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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XIII. Scholars and Antiquaries

§ 15. Oxford and the Bodleian

  • This summer [1656] came to Oxon “The Antiquities of Warwickshire,” &c. written by William Dugdale, and adorn’d with many cuts. This being accounted the best book of its kind that hitherto was made extant, my pen cannot enough describe how A. Wood’s tender affections and insatiable desire of knowledg were ravish’d and melted downe by the reading of that book.
  • It was in these words that Anthony Wood greeted the appearance of a book which represented the firstfruits of a new movement in the study of local history and antiquities. This movement, which becomes noticeable in the seventeenth century, approached the subject from a new standpoint, and, in place of depending upon bald and hackneyed compilations by previous writers, sought to found its history on the study of original documents and records, supplemented by local topographical investigation. With immense industry and untiring patience, “collections” were made from every accessible source. Charters, registers, muniments, genealogies, monumental inscriptions, heraldic achievements, were all made to yield their quota; and if, in the amassing of material, the collectors were sometimes too uncritical of their “originals,” or in the maze of detail have lost sight of broader issues, they at least preserved from oblivion a multitude of valuable records and paved the way for the remarkable series of county histories and other kindred works produced in the succeeding century.

    The centre of the new school was at Oxford, where, since the opening of its doors in 1602, the library of Sir Thomas Bodley had been rapidly accumulating materials and extending its collections, until it became a great storehouse of sources, and served as the nursing-ground of a remarkable group of men, which includes the names of Wood, Hearne, Rawlinson, and Tanner.