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The father of black-letter collectors

His royal favour

John Moore’s death was brought about by a chill caught while hearing the trial of his good friend Richard Bentley, who had been engaged in a dispute with the fellows of Trinity College where he was Master. The arrival of Moore’s 30,000 books in a library which was at that date staffed only by two men required some urgent changes. A new post of Protobibliothecarius (Principal Librarian) was created, ostensibly to care for the Royal Library but in fact in compensation to the Trinity academic Conyers Middleton, against whom Bentley had argued in a protracted bickering pamphlet war.

Once appointed, Middleton displayed a genuine interest in the books, proposing a classification scheme for the Library and beginning to study them straight away. Moore was renowned for his collection of early printed books, earning him the title (from T.F. Dibdin) ‘the father of black-letter collectors in this country’ and Middleton grasped the opportunity presented by such a marvellous collection to undertake a detailed study into the origins of printing in England. Many of Moore’s English incunabula are unique survivals, giving the University Library uniquely strong holdings in early printed books.