William Camden


Camdeni epistolae (1691)

V. cl. Gulielmi Camdeni et illustrium virorum ad G. Camdenum epistolae, ed. Thomas Smith (London, 1691)

Hearne (1720)

A Collection of Curious Discourses written by Eminent Antiquaries, ed. Thomas Hearne (Oxford, 1720)

Hearne (1771)

A Collection of Curious Discourses written by Eminent Antiquaries, ed. Thomas Hearne, 2nd edition [enlarged by Sir Joseph Ayloffe], 2 vols (London, 1771).


A large number of Camden's papers survive, including extensive drafts of his great works, the Annales and Britannia, and various notes and collections relating to them. Both the draft of the Annales for 1603-23, first published in 1691, and early drafts of most of the essays which constitute his Remaines are extant. Copies or drafts of various other essays and papers, many unpublished, are preserved, and considerable numbers of extant manuscripts and printed books are annotated by Camden or are known to have been used by him.


The Prose section of the entries below (CmW 1-113) records known manuscripts of Camden's literary compositions: of his historical, topographical, and antiquarian works and discourses. It includes seventeenth-century English translations of his Latin works and various essays which can be identified among his miscellaneous papers as independent original works.

The Society of Antiquaries mentioned frequently in these entries flourished probably from the mid-1580s until c.1608 and periodically enjoined its members to deliver formal opinions on specified subjects at convened meetings. For some account of the history and scope of the Society see Linda Van Norden, ‘Sir Henry Spelman on the Chronology of the Elizabethan College of Antiquaries’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 13 (1949-50), 131-60; C.E. Wright, ‘The Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries and the Formation of the Cottonian Library’, The English Library before 1700, ed. Francis Wormald and C.E. Wright (London, 1958), pp. 176-212; also Linda Van Norden, The Elizabethan College of Antiquaries (unpub. Ph.D. thesis, University of California at Los Angeles, 1946) [microfilm in Bodleian, Diss. Films 472]. A number of the original papers delivered to the Society are preserved among the Cotton Manuscriptss in the British Library, and there are numerous early transcripts of such papers (in the British Library, Bodleian, and elsewhere). Some of the Cottonian papers were printed in 1720 by Hearne, who noted in his preface that several of the discourses had no names prefixed to them and had not been properly registered by the Secretary of the Society, so that he could not identify their authors. This uncertainty persisted in Ayloffe's enlargement of Hearne's work in 1771, and the attributions in that edition prove to be not entirely reliable. A number of the Cottonian papers which have been misattributed or printed as anonymous can be positively identified as Camden's because they contain his hand or are endorsed as his by the Secretary of the Society.

A manuscript which relates to the Society of Antiquaries but which has not been entered below is in the Bodleian (MS Rawl. B. 70, ff. 1r-16v). Several discourses, the full texts of which are not known, are cited in the manuscript, with Camden's name occasionally mentioned, either as author of the works or else as the person whose manuscript collection is being quoted. These instances are (f. 2r) ‘Of the Antiquity of Marquesses in England’, February 1590/1 (Camden fol. 102); (f. 3r) ‘Of Earles and there Antiquity here in England’ (‘Camb: fo: 396’, ‘Camb: 415’); and (f. 6r) ‘Of ye Antiquity of viscountes heere in England’, 23 June 1591 (Camb: 139, Camb: 427). There is also, in British Library, Hargrave MS 225, ff. 103r-13r, an antiquarian tract ‘Of the Antiquity of The Parliamente’ (beginning ‘The dilligent observers of the antiquity of the Realme doe verie well knowe...’. It is clearly subscribed ‘William Camden’, but seems to be otherwise unknown

Miscellaneous Documents

The Miscellaneous section below (CmW 137-72) records known volumes of Camden's miscellaneous papers, or collectanea (and early transcripts of them), and also (CmW 172) the drawing of Queen Elizabeth's funeral procession which has been attributed to him. These collections contain not only manuscripts of some of the independent works recorded in the Prose section (to which appropriate cross-references are given) but also much material relating to Camden's major works and to his general activities as an antiquary, a chronicler and a herald. Besides Camden's will (CmW 200-202), also recorded in the ‘Documents’ section (CmW 172.5-202) are a number of (usually illuminated) grants of arms which Clarendon signed in his capacity of Clarenceux King of Arms. No doubt many more of these grants have been widely dispersed in libraries, private collections, and local record offices.

