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The Yorke collection was deposited in the University Library in 1952 by the Right Rev. H.E. Wynn, Bishop of Ely (1941-1957). It comprises nearly 2000 volumes from the Ely Episcopal Library, based on the collection assembled by the Right Rev. the Hon. James Yorke, Bishop of Ely (1781-1808) and bequeathed to his successors. Around 60 books added after Yorke's death also came to the University Library. The subjects covered range widely from theology and the classics to travel, histories and literature; it offers a reflection of Yorke's personal reading as a well-educated eighteenth-century gentleman. Around 450 items are eighteenth-century pamphlets. Some 200 items were left to the Episcopal Library by Venn Eyre, Rector of Salkeld, Cumberland (1756-77) who was brother-in-law of Edmund Keene, Yorke's predecessor as Bishop of Ely (1771-81) and also Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge (1749-51). The collection includes many second and subsequent editions of books of which the University Library already holds first editions. Many of the first editions in the Episcopal Library were sold, and the proceeds returned to the cathedral.

The books in the collection range from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, with the majority being eighteenth-century British publications. The earliest work is a 1501 Lyons printing of Diaz de Montalvo's Repertorium, a commentary on the works of Nicolas de Tudeschis. This complements a 1513 set of Tudeschis' commentaries on the Decretals of Gregory IX, and a volume of his Consilia. Amongst the theological works are a first edition of William Paley's View of the evidences of Christianity (1784) which was dedicated to Yorke; a set of the sermons of Samuel Clarke in 10 volumes (1743) and a first edition of Cruden's Concordance (1738), unique in the holdings of the University Library. Scarce works include a copy of the 1786 Proposed Book of Common Prayer, intended for use by the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. This version, printed in Philadelphia, was intended to adapt the prayerbook to the conditions of the American church, but owing to the radical nature of the changes it was never adopted; twenty copies survive, in fine bindings by the Philadelphia bookbinder Caleb Buglass. A copy of John Gough's Discourse concerning the resurrection bodies (1788) includes a long letter by the author detailing his gratitude to the Bishop of Ely as a patron, and is one of three copies listed in the ESTC, while the copy of his Plain and rational