The Pepys Library

Samuel_Pepys… and we two come to Cambridge by eight o’clock in the morning.

To the Falcon, in the Petty Cury, where we found my father and brother very well. After dressing myself, about ten o’clock, my father, brother, and I to Mr. Widdrington, at Christ’s College, who received us very civilly, and caused my brother to be admitted, while my father, he, and I, sat talking. After that done, we take leave. My father and brother went to visit some friends, Pepys’s, scholars in Cambridge, while I went to Magdalene College, to Mr. Hill, with whom I found Mr. Zanchy, Burton, and Hollins, and was exceeding civilly received by them…

Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 25th February 1660

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a navel administrator and President of the Royal Society, but is chiefly known these days for his diaries, which cover roughly a decade from 1660 onward, and record the minutiae of his daily activities, including gripes about his health (he suffered from bladder stones, and was operated on for them), records of his extra-marital amours (almost daily), the fate of the cheese he buried during the Great Fire of London (a Parmazan), records of notable events, and anything else you care to mention, all written up in Shelton’s shorthand.

Pepys_diary_shorthandPepys was, among other things, a committed bibliophile, and he amassed during his life a library of over 3,000 volumes, including rare incunabulae, medieval manuscripts, his own diaries of course, and much else. Before his death he made arrangements for the entire collection to be bequeathed to Magdalene College, Cambridge, his own college, along with the bookcases (glass-fronted bookcases were his invention – he was a man of many odd talents) and detailed instructions to house the library (catalogued in strict size order, No.1 being the smallest). It can still be seen at Magdalene College in its original state, in, appropriately enough, the Pepys Building.


Pepys Library in the 1890s

Details of visiting hours are here. More photographs of the library are here. You can read the diaries, not in Shelton’s shorthand, here.


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