Clearly miscellaneous papers relating to Camden and his work as a herald could be extended to encompass an indefinite range of antiquarian documents which might have been used by him or which have some connection with him. There are, for instance, many examples of his deputations to other heralds to make Visitations on his behalf, as well as copies of pedigrees drawn up by or for him. Examples of Camden's deputations, not given separate entries below are at All Souls College, Oxford (MSS 278-9) and in the British Library (Cotton MS Julius F. VIII, ff. 66r-7r), and there are many manuscripts of the Visitations undertaken by his deputies, notably in the British Library (Harley MSS 887, 1043, 1141-2, 1179-80, 1234, 1394, 1430-1, 1451, 1532) and at The Queen's College, Oxford (MSS 95-6, 99, 116, 160).

Other documents (some original, some transcripts) relating to Camden's work as a herald are in the Bodleian (MSS Ashmole 840 (f. 407r), 858, 862 (pp. 71-9), 1132 (ff. 5r-6r), 1763 (f. 26c); Rawl. B. 103, ff. 95v, 159r); British Library (Add. MSS 6284 (ff. 54r-7r), 26710 (f. 125r), 26758 (ff. 2r-4r); Arundel MS 512, ff. 45v-50r; Egerton MS 2586, f. 326r; Harley MSS 1359, 1438); National Library of Scotland (MS 2517, f. 493r); and The Queen's College, Oxford (MS 94, f. 63r); also a manuscript book of antiquities relating to the Stafford family sold at Sotheby's, 1 November 1966, lot 1208, to C. Fitzherbert.

A number of these documents, and of those recorded in the entries below, can be associated with the St Georges, a family closely connected with the College of Arms; many of their papers were later acquired by Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bt (1792-1872). These papers must have been among the books and manuscripts concerning ‘Armes and herauldrie’ which, together with all Camden's ‘auncient seales’, he bequeathed to his successors in the office of Clarenceux. The rest of Camden's ‘imprinted bookes and manuscripts’ he bequeathed to Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631) — thus, incidentally, returning some of Cotton's own manuscripts which Camden had ‘borrowed of him’ — hence the number of Camden manuscripts still among the Cotton Manuscripts now in the British Library.

Ralph Brook

The entries below also include (CmW 98-100) a series of interesting unpublished notes by Camden which make for a critique of the Catalogue and Succession (1619) of one of Camden's colleagues, Ralph Brook(1553-1625), York Herald. As such they throw further light on the only serious controversy in which Camden is known to have been engaged in his professional life. Brooke (who was apparently not free from motives of professional jealousy) must have been one of the very few people who would have disputed Sir John Harington's estimate of Camden as ‘the best antiquarie of our time’ (Orlando Furioso (1591), Notes to Book IV). Brooke attacked Camden's magnum opus in his Discoverie of Certaine Errours… in …Britannia (London [1596]), to which Camden replied in the ‘Ad Lectorem’ in the fifth edition of Britannia (1600). Brooke rejoined with an answer which, however, was not published until 1723. It is interesting that before the publication of his own magnum opus, his Catalogue and Succession, Brooke submitted the work to Camden's criticism and, according to notes in Camden's annotated exemplum (*CmW 100), incorporated some of Camden's emendations. Camden's notes indicate, nevertheless, that his criticism went beyond that accepted by Brooke. Camden may have had little incentive to develop his critique — partly, perhaps, because of the ill-health which afflicted him in his final years, and perhaps he was also somewhat disarmed by the fact that Brooke had asked for his comments before publication. In any events the last word in the matter was left to Camden's deputy, Augustine Vincent (1584?-1626), whose Discoverie of Errours in Brooke's work (a criticism in which Camden plainly took an interest: see *CmW 99) appeared in 1622 shortly after Brooke published an enlarged edition of his Catalogue. The rivalry between Brooke and Camden resulted in disputes over other heraldic matters, as is witnessed by some papers in Cotton MS Faustina E. I (*CmW 146) and by a document headed ‘The answeres of Garter and Clarenceux Kings of Arms to the Scrowle of Arms exhibited by Raffe Brokesmouth called Yorke Herauld’ in the Bodleian (MS Ashmole 846, ff. 50r-1v). A complete transcript of Brooke's Discoverie of Certaine Errours made by Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt (1592?-1667) is in the National Library of Wales (Peniarth MS 274D, pp. 1-20, 197-241).

