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Senate House Library

Vye Collection


Subject: Theology, German literature 

This collection of 182 physical volumes (out of an initial 185) comprises the very first bulk gift of books made to the University of London. The imprints are almost all from Germany in the eighteenth century, especially the 1760s and 1770s. The language is overwhelming German, with some French. The format is mostly octavo, and the content is primarily devotional. Alongside sermons, meditations, a catechism and so forth there is some eighteenth-century German literature, by Friedrich von Hagedorn, Albrecht von Haller, Anna Luise Karsch and Friedrich Wilhelm Zachariä among others. Among the theological titles, Louis Bourdaloue, Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Jerusalem, and Georg Joachim Zollikofer are particularly well represented. Andreas Cramer, Nikolas Dietrick Giseke, Isaak Iselin, Johann Friedrich Starck are among the other authors present. A little history and philosophy and a light smattering of other subjects complete the collection. The oldest title present, one of two from the late seventeenth century, is Mézeray’s six-volume duodecimo Abrégé chronologique de l'histoire de France (Amsterdam, 1682). Many volumes are in their original bindings and several contain distinctively late-eighteenth-century German endpapers. Some editions are very rare. 

Many of the books are from the sale in 1810 of the collection of Arnold Mello (1730-1809) of Clapham, a merchant from Hamburg who, having settled in London, was a director of London Assurance and a member of the Hamburg church in London. They are likely to have passed into the possession of Nathaniel Vye the elder (1759-1835), a banker and seller of brigs in Ilfracombe. There they joined his own books. Vye’s son, another Nathaniel Vye (1791-1840) and a medical practitioner in Ilfracombe, donated the collection to the new University of London in 1838. The books contain the Library’s earliest ownership stamp and many still show its early shelfmarks. Scattered for some 185 years, they were reconstituted as a collection in 2016. Some books contain Vye’s name. His ownership of others is assumed from external evidence.


To view the entire collection, do a mixed classmark search on ‘[Vye]’. Books are arranged in roughly alphabetical order by author. An author search on ‘Vye, Nathaniel’ as former owner will call up the books with Vye’s name pencilled in them. 

Related material 

Porteus Library (18th-century English divinity) 

Further reading 

  • A Catalogue of the Entire and Very Valuable Library of the Late Arnold Mello of Clapham … (London: Leigh & Sotheby, 1810) 
  • Attar, K.E., ‘The Earliest Books at the University of London (1838): 185 Volumes Presented by Nathaniel Vye, Esq.’, Library & Information History, 32 (2016), 100-111 
  • Attar, K.E., ‘The Earliest Books at the University of London: A Supplement’, Library & Information History, 35 (2019), 40-43