Halifax Parish collection

The collection

The Halifax Parish collection is the parish library for Halifax Church and contains around 240 titles. The books are predominantly works of the Church fathers such as St Augustine and St Ambrose. There are also books on history, Roman law, and classic writers including Horace and Cicero. 17th and 18th century church writers such as Erasmus, Bucer, and Calvin, are also represented. As well as theology and biblical studies there are other more surprising titles.

Treasures include:

  • The first edition of Israel Spach's Gynaeciorum (1597), a collection of gynaecological writings.
  • The first Latin edition of Galileo's Systema cosmicum (1635).
  • A book printed in 1481 with wonderful coloured woodcuts.

This collection would be of interest to researchers studying the nature and history of English parish libraries.

The collector

This library was founded by Robert Clay, vicar of Halifax from 1624 to 1628, who presented some of his own books, and solicited gifts from other people, evidence of which can be seen in donation inscriptions. Over the next two hundred years, many other books were added, notably, in 1701, a large collection belonging to Simon Sterne of Woodhouse Skircoat. This included some books which had belonged to his father, Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, 1664-1683. The library was chained until 1710 and evidence of this can be seen on around half a dozen of the books.


The library was transferred to the University of York in 1964/66.

Collection access

Most of the material in the collection is catalogued and can be accessed via the Library's online catalogue. Items can be consulted in the Borthwick Search Room and copies can be made subject to copyright. Material cannot be loaned outside the University of York without the permission of the owners.

Related collections

Further information

On deposit from Halifax Parish Church