The Sharps and their books
The Sharps’ library originated with John Sharp, Archbishop of York (1645-1714), whose earliest book purchases date from his time as a student in Cambridge in the early 1660s. His books were inherited by his two sons John (1677-1727) and Thomas (1693-1758). The latter inherited his older brother’s books. The next generation, another John (1723-1792) and Thomas (1725-1772), in turn received shares of their father’s library, which had expanded substantially to judge from his surviving will. It is also clear from this will that a proportion of this library went to the first Thomas’ younger children, who included Granville Sharp, the anti-slavery campaigner.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any records for the Archbishop’s library – apart from a catalogue of tracts compiled by his sons – but his sons and grandsons left us a small number of catalogues and shelf-lists at least of part of their collections. Some of these were marked up in the early 20th century to indicate volumes then still in the collection and they will continue to be an important asset in the study of the history of this clergymen’s library.
With the exception of John II, who was a M.P. for Ripon and later retired to the Northamptonshire countryside, each John and Thomas held a number of clerical positions and travelled between residences. It appears that their books were also spread among these. For example, the will of Thomas I specifies the distribution of his library among his children on the basis of those kept at Durham in two separate studies and those kept at his house in Rothbury. Manuscript A2, a digital copy of a catalogue in his hand now kept in the Gloucestershire Archives, also supports the existence of separate book collections. Similarly, John III, the eldest son of Thomas I, kept books at Durham and Hartburn.
The library catalogues
Of some value for the study of student reading is Thomas II’s 1748 catalogue of books kept at Cambridge while he was completing an M.A. (Bamburgh Library MS A1). It is ordered by subject, starting with Divinity, followed by dictionaries, Classical literature – both in the original languages and in translation, belles-lettres (‘polite literature’), miscellanies, catechisms, music ‘left at Durham’, and history. He also diligently noted books he had borrowed from his brother, dated 28 December 1748.