Boston Buriensis (DNB00)


BOSTON BURIENSIS (fl. 1410), or John Boston of Bury (as Fuller prefers to write the name), the author of the 'Catalogus Scriptorum Ecclesiæ' and the 'Speculum Cœnobitarum,' was an Augustinian monk belonging to the abbey at Bury St. Edmunds. His full name was probably John Boston, his surname being perhaps taken from the town of his birth or remoter origin. In this style — Johannes Boston Buriensis — he is quoted in the 'Catalogue of Authors' appended to Dr. J. Caius's 'Antiquities of Cambridge,' and, according to Tanner, he is so named in the 'Chronicon Litchfeld.' Of the life of this lioston of Bury nothing is known except that he diligently traversed the whole of England investigating the libraries of all the monasteries he came across in his travels, and noting down the titles of all the books he found there, with their authors' names and their opening words. These authors he arranged in alphabetical order, and, having assigned a fixed number to each monastic library, was enabled, by attaching the proper numbers to each work as he enumerated an author's writings, to show in what place it was to be found; thus, as Bale says, 'making one library out of many.' Besides this information, he gave, where possible, the date of each author's birth and death, and rendered his catalogue still more complete by additions from Hugh of St. Victor, Cassiodorus, Burchard of Worms, and other authorities. This work, which was unknown to Leland and even to Bale when drawing up the first edition of his ‘Scriptores Britanniæ’ (Ipswich, 1548), appears to have been much used by the latter in the enlarged edition of his great work published some nine years later at Busle. Pits also declares that he had been unable to find this work. Tanner adduces arguments to show that there must have been two forms of Boston`s ‘Catalogue' -a longer one and a shorter. One of these appears to have been in the possession of Archbishop Ussher (Hist. Dogmatica, 124), from whose hands it passed into those of Thomas Gale. Fragments of the same work are to be found in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 4787, ff 133-5), and extracts in the Lambeth Library (No. 594). The Catalogue itself has been printed, with some omissions, in Tanner’s ‘Bibliotheca' (ed. 1748), pp. xviii-xliii.

Besides the above mentioned work, John Boston is credited with having written a book entitled ‘Speculum Cœnobitarum,' being an account of the origin of the monastic life, with a long list of the great names that have illustrated the monastic annals and of the various works written by the fathers from Origen and earlier down to St. Bernard. This has been published by Anthony Hall at the end of his edition of Adam of Murimuth (Oxford, 1722).

The Catalogue is dedicated in six Latin verses to some English king, said by Fuller to have been Henry IV, in which statement he seems to he supported by Pits, who assigns our author to the year 1410.

[Tamara Bibl. Brit.; Bale's catalogue, 541; Pits, De illustribus Anglia Scriptoribus, 52, 593; Fuller's Worthies, ii, 166 (ed. 1662); Todd's Catalogue of Lambeth MSS. 91; Casius, De Antiquitate Academiæ Oxonniensis (ed. Hearne, 1730), i. 257; Ussher's Historia Dogmutica (ed. Wharton, 1689), 124, 392.]

T. A. A.