequest of books from Valerie Eliot, wife of T S Eliot. The bequest consists of volumes previously belonging to T.S. Eliot and his wife Valerie. The books can be divided into three main categories:

  • Books by T.S.Eliot, including many first editions with dedication inscriptions.
  • Books owned by T.S. Eliot for his personal reading and study, some of which contain marginalia in Eliot’s hand.
  • Translations of T.S.Eliot’s work into other languages, including first editions with dedication inscriptions.  Some of these translations were given to Valierie Eliot after the death of T.S. Eliot in 1965.

The collection is fully catalogued on the University of Cambridge's 'idiscover' online catalogue.

The C.S. Lewis Collection

The Old Library is home to a collection of books owned formerly by C.S. Lewis.  The most notable volumes are his copies of Shakespeare plays, some of which contain a large amount of notes in Lewis' hand.

The collection is fully catalogued on the University of Cambridge's 'idiscover' online catalogue.

The Richard Luckett Bequest

This is a collection of books bequeathed to the Old Library by Dr Richard Luckett (1945-2020), former Pepys Librarian. The collection's particular strengths are music and theatre of the restoration period. The printed books and scores in the bequest are fully catalogued on the University of Cambridge's 'idiscover' online catalogue. The music manuscript material in the collection has been catalogued on RISM.