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The Toft collection of books on genealogy and heraldry was formed by Gavin Macfarlane-Grieve (1893-1974), a fellow-commoner and later honorary fellow of Magdalene College who lived at Toft Manor near Cambridge. The majority of his books on literature and music were bequeathed to Madgalene, which subsequently passed the present volumes to the University Library. The collection comprises nearly 500 titles covering the 16th to 20th centuries, published in Great Britain and continental Europe. The subjects covered range from general heraldic dictionaries and genealogical surveys to specific case studies of representations of leopards in armorial bearings; Scottish war cries; the Percy family; and the heraldic ceiling of St Machar's cathedral, Aberdeen.

Macfarlane-Grieve's interest in heraldry was inherited from his father, William Alwyn Macfarlane-Grieve, who was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and whose bookplates can be found in 150 of the volumes. William Macfarlane-Grieve was particularly interested in items relating to Scottish heraldry and genealogy, and the collection contains a significant number of works published in Edinburgh, Glasgow and provincial Scottish publishing centres. A further 6 volumes belonged to his father, William MacFarlane, who had been a medical doctor in Edinburgh in 1840. The family interest in the subject also extended to Gavin Macfarlane-Grieve's brother Alwyn, whose bookplate is found in 5 of the volumes. Of incidental interest to students of heraldry is the development of William Alwyn Macfarlane-Grieve's personal armorial bookplate, from a scholar at Oxford in 1868 to a married esquire in the early twentieth century, showing a keenness to ensure the correct crest for each stage of his life.

The majority of the collection relates to the heraldry and genealogical study of Great Britain, ranging from early texts such as Legh's Accedens of Armory (London, 1568) Toft.d.28 and Ferne's Blazon of Gentrie (London, 1586) Toft d.41 to more recent analyses and handbooks such as How to trace your own pedigree (London, 1889) and An ABC of heraldry (London, 1915) Toft.c.73. Around 40 of the books were published before 1700, the majority of which are treatises and handbooks setting out the strict rules of armory, including records of the heralds' visitations of the 1620s and 1660s in modern editions. Another 40 were published in the eighteenth century, but the great majority (275) were published between 1800 and 1900 as a result of the sudden interest in finding and advertising one's place in the newly stratified post-Industrial Revolution society of nineteenth-century Britain. These include complete runs of the serial titles Collectanea topographica et genealogica (1834-58) and Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica (1868-1934). The British volumes include the armorial bookplates and bindings of around 30 other individuals, including Charles Miller Layton FSA and Sir Charles George Young, a nineteenth century herald and Knight of the Garter. 15 books had previously belonged to John Woodward, himself an author whose works represented in the collection include A treatise on heraldry (Edinburgh, 1896) and A treatise on ecclesiastical heraldry (Edinburgh, 1894). Several of his volumes include copious notes, in one case disagreeing comprehensively with the author's stated facts and conclusions.

As well as the British material, Macfarlane-Grieve collected a significant number of early European heraldic treatises. While much of the British material is duplicated elsewhere in the library, around 30 of the 50 books published on the continent are unique in the library's collections and thus of great value to researchers. Some of these are particularly rare early titles, including Segoing's Armorial universel (Paris, 1660), Paolo Morigi's La nobilta di Milano (Milan, 1619) and Coronelli's Blasone Veneto ([Venice], 1706). There are also seven seventeenth-century editions of works by the French monk and blazoner Claude Menestrier, including six titles not held elsewhere in the library.

By the nature of their subject many of the books include illustrations of armorial bearings, devices and crests, but only 25 have coloured plates, 10 of them hand-coloured.