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A one-of-a-kind collection that reveals our enduring commitment to education in Lewisham

Colfe Library

The Colfe Library was founded by the Reverend Abraham Colfe both as the original library of Colfe’s School and as a free public library for gentlemen, clergymen and theology students of Lewisham. Many of the books were donated by members of the Leathersellers’ Company from the library’s foundation in 1652 onwards, while others were transferred from Colfe’s own personal library after his death in 1657. Originally a chained library, the Colfe Library contains over 500 often rare volumes dating from the 15th-18th centuries. The majority are on theological topics, but philosophy, history, geography, Latin, Greek and Hebrew grammar and other subjects are also represented. In addition to the chained library register begun by Abraham Colfe in 1652, books in the Colfe Library include:

• Two books from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s personal library: D. Erasmus, In Novum Testamentum Annotationes, 1527 (which contains Cranmer’s handwritten annotations) and Martin Bucer, Metaphrases et Enarrationes perpetuae Epistolarum Pauli Apostoli, 1536.
• John Speed’s atlases A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World (1646) and Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, 1650.
• Brian Walton, Biblia Sacra Polyglotta, 1657 – the London Polyglot Bible
• Biblia Sacra Postillata, 1481 – the oldest book in the Colfe Library
• Francis Bacon, [Novum organum] Instauratio magna, first edition, 1620
• Francis Bacon, De Sapientia Veterum, first edition, 1609
• Biblia Hebraica, 1587

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Watch: The Colfe Library

The Colfe Library is one of the Company’s most important historical assets. Watch the ‘Stories from the Archive’ episode all about the Colfe Library and explore the rest in the series.

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woman selecting a book from a library case