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The English College at Douai had two libraries, one for students of divinity and another ‘chiefly made up of Classic Authors’. That division is broadly maintained today, despite the seminary having closed. Wilkinson’s donations were less theological than some wished, with books on literature, art, law, philosophy, mathematics, science, and history being greatly important to him. Ushaw’s main strength, however, continues to be its collection of religious and historical material. Below you will find details of some of the books in Ushaw's collection within our Library.
Some of the more obvious riches are the forty-three medieval manuscripts and fragments, the oldest dating back to the eighth century. There are over ninety incunabula (books printed before 1500) including a splendid Ulm Cosmographia and the Nuremberg Chronicle.
There is also a 1st edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, displaying the progressive nature of the education available at Ushaw in more recent years.
The bindings of the books are equally as impressive, from fifteenth-century Venetian, to seventeenth-century royal and armorial bindings, alongside a wide spectrum of nineteenth-century bindings as part of the collection. Many of the eighty books owned by the monks of Durham priory also retain their original bindings, repaired over the years by a generous benefactors of the College.
The English College, Lisbon was founded from Douai in 1628. When it closed in 1971 it was decided to deposit the archives and 2,000 of its more important library books at Ushaw College. The archives, books, selected pictures and other artefacts are housed in the Lisbon room, next to the Lower Library. The printed books are a representative but miscellaneous collection that ranges from the first edition of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises to paperbacks of the 1960s.