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Gray, William


Bishop of Ely, treasurer of England, bibliophile; d. Downham, Cambridgeshire, Aug. 4, 1478. He was the son of Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, Northumberland, and nephew of Humphrey (Stafford), Duke of Buckingham. While resident in Balliol College, Oxford (c. 143042), he obtained the degree master of arts (1434) and became chancellor of the university (1441). To further his interest in theology he went to the University of Cologne (1442) and there added to an already unusual library by purchasing humanistic texts, as well as theological and legal works. From Cologne he traveled to Florence; he acquired books from Vespasiano da Bisticci, and moved on to Padua to secure the D.Th. degree (1445). Later, in Ferrara, Gray attended lectures by the humanist Guarino da Verona and befriended Niccolò Perotti. Upon receiving an appointment as king's proctor at the papal Curia, Gray began a period of residence in Rome. nicholas v formed a high opinion of him, appointed him prothonotary apostolic, and eventually secured for him the bishopric of ely (1454). Thereafter he was often prominent in national affairs, serving as treasurer of England (146970) and in diplomatic and political matters of the highest importance. A lifelong collector of MSS, Gray frequently employed scribes to make copies of books. Clearly, his main interests were theology and philosophy, but his library contained many Latin classics, among which the works of Cicero were preeminent. He left his large book collection to Balliol College, where it furthered the classical interests of younger scholars and contemporaries.

Bibliography: w. f. schirmer, Der englische Frühhumanismus (2d ed. Tübingen 1963). r. weiss, Humanism in England during the Fifteenth Century (2d ed. Oxford 1957) 8697. a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500 (Oxford 195759) 1:809814.

[a. r. hogue]

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