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Leland, John

Leland, John (c.1506–52). Leland, a distinguished antiquarian, was born in London, and educated at St Paul's and at Christ's College, Cambridge. He took holy orders, served the duke of Norfolk, and was appointed royal librarian by Henry VIII, composing elegant and complimentary Latin verses. In 1533 he was made king's antiquary and spent much of the next ten years on a remarkable tour of cathedrals and churches. He was particularly concerned at the dispersal of many archives and books by the dissolution of the monasteries. He was given considerable encouragement and preferment, but became insane before his collections could appear in print. His notes were scattered but were used by John Stow in his work on London and by William Camden in his Britannia (1586). The Itinerary was not published until 1710, when Thomas Hearne produced an edition at Oxford. An ardent patriot, Leland was hostile to papal pretensions and his zeal led him to insist that King Arthur was far from a legendary figure. The Itinerary is in note form and a mine of information rather than a polished work, but Leland made a significant contribution to Tudor scholarship.

J. A. Cannon

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Leland, John

John Leland, c.1506–1552, English antiquary. He was successively chaplain and librarian to Henry VIII. In 1533 he was appointed king's antiquarian, and in this capacity traveled through England, collecting a great mass of historical and geographical data for a proposed book to be entitled History and Antiquities. The work was never completed because he went insane in 1550. His notes, however, were invaluable to later scholars.

See his Itinerary (ed. by T. Hearne, 9 vol., 1710–12) and Collectanea (ed. by Hearne, 6 vol., 1715); biography by E. Burton (1896).

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