Walter Cope 1553?-1614
Sir Walter COPE 1553?-1614
Born probably at Hardwick Manor, near Banbury, son of Edward Cope, a gentleman farmer. Entered at Gray’s Inn 1570. Pursued an increasingly successful administrative career under the patronage of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, whose service he entered as a gentleman usher and whose secretary he was described as in 1593. Official in the Court of Wards and Liveries 1574, Feodary of the Court for Oxfordshire 1580, for London and Middlesex 1601, Chamberlain of the Exchequer 1609, Public Registrar-General of Commerce 1612, Master of the Court of Wards 1612. Served as an MP in several late 16th and early 17th century Parliaments. He owned a large estate in Kensington, where he built a grand house, Cope Castle, which subsequently became Holland House. He engaged in various business dealings, not all of which were successful, and he is believed to have died with large debts owing.
Cope is listed as a member of the early Society of Antiquaries and Thomas James’s Ecloga Oxonio-Cantabrigienses (1600) lists him as owning 215 medieval manuscripts. He gave 40 to the Bodleian Library in 1602, whose range shows that his collection brought together manuscripts from monastic sources all over England. Despite having one of the major manuscript collections of the time, it is hard to determine whether he actively had any scholarly or intellectual engagement with them; Andrew Watson characterised him as a virtuoso, “a gentleman who liked to display scholarly interests”. We have no knowledge of any printed books he may have owned. He is also noted as a collector of curiosities from around the world, with “the best-known Wunderkammer in England in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Examples: Bodleian Library mss Bodley 1, 158, 797, and others as listed by Watson.
Cope’s books are hard to identify as he did not mark his ownership in any way. A few manuscripts can be identified from numbers written in which correspond with numbers in James’s catalogue. Many of the Cope manuscripts in the Bodleian library are in distinctive tawed leather bindings which at first sight look medieval, but are actually early 17th century; these were put on after they had been donated.
- Allen, Elizabeth. "Cope, Sir Walter (1553?–1614), administrator." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Peck, L. Consuming splendour, Cambridge, 2005, 156-7.
- Watson, A. The manuscript collection of Sir Walter Cope, Bodleian Library Record, 12 (1987), 262-97.