The Annotated Ducatus Leodiensis (c.1745)

  • by Philip Wilde, Information and Research, Central Library

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Known as the “first written history of Leeds”, Ralph Thoresby’s Ducatus Leodiensis was first published in 1715. Leeds Central Library is fortunate to own five copies – and one of our copies is regarded as being very special indeed.

This particular copy was once owned by Thomas Wilson, antiquarian (like Thoresby) and Master of the Leeds Charity School, 1750-60. The book is heavily annotated by Wilson, offering some fascinating insights and additional information into Thoresby’s work. Wilson’s amendments, corrections and revisions to Thoresby’s text were incorporated into Thomas Dunham Whitaker’s second edition of the Ducatus, published in 1816, as well Whitaker’s Loidis and Elmete (also 1816).

Although it is obvious from Wilson’s writings, here and elsewhere, that he has enormous respect for Thoresby, he makes some highly amusing comments in the annotated Ducatus which highlight the rivalries that antiquarians appeared to often indulge in against each other. At one point Thoresby, referring to some items being of obvious antiquity, elicits this response from Wilson:  ‘As to the Lance and Hone they were found, but they were modern and childish. An Antiquarian like Mr T, is a credulous Ape’.

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After the death of Ralph Thoresby in 1725 his ‘Museum of Rarities’ became neglected and much of it fell into ruin and decay. Thomas Wilson, according to notes he made in the Ducatus Leodiensis, came into possession of many of the items and charters from the museum, purchased some years after the death of Thoresby.

To view the Annotated Ducatusplease visit the Local and Family History department on the 2nd Floor of the Central Library. Two forms of ID (one with your name and another with your address) and at least 24-hours notice will be required to view items from the Treasures or Collections. Please call 0113 378 6982 for further details and to book an appointment.