John Leland: The man who saved medieval knowledge
John Leland toured England and Wales in the 1530s, recording the holdings of monastic libraries just before the Dissolution. James Carley, Leland's most recent editor, reveals what he saw in the lost libraries
John Leland was the last witness of some of the greatest treasures of medieval literature. During the 1530s, he toured the libraries of England’s monasteries, the chief repositories of knowledge in the Middle Ages. Thus he saw them just before the break-up of their collections in the Dissolution. In the process he saved a wealth of knowledge, particularly through his greatest work, a bibliography of British writers, which has just been given its first edition in over 200 years.