John Leland

John Leland

:"This is about John Leland, antiquary. For other people called John Leland see John Leland (disambiguation)."

John Leland (September 13 1506 – April 18 1552) was an English antiquary. He has been described as 'the father of English local history'; his "Itinerary" introduced the shire as the basic unit for studying the history of England—an idea that has been influential ever since.

Early life

John Leland was born in London on September 13 1502 [Mirror of Literature] or c. 1506 [Encyclopaedia Britannica] . He was a pupil to William Lily—the first head master of St Paul's School—and through the generosity of Thomas Myles, he was sent to Christ's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1521. From this university he transferred to All Souls' College, Oxford, where he paid particular attention to the Greek language. He afterwards went to Paris, where he studied under François Dubois (Sylvius) and cultivated the acquaintance of the principal scholars of the age. ("The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction" suggests that these probably included Erasmus, the Robert Estienne, Abraham Faber, and Adrian Turnebus). While there he completed his studies of Latin and Greek; he later learned several modern languages.

Royal appointment

On his return to England he was a tutor of Lord Thomas Howard, son of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and to Francis Hastings, afterwards Earl of Huntingdon. He took Holy Orders and was appointed one of the chaplains to King Henry VIII, who gave him the rectory of Peuplingues, in the marshes of Calais. Henry also appointed him his library keeper, and conferred on him the title of Royal Antiquary; Leland is the only person ever to hold this title. In 1533 Henry commissioned him to search after England's antiquities, and explore the libraries of all cathedrals, abbeys, priories, colleges, and all the places wherein records, writings, and whatever else was lodged that related to antiquity. "Before Leland's time," says Hearne, in his preface to the "Itinerary", "all the literary monuments of antiquity were totally disregarded; and the students of Germany apprised of this culpable indifference, were suffered to enter our libraries unmolested, and to cut out of the books deposited there whatever passages they thought proper, which they afterwards published as relics of the ancient literature of their own country."

In this research Leland spent over six years (from 1540 to 1546 travelling through England and Wales, visiting the remains of ancient buildings and monuments of every kind. On its completion, he presented the results to Henry, under the title of a "New Year's Gift" (published by John Bale in 1549) in which he says, "I have so traviled yn your dominions booth by the se costes and the midle partes, sparing nother labor nor costes, by the space of these vi. yeres paste, that there is almoste nother cape, nor bay, haven, creke or peers, river or confluence of rivers, breches, watchies, lakes, meres, fenny waters, montagnes, valleis, mores, hethes, forestes, chases wooddes, cities, burges, castelles, principale manor placis, monasteries, and colleges, but I have seene them; and notid yn so doing a hole worlde of thinges very memorable." This descriptive "Itinerary" runs to five printed volumes in the 1906 edition.

At the dissolution of the monasteries, Leland made application to Secretary Thomas Cromwell, requesting his assistance in getting the manuscripts that they contained sent to the king's library. In 1542 Henry presented him with the valuable rectory of Haseley, Oxfordshire; the year following he preferred him to a canonry of King's College, now Christ Church, Oxford, and about the same time collated him to a prebend in the church of Sarum. He was an absentee pluralist, with the income and leisure to pursue his interests; he retired with his collections to his house in the parish of St Michael le Querne, Cheapside, London, where he intended to follow the "Itinerary" with a history divided into "so many books as there be shires in England and shires and great dominions in Wales". It never materialized because, as a contemporary reported, in 1547 ‘he fell besides his wits’. He was certified insane in March 1550 and died, still mentally deranged, on April 18 1552.


Leland's notes have survived, and held in the Bodleian Library. They are an invaluable primary source not only for the local history and the geography of England, but also for archaeology, social history, and economic history.

The writings of Leland are numerous; in his lifetime he published several Latin and Greek poems, and some tracts on antiquarian subjects. His voluminous manuscripts, after passing through many hands, came into the Bodleian library, furnishing valuable materials to John Stow, William Lambarde, William Camden, Thomas Burton, William Dugdale, and many other antiquaries and historians. Polydore Virgil, who had plagiarised them freely, had the insolence to abuse Leland's memory—calling him "a vain glorious man." From these collections Hall published, in 1709, "Commentarii de Scriptoribus Brittanicis". "The Itinerary of John Leland, Antiquary", was published by Thomas Hearne, at Oxford, in nine volumes in 1710, with a second edition printed in 1745, with considerable improvements and additions. The same editor published "Joannis Lelandi Antiquarii de Rebus Brittanicis Collectanea" in six volumes at Oxford in 1716.

Other references to John Leland

omerset and Camelot

John Leland makes a possibly unwitting contribution to the myth of Camelot and King Arthur in a reference in a letter of 1542::"At the very south end of the church of South-Cadbyri standeth Camallate, sometime a famous town or castle. . .The people can tell nothing there but that they have heard Arthur much resorted to Camalat."It has been suggested that in making this reference to "South Cadbyri" (Cadbury Castle in Somerset) he was possibly influenced by the proximity to this location of the villages of Queen Camel and West Camel.

The Leland Trail

The Leland Trail is a 28 mile footpath which follows in the footsteps of John Leland as he traversed South Somerset between 1535 and 1543 in the course of his investigation of the region's antiquities. The Leland Trail begins at King Alfred's Tower on the Wiltshire/Somerset border and finishes at Ham Hill Country Park.


*"The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction", Vol. 10, Issue 286, December 8, 1827
*"Encyclopaedia Britannica" (1911) 16, p. 406
* Toulmin Smith, Lucy (ed.) "Itinerary of John Leland" (Southern Illinois University Press, 1906, repr. 1964. ed. J. Chandler: illustrated, single-volume abridgement (Alan Sutton, 1964) []

External links

* [ John Leland]
* [ The Leland Trail]
* [ Walking in Somerset]
* [ The Legend of Camelot]
* [ John Leland] (Episode in the BBC's "Great British Journeys")
* [ Great British Journeys: Interactive animated map] (Select journey #7.)

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См. также в других словарях:

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  • John Leland —  Cette page d’homonymie répertorie différentes personnes partageant un même nom. John Leland (1502–1552), antiquaire britannique ; John Leland (1691–1766), prêtre presbytérien britannique ; John Leland (1754–1841), prêtre baptiste… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • John leland (antiquaire) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir John Leland. John Leland (*13 septembre 1506 à Londres ; † 18 avril 1552) était un antiquaire anglais. Il est surnommé le « père de l histoire locale anglaise ». Dans son Itinéraire, il introduit… …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • John Leland (Bibliothekar) — John Leland (* 13. September 1506 in London; † 18. April 1552; auch Leyland geschrieben; lat. Johannes Lelandus) war ein britischer Geistlicher und Bibliothekar von König Heinrich VIII. Leben Leland absolvierte seine Ausbildung an der St. Paul’s… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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