Cowley Manuscripts | Gladstone's Library

Cowley Manuscripts

History and Provenance

The ‘Cowley Fathers’ is the colloquial name for the Society of St John the Evangelist (SSJE), an Anglican religious order for men founded at Cowley, Oxford in 1866. The founder was Richard Meux Benson (1824-1915). Members make monastic vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience. For many years the society operated worldwide, with houses in the UK, India, South Africa and Canada; since

Since 2012, the society no longer operates in England. The archive and library held at Gladstone’s Library was deposited in 1980, when the original Oxford society house closed. The current headquarters is located in Boston, Massachusetts.Access and Finding Aid

The archive is not currently listed on the Library’s online catalogue but basic finding aids are available on request. Please send requests to All archives and special collections can only be accessed via a Request to Read Restricted Items form, which must be submitted at least fourteen days in advance of your visit.

Access and Finding Aid

Arrangement and Description

The Cowley Manuscripts relate to the Library of the Cowley Fathers, a collection of approximately 10,000 16th – 19th Century books relating to French Counter-Reformation spirituality. 

The library also holds the ‘Benson Judaica’, a collection of approximately 70 rare books which emphasise the important of the Jewish contribution to study of the Bible.

Additional Information

The Cowley Project blog records an academic project on the Society of St John the Evangelist. 

Food for Thought

Food for thought

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