Spurious Attributions

It is possible that more professional works of Camden will come to light in due course. Two manuscripts which, however, appear to have been wrongly associated with him (in library catalogues) are MS 652 (ff. 115-318) at Trinity College, Dublin, and MS 1371 (ff. 83-111) at Lambeth Palace. The former is a series of genealogical notes and coats of arms of English families and brief lives of some Popes, material which would no doubt have interested Camden (and might conceivably derive from his papers) but which bears no trace of his hand or any mark of his ownership. The second work is a treatise in Law French probably occasioned by the disputed claims to the barony of Abergavenny in 1598-9. Camden was certainly involved in that case (see, for instance, *CmW 166), but there must have been many documents relating to it and there seems to be no good reason for associating that particular item with him.


One other area in which there is uncertainty about the canon is Camden's verse. A collection of verse by, or attributed to him (almost exclusively in printed works) appears in Poems by William Camden with Notes and Translations from the Latin, ed. George Burke Johnston, Studies in Philology, 72, No. 5 (December 1975). Johnston appends (pp. 107-13) a very small number of doubtful poems, certain of which may be found in manuscript (e.g. one sometimes attributed to Dekker: DkT 3-36). Camden was, however, an avid collector of miscellaneous epitaphs and epigrams, many of which are cited in his works (notably Remaines). It would therefore be difficult to determine exactly which of them (if any) were of his own composition or revision. Although a few examples of autograph verse drafts by Camden among the Cotton Manuscripts are known (e.g. an epitaph on Mary Queen of Scots: see *CmW 149.5), verse associated with Camden has not been given separate entries below.

An epitaph on Sir Nicholas Bacon (‘Non hominem possu, non audeo dicere Diuum’), for instance, is ascribed to Camden in a miscellany in Chetham's Library, Manchester (Mun. A 4. 15, p. 138; printed in Grosart, The Dr Farmer MS (1873), II, 157). A composite volume of printed tracts at Westminster Abbey (CB. 13) has on the flyleaf a couplet in Camden's hand headed ‘Epitaphium Elizabethae Reginae’ (beginning ‘Spaynes rodd, Roomes ruine, Netherlands reliefe’). This anonymous couplet is found in various other sources besides (for instance, in the Bodleian (MSS Eng. poet. e. 40, f. 124; Rawl. poet. 153, f. 8v); British Library (Add. MSS 27406, f. 75; 29921, f. 38); Folger (MS V.a.103, Part I, p. 1); Rosenbach Museum & Library (MS 239/16, p. 148; 239/27, p. 235; 1083/16, p. 243); and University of Nottingham (Portland MS PwV 37, p. 1).

