Percy Collection Queen's University Belfast




The almost intact 18th century library of the author and antiquarian, Thomas Percy (1729-1811), Bishop of Dromore, Co. Down. Described at one time as the finest library in private hands in Ireland, the collection contains monographs, bound volumes of pamphlets and some manuscripts relating principally to English Literature (especially 16th and 17th century verse, Shakespearean controversies, ballad poetry), Gaelic and northern poetry and antiquities, and popular metrical and prose romances of Europe. The collection also reflects Percy's membership of Samuel Johnson’s 'Literary Club' by including association or presentation copies from Johnson himself, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmond Malone, George Steevens, et al. Percy annotated his books extensively, one of the most interesting of which is a copy of the 3rd edition (1775) of his own work, 'The Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.' A unique item in the library is the earliest known English Gesta Romanorum (Deeds of the Romans), printed by Wynkyn de Worde during the early 16th century.


Early English Literture. 16th and 17th century verse. Shakepearean controversies. ballad poetry. Gaelic and Northern Poetry and antiquities. Popular metrical and prose romances of Europe.

Physical Characteristics

Approx. 741 volumes and 1,225 pamphlets.



Collection Type



Policy: Closed   Method: Purchase;   Periodicity: Closed


The collection is available for reference only under supervised access in the Special Collections Reading Room at The McClay Library. Further information is available here: 

Visitor access to The McClay Library

Legal Status

This collection is owned by Queen's University Belfast

Description or Catalogue

The Thomas Percy Library is catalogued, items are identified by the prefix 'PERCY/'. The Library catalogue is accessible at

Books removed from (and books added to the Library at) Dromore House, since the catalogue was made in 1802. (Ms list; paper watermarked 1810); Books at Dromore House, (Ms cat. Paper watermarked 1808, but probably compiled 1812); Pamphlets [at Dromore House]. Ms cat. 1812; The Library of Thomas Percy…now sold…by Sotheby and Co…23 June 1969, London, Sotheby 1969, 54p; illus (covers only about one-third of the collection); Shane Leslie, ‘The Percy Library,’ The Book-collector’s quarterly, 14 (1934), p11-24;



Percy, Thomas, Bishop of Dromore (1729-1811)


Antiquarian and Bishop


English antiquarian, author/poet and churchman, b. Shropshire, 1729. Ed. Oxford and Cambridge. In 1782 he became Protestant bishop of Dromore (Ireland) after having served as vicar of Easton-Maudit, Northamptonshire from 1753. He achieved literary fame as the editor of the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (3 vol., 1765), a collection of 176 English and Scottish ballads, which sparked a revival in the study of earlier literary forms and exercised a great influence on the romantic poets in Germany as well as England. Percy was also well respected for his translations of Chinese and Icelandic verse, among other works. Percy's literary friends included Samuel Johnson and William Shenstone, and was related to Lord Percy, Duke of Northumberland. He died at his home in Dromore, Co. Down in 1811. Publications: Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765); Five Pieces of Runic Poetry, translated (1763); The Songs of Solomon, translated, with a Commentary (1764); Northern Antiquities (translation) (1770); The Hermit of Warkworth” (1771); A Key to the New Testament (1779); An Essay on the Origin of the English Stage (1793)



Queen's University Belfast


The McClay Library
10 College Park



Access Control

The McClay Library operates a controlled entry system.  Members are required to use their Queen’s staff, student or library card to obtain admission. 

Information for visitor access to The McClay Library for researchers not affiliated with Queen's is available from the Library website at

Visitor access to Special Collections & Archives is detailed here

Administrator Role







Academic Institution





Queen's University Belfast was formerly established as 'Queen's College, Belfast' by Queen Victoria in 1845 as one of a network of three Queen's Colleges in Ireland alongside Cork and Galway. It was raised to the status of a full university in 1908 with its own Charter and Statutes. When Queen's College first opened its doors in 1849, there were 20 professors and 90 matriculated students all based in the main Lanyon building off University Road, Belfast. Since then, the University has grown considerably both in reputation and stature reflecting its status as one of the oldest universities in the UK. Now catering to some 1,300 academics and 17,000 full and part-time students, the University offers courses and research opportunities in Agriculture & Food Science, Arts, Economics & Social Sciences, Medicine & Health Sciences, Science, Engineering, Education, Law and Theology based in centres within several miles of the original site, as well as a Marine Laboratory at Portaferry, a campus at Armagh City and outreach centres in Omagh and Newcastle and a nursing campus at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry. Notable persons to have come through Queen’s doors include Seamus Heaney, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland and senior officer at Queen's, David Trimble, a former member of teaching staff and a joint recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace and actor Liam Neeson.