John Moore 1646-1714

From Book Owners Online

John MOORE 1646-1714

One of the 'Royal Library' bookplates inserted in Moore's books by Cambridge University Library (private collection)

Biographical Note

Born at Sutton-juxta-Broughton, Leicestershire, the son of Thomas Moore, an ironmonger. BA Clare College, Cambridge 1666, MA 1669, DD 1681, fellow of Clare 1667. Chaplain to Heneage Finch 1670; Rector of Blaby, Leicestershire 1676-87; canon of Ely 1679. Rector of St Augustine by St Paul, London, 1687, of St Andrew’s Holborn 1689. Bishop of Norwich 1691, translated to Ely 1707. He was admired as a preacher and a number of his sermons were published; theologically he stood in the low-church protestant tradition.


Moore’s reputation rests mainly on the library he created, estimated at ca.30,000 volumes by 1714. It was the largest British private collection of its day, was widely renowned during Moore’s lifetime, and was made readily available to scholars and visitors. Contemporary users included Joshua Barnes, Richard Bentley, Gilbert Burnet, George Hickes and John Strype. The library was included in Edward Bernard’s 1697 Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et Hiberniae. Although particularly strong in theology, history and classics, its coverage was comprehensive; its extensive medical holdings have been noted and it contained over 1700 manuscripts, including many important early ones (e.g. an 8th-century Bede and the 9th-century Book of Cerne). Moore actively acquired early printing and the library included much rare English material, including over 40 Caxtons. He also had extensive collections of engravings. During Moore’s Norwich years the library was split between Norwich and London, but after his translation to Ely it was brought together at Ely House in London. Moore became a prebendary of Ely shortly after the bequest of Robert Mapletoft re-established the Cathedral Library there, and he is known to have been involved in the selection and purchase of books for the collection around 1680.

The library was developed throughout Moore’s lifetime from a wide range of sources, including private collections particularly across East Anglia. He bought from many of the auction sales of the late 17th and early 18th centuries and from booksellers; John Bagford was an important agent for him. Many of the routine business with booksellers and other suppliers was handled by a series of chaplains, including Richard Laughton, William Whiston, Samuel Clarke and Thomas Tanner. Although some of Moore’s accounts and personal papers survive, detailed archival evidence of the building of the collection is scanty.

The fate of the collection after Moore’s death attracted interest and speculation from contemporary collectors (including Harley, who sought to acquire the mss) but it was eventually purchased in 1715 in its entirety for £6450 by George I, to present to Cambridge University. The initiative was steered by Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend. It has been known since as the Royal Library within Cambridge UL and a special bookplate (incorporating the King’s portrait) was printed in four sizes. Examples: numerous in Cambridge UL.

The bookplate made for Moore but not apparently used (British Museum Franks Collection *594)

Characteristic Markings

A few books carry an armorial stamp with Moore's arms as Bishop of Norwich, but the majority of the books were not inscribed, annotated or otherwise marked by Moore. There are occasional exceptions, but most of the books are today recognised by the presence of the Royal Library bookplate. The books survive in a wide range of bindings; Moore did not systematically rebind books which came to him in serviceable condition. Many of the books have been repaired or rebound since 1714 for the University Library.

There is a bookplate made for Moore, as Bishop of Norwich and dated 1702, in the Franks Collection (*594), but it is not found in his books; it may have been made for him on a speculative basis?


  • Armorials Database.
  • Baker, J., A catalogue of legal manuscripts in Cambridge University Library, 1996, xlv-xlvii.
  • Gambier Howe, E. R. J. Franks bequest: catalogue of British and American book plates bequeathed to the ... British Museum. London, 1903.
  • Lee, B. N., British bookplates, Newton Abbot, 1979, no.56.
  • McKitterick, D. J., Cambridge University Library: a history, vol. 2, Cambridge, 1986.
  • McKitterick, D. J., The invention of rare books, Cambridge, 2018.
  • Meadows, Peter. '"Moore, John (1646–1714), bishop of Ely."' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Owen, D., The Library and muniments of Ely Cathedral, 1973.
  • Ringrose, J., The Royal Library: John Moore and his books in P. Fox (ed), Cambridge University Library: the great collections, Cambridge, 1998.
  • John Moore in Material Evidence in Incunabula.