Books and Manuscripts Owned or Inscribed by Camden

The main collection of printed books from Camden's library probably also derives from the bequest to Cotton, and is to be found at Westminster Abbey. It consists of more than fifty bound volumes of miscellaneous works (over 400 titles); it is evidently only a small part of Camden's original library, and it perhaps represents a selection if items of little interest to Cotton which Cotton was persuaded to donate to Westminster Abbey by the Dean of Westminster, John (later Archbishop) Williams. Those volumes at Westminster with substantial annotations by Camden are included in the entries below, but various other volumes in the collection bear Camden's brief inscription of ownership (or his motto ‘Jouis omnia plena’) as well as, in some instances, annotations in other hands. There is also one volume formerly at Westminster (Gal. F. 2. 2) — containing, inter alia, tracts relating to Gallus's libel on De Thou's Historiarum sui temporis — which may have annotations by Camden but which cannot at present be located.

The rest of Camden's library was at some time dispersed, and examples of his books are found in various libraries. In addition to his inscribed or annotated volumes recorded in the entries below, examples of printed books bearing Camden's signature or inscription of ownership are preserved in the following repositories:

Bodleian (AA. 2 (1). Th. Seld.: Jacques Godefroy, De suburbicarii regionibus et ecclesiis (Frankfurt, 1618));

British Library, 503. a. 23: Cardin Le Bret, Recueil d'aucuns plaidoyez faicts en la cour des aydes (Paris, 1609));

Folger (INC G353: Gratianus the Canonist, Decretum (Venice, 1500); PA/5360/R5/P7/Cage: Lorenz Rhodoman, Poesis Christiana (Frankfurt, 1589));

University of Glasgow (BG53-h.28: Eilhard Lubin, Antiquarius (Amsterdam, 1594));

Huntington (STC 10039: Articles whereupon it was agreed, in 1562 (1571); University of Minnesota (Z 355. A141: Aelianus, De militaribus (Venice, 1552));

National Library of Wales (Humfrey Lhuyd, Commentarioli Britannicae descriptionis fragmentum (Cologne, 1572));

Yale (Ecd. 160: Abraham Ortelius, Itinerarium (Antwerp, 1584); Edc. 530P: Wilibald Pirckheimer, Germaniae (Nuremberg, 1530)).

An exemplum of Nicolaus Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Basle, [1566]), bearing Camden's signature, was formerly at Brown University but has been unlocated since 1974.

Yet other manuscript volumes containing inscriptions of ownership or very brief notes in Camden's hand are found in:

the Bodleian (MS Bodl. 885: 15th-16th-century papers chiefly relating to the claims of the King of England over France);

British Library (Add. MS 57945: Phillipps MS 13764, a notebook of John Stow; Arundel MS 333: medieval Irish documents; Egerton MS 1238: an album of Paul Groë of Nuremberg with Camden's inscription on f. 28);

A printed exemplum of Camden's Britannia (London, 1586), with his presentation inscription to ‘Galfrido Kinge’, was offered at Bonham's, 10 November 2009, lot 15, and is now in the library of Gregory Baran, Seattle.

Another printed exemplum of Camden's Britannia (London, 1596), with his presentation inscription in Latin to Robert Turner, was offered at Sotheby's, 13-14 June 1955, lot 136, to Steven, a facsimile of the inscription appearing in the sale catalogue. Lot 320 in the same sale was the presentation exemplum to Camden of John Selden's Titles of Honour (London, 1614), sold to Quaritch.

In the Royal Library, Windsor (II. 43. H), is an exemplum of the 1600 quarto edition of Britannia, which is possibly the dedication exemplum bound in dark olive morocco for Queen Elizabeth I. It is recorded as such in W.C. Hazlitt's annotated copy of his A Roll of Honour (1908) now in the British Library, Cup.410.g.343, before p 149. It bears the bookplate of Wilmot Vaughan (1730-1800), first Earl of Lisburne.

The Royal Library, Windsor, also has (II. 56. A Gall) an exemplum of John Philipott's 1636 edition of Remaines inscribed by Philipott himself to Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia.

A manuscript in the Bodleian (MS Selden supra 118) contains (ff. 1-27v) extracts made by John Selden from a lost manuscriptt of the Historia Britonum of Nennius (or Gildas) — a manuscript containing at least 447 pages or leaves — which belonged to Camden. Yet another manuscript closely associated with him is the so-called Camden Roll of Arms (c.1280), preserved in the British Library (Cotton Roll XV. 8). Copies of it are in the Bodleian (MS Rylands d. 31), British Library (Harley MS 6137, ff. 66v-72v), by Richard Kimbey; College of Arms (MSS L. 14, ff. 62-70, probably by Nicholas Charles, Lancaster Herald; Vincent 164, ff. 111-19, possibly by Richard Scarlett), and The Queen's College, Oxford (MS 158, pp. 349-65, by Robert Glover). The text of the Roll is printed in James Harris Greenstreet, ‘The Original Camden Roll of Arms’, Transactions of the British Archaeological Association, 38 (1882), 309-28, and the various manuscripts copies are described in Anthony Richard Wagner, A Catalogue of English Medieval Rolls of Arms (London, 1950), pp. 16-18.


A further category of miscellaneous manuscripts that is not represented in the entries below is Camden's correspondence. Many of his letters were printed in Camdeni epistolae (1691) by Thomas Smith (1638-1710), who was custodian of the Cotton Manuscripts and himself a collector of Camden's papers. Many more letters, chiefly unpublished, are to be found, and no doubt more await discovery.

Original letters of Camden are preserved in the following repositories:

Bodleian (Broxbourne R 1417, and Broxbourne 84.21; MS Don. c. 79, f. 82);

British Library (Add. MSS 25384 (f. 5), 29598 (f. 1), 36294; Burney MS 363, f. 124; Cotton MSS Julius C. III; Julius C. V; Titus B. IV, f. 318r; Vespasian F. IX; and Harley MS 7017. Facsimile examples of a total of seven letters in the British Library appear in Greg, English Literary Autographs, Plate LXXIII, in Petti, English Literary Hands, No. 30 (see *CmW 142) and in Original Letters of Eminent Literary Men, ed. Sir Henry Ellis, Camden Society 23 (London, 1843), frontispiece.

Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House (Cecil Papers 46/17).

New York Public Library, Manuscript Division.

Pierpont Morgan Library (MA 1346-54; MA 2635-6). A letter of 4 August 1577 here is reproduced in Sotheby's sale catalogue, 18 June 1968, lot 351, and in British Literary Manuscripts, Series I, ed Verlyn Klinkenborg et al. (New York, 1981), no. 17.

Robert S. Pirie, New York. A photocopy is in the British Library, RP 216.

Trinity College, Cambridge (MS R. 5. 20).

University of Texas at Austin.

A letter of 1 June 1619 once in the Alfred Morrison Collection and now unlocated is reproduced in the printed catalogue of that collection, I (1883), Plate 33, facing p. 162.

Other facsimiles of letters by Camden may be found in Isographie des Hommes Célèbres, Tome 1 (1828-30);

Some transcripts of letters of Camden are in the Bodleian (MSS Add. C. 296, ff. 89r-90r; Carte 101; Lat. misc. e. 88 (Phillipps MS 4863); Smith 71, 74, 89) and British Library (Harley MS 7017, ff. 81-2); and see also Sotheby's, 14 June 1971, lot 1400, to Alan Thomas.

A number of letters written to Camden by various correspondents are to be found in the repositories mentioned above and in Marsh's Library, Dublin (MS Z 3. 5. 24 (4) — a letter of 1574 from John Dee).

Printed Exempla of Works by Camden Owned by Notable People or with Readers' Annotations

Besides including numerous examples of extracts or quotations from Camden's works copied into miscellanies, entries have also been given below to some printed exempla of interesting provenance or bearing notable readers' annotations. No doubt many more examples, which may throw light on the reading history and reception of Camden's works, will come to light in due course.

Peter Beal