Mildred Cecil, Lady Burghley (1526-1589)

Mildred Cooke was educated at home by her father, Sir Anthony Cooke. In 1545 she married William Cecil, later Baron Burghley, and bore him five children. She exercised considerable influence over her husband's political decision making, and was a notable scholar in Latin and Greek, making several translations of Greek texts, although these were never published in her lifetime. She also built up a considerable library, which was dispersed among several institutions, including St John's.

Lady Burghley's gifts to the Library

After visiting St John's with her husband, Mildred gave a copy of Plantin's eight volume polyglot Bible (1569-72), as a token of her appreciation for the College's hospitality. She also left two further books on her death.

Provenance markings

Each volume of the polyglot Bible donated by Lady Burghley is finely bound, with gilt ornamentation, metal shoes and bosses, and a central metal plaque bearing the name Mildred Burghley, and the date 1576. According to an inscription on the title-pages of volumes 6 and 7, Mildred gave the Bible to the College in 1580. The inscription reads:

Mildreda filia clariss. viri Anthonii Coci equitis aurati: uxor illustriss. D. Guilielmi Cecilii inclyti ordinis Garterii militis, Baronis de Bourghley, ac summi Angliae thesaurarii in honorem Dei opt. max. et religionis Christianae vereque catholicae, sacrae deinde theologiae ac linguarum professionis propagationem in celeberrimo collegio Divi Joannis Evangelistae in Academia Cantabrigiensi, et in perpetuam charitatum memoriam quae in se suosque ab eodem charissimo coniuge suo nuper in dicto collegio liberalibus artibus instituto redundarunt: octo haec sacrorum bibliorum volumina, latine, graece, hebraice, syriace et chaldaice gratitudinis et beneficentiae nomine eidem collegio DD ac in communem studiosorum usum fructumque perpetuo voluit asservari. Anno salutis humanae 1580.

The College has an indenture dated 6 June 23rd year of Elizabeth's reign (i.e. 1581) recording the donation, and that the College promised to keep the Bible 'well and safelie ... cheyned in the library ... unto the benefitt of the studentes ... and not to be removed to any private mans use'. That the Bible was chained up appears from an entry in the accounts for 1582, when two shillings was paid 'For bordes nailed up behinde my Lady Burghleys bible'.