We are told in the “descriptions of the County of Huntingdon” by E W Brayley, that many of the Abbots and Monks of Ramsey Abbey were men of considerable talents and learning , to which, the School, that had been established within the walls of the Abbey, greatly contributed.
Here was also a famous Library, this library of Ramsey was celebrated for it’s fine collection of Hebrew books , which at that time was very unusual.
The Jews at that time being permitted for the first time to pass from Normandy into England by William the Conqueror, spread very quickly over the Kingdom. They established Synagogues in almost every major Town, but in the reign of Edward the First (1285-1316), all their property was confiscated and they were banished. Then the Synagogues of Huntingdon and Stamford were being ‘profaned’ and their furniture and treasures of books, were being sold.
Gregory of Huntingdon
Gregory of Huntingdon, was a Monk of Ramsey, who had been studying the Hebrew language for some time, had come to a halt in his studies because of the lack of Hebrew books. When he heard of the auction at the Huntingdon Synagogue he immediately took money, went, and purchased what books he could.
We are told that, he then set to work on learning a more intimate knowledge of the Hebrew language.
The Catalogue of Ramsey Library makes specific reference to all the Hebrew books that he had collected. So began a collection of books, which over the years received considerable additions by Robert Dodford.
Stevens tells us that Gregory of Huntingdon “gained a thorough knowledge of the Hebrew tongue, and he expounded several difficult places in scripture” He also tells us that most of the writings we have left by him concern Greek Literature, which he left to posterity. They listed below.
The art of understanding Greek; Exposition of Greek names; The sum of Grammar; Rudiments of Grammar; Attentarium; The image of the World; Exposition of Donatus; Notes on Priscian; Court Epistles; Rules of Verifying; Sentences by Verses;
He is thought to have lived about 1255.
Another Monk of the Abbey who swelled the collection of Hebrew books with numerous editions. Stevens, tells us that this monk “made no stop in his progress in learning, but being past other studies, he entirely devoted himself to the Meditation of the word of God”. For the more perfect understanding he learnt the Hebrew Tongue. He is said to have written much, but little has been passed down to us. The only titles we have of his works are Short Notes on the Parables, and Sermons.
He is thought to have lived about 1270.
Laurence Holbeach, spent several years in the study of the Hebrew language, and at length arrived at the perfect knowledge of the Holy Tongue. He decided to finish the work Gregory had started on the Hebrew Dictionary, using all the glorious volumes that had been amassed, and published it under the title of An Hebrew Dictionary, which is all that can be found of his writing Stevens tells us. This was carried away many years later by a Robert Wachefield. Laurence also produced a book of historical notes on the monuments belonging to Ramsey Abbey.
He lived about 1410.
Dugdale tells us, that among the ancient Rolls of the Cottonian Collection there is one marked II.16 on five skins which contains an extensive catalogue of the (Ramsey ) Library , with names of the people who gave the respective manuscripts, all in Latin . It was probably one of the largest Abbatial Libraries then existing!
The catalogue seems to have been made about the time of Richard 11, and shows that the Library contained copies of manuscripts by Aristotle , Ovid , Virgil , Plato and many many more illustrious thinkers of centurys gone by .
Other works associated with or attributed to Ramsey Abbey are:
The Ramsey Psalter also known as the ‘Winchester Psalter’ has a full-page crucifixion drawing and illuminated capitals, identified as British Harley 2904. Produced late 10th century, possibly before 992. It has been suggested that it was written at Winchester for use in the monastery at Ramsey or for the personal use of Oswald.
1310 Ramsey Psalter, this Psalter was given to John De Sawtry Abbot of Ramsey circa 1310 by William of Grafham, who was the Abbey cellarer, to be used at the Abbey.
The Winchcombe Psalter, now held in the Cambridge University Library (ref ms Ff 1.23) It was produced between 1025-1050 in Latin and Anglo Saxon. Winchcombe was refounded in the late 10th century using monks from Ramsey Abbey.
The Ramsey Benediction, which now is housed in the French National Library in Paris. It is claimed that this was sent to the Abbot of Fleury in 1004-29, it was written in 2 parts the first in 970 and the second part in 1023. Benedictorials are liturgical books containing formulas for Blessing people and objects.
Completion of the translation into into old English of the first six books of the Old Testament.
The Lives of Saints Edmund, Neot, Oswald and of King Alfred.
Commentaries of the works of Bede.
Compilation of the Chronicles of Historic events in England, written in Latin and in Old English.
Byrhtferth’s Manual, a text on the symbolism of numbers. Most complete copy Bodlian Oxford Ashmole 328
Compilation of the Ramsey Scientific Compendium, known by copies made at Thorney, St Johns College Oxford Ms 17, or that made at Peterborough, British Library Cotton Tiberius C and Harley 3667. This text treats subjects such as Astronomy, Arithmetic, Properties of Matter and Medicine.
- (Ref 11)
The following Monks of Ramsey also added to the collection using their industry and talents.
A Monk of Ramsey was well versed in Aristotelian Philosophy, and skilled in Mathematics as was shown by his learned works. He wrote excellent commentaries on several works by Bede, but these titles have been lost. What we do find of his are the following titles:- Exposition on the Venerable Bede of the Times; on Bede of the nature of things; on Bede’s Book of talking by the Fingers; on his book De Ratione Unciarum; likewise his Mathematical Principles; of the Institution of Monks etc.
He lived in 980.
William of Peterborough
A Monk of Ramsey, a man of great wit, much reading , and one of the prime Divines of his time, as Leland observes. He was sort out by everybody, not only because of learning and great eloquence, but also for his advice in difficult affairs. Boston of Bury gives us some titles of his writings, Commentary of the Canticles; Exposition of Words in Holy Writ;Distinctions in Divinity; Notable Homilies; Euphrastic Expositions; the Work of Parts;
He lived in 1188 .
A Monk of Ramsey, Doctor of Divinity at Oxford, a great enemy of Wiclif, and one of the first twelve who condemned his ( supposed ) errors. His writings were of the Eucharist; of the Prerogative of the Clergy; of Private Religion; Against Nicholas Horford; of his Companions Ingratitude; Epistles; and much more, mostly against Heresies Heretics.
He lived in 1382.
A Monk of Ramsey, was religious, learned, and very skilful in the Hebrew tongue. When the Monastery, together with the Library was destroyed by King Henry the V111, he privately conveyed away some Hebrew Books of great value, and preserved them from the flames. So Stevens tells us, although Dugdale tells us it was a John Child ?
He lived in 1530
Another distinguished person from Ramsey, though not of the Abbey was, William Ramsey.