The Civil War pamphlets left to the College by Thomas Marshall, philologist, Christian Hebraist and Rector of Lincoln from 1672 until his death in 1685, constitute one of the most important, and remarkable, collections in the Senior Library. Contemporary collections of English Civil War material are rare and the 77 vellum-bound volumes, comprising over 2000 individual pamphlets, will be a rich resource for our understanding of the production, and reading, of printed ephemera in the Civil War period.
In his will, Thomas Marshall directed his executor, John Kettlewell, to “give to the publick Library of the University of Oxford all such of my Books, whether manuscript, or Printed, as are not in the said Library already, & which the keeper of the said Library, & my Executor, shall thinke fit for it.” This bequest amounted to 403 books and 109 manuscripts, including many rare titles in languages such as Frisian, Irish and Romanian; the bulk of the remainder of Marshall’s private library, over 1000 books, was bequeathed to Lincoln. While no single book was mentioned by name, Marshall did make one specific instruction: “more particularly I ordaine that the seventy seven Vol: in Quarto, most concerning the late troubles of England, & now standing upon the two uppermost shelves on the North & West sides of my Study, be placed in the said College Library.” It is these volumes, their distinctive bindings still easily visible on the shelves of the Senior Library, that make up the Marshall Collection.
The majority of the pamphlets relate to the religious and political events of the Civil War and include letters, sermons, speeches, royal proclamations, parliamentary orders and political and religious propaganda, printed between 1640 and 1649. While Marshall himself was part of the College’s royalist faction, and in 1644 joined Henry, Earl of Dover’s University regiment, the collection also contains a large amount of parliamentarian material. There are several possible explanations for this: perhaps Marshall bought this material on publication to gain a balanced view of the conflict or, like other collectors, later supplemented his collection. The collection also includes pamphlets from the reigns of Elizabeth and James I, among them tracts on English colonisation, religious conditions in the New World, as well as examples of contemporary literature, poetry, science and medicine.