AN UNUSUAL email to library staff at Exeter Cathedral has led to
the unearthing of a 16th-century copy of the New Testament in a
Surrey charity shop.
The volume, Jesu Christi D.N. Nouum Testamentum, was
edited by the Frenchman Theodore Beza, an important figure in the
Reformation and a contemporary of John Calvin. It was published in
1574 by Thomas Vautrollier, a French Huguenot refugee who became a
leading printer of religious books in England.
It was recognised by a browser in the Oxfam shop in Dorking,
Surrey, who noticed that it contained a dedication to E. C.
Harington, dated 1869. He was Edward Charles Harington, a former
Canon Chancellor of Exeter Cathedral. On his death in 1881, his
extensive collection of books was bequeathed to the Dean and
The cathedral's Canon Librarian, Ann Barwood, said: "The man who
found it thought it might have been stolen from our library and got
"Checks in our computer catalogue and the 19th-century catalogue
of the Harington Collection failed to find it, but neither are
comprehensive, and several books were stolen from the library in
the 1970s and '80s.
"We contacted the shop manager, a lovely woman called Mary
Palfrey. Oxfam's legal department had suggested it should be
returned to Exeter, and, when I asked about the cost, Mary just
said cover the postage; but our initial research suggested that
this particular edition could be rare; so we decided a reasonable
donation should be made instead."
Mrs Palfrey said: "We think the donor knew the book was stolen
and was getting rid of it by slipping it into a boxful of ordinary
cookery, gardening, and paperback books. There was no name
"We do occasionally get antiquarian books - we recently sold a
17th-century Bible for £600 - and we put it on sale for £750, but
then one of our regulars who looks after an antiquarian library
spotted it and thought it might have been stolen from Exeter. The
cathedral gave us £100, which was really generous."
A books-and-manuscript specialist at Bonhams auctioneers, Luke
Batterham, has valued the volume at £400-£600.