Nicholas Shaxton ca.1485-1556

From Book Owners Online

Nicholas SHAXTON ca.1485-1556

Biographical Note

Born in Norfolk. He studied in Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1506 or 7, MA 1510, BTh 1521, DTh 1531; he became a fellow of Gonville Hall, where he was drawn into the reforming thinking that was prevalent there and elsewhere in Cambridge at the time. He supported Henry VIII's divorce and narrowly avoided being censured by the University authorities. He became almoner to Anne Boleyn and a court preacher; various ecclesiastical preferments followed, including becoming a canon at St Stephen's Chapel, Westminster. In 1535 he was made Bishop of Salisbury. He continued to support religious reform after Anne's execution, and became a controversial figure; in 1539 he resigned his diocese, in light of a return to a more conservative religion by Henry VIII, and the fact that he had taken a wife. He was largely in retirement during the early 1540s but returned to prominence in 1546, when his protestant preaching led to his arrest and condemnation to be burnt for heresy; however, he recanted, and thereafter adopted a more conformist position. In 1555 he was formally pardoned by Cardinal Pole and made suffragan Bishop of Ely.


Shaxton's probate inventory lists ca.155 books, valued at £6 2s 8d (from a total estate valued at just over £100). The books are mostly in Latin, with a few in English or other languages, and are largely theological, with a sprinkling of other subjects. He gave some books to Gonville Hall during his lifetime, and bequeathed to the College "all his bookes being perfecte woorkes & wantinge in [the] lybrarye". The full inventory is transcribed and edited by Leedham-Green (see reference below). Only a few of Shaxton's books can be found in Gonville and Caius Library today, and it seems that only a few books reached the college as part of the bequest. Examples: Gonville & Caius College M.8.3.

An inscription marking Shaxton's bequest to Gonville Hall (St Bernard, Opera, 1513, Gonville & Caius College M.8.3)

Characteristic Markings

Books given to Gonville Hall by Shaxton were inscribed with a note of the date of his bequest, and an encouragement to pray for his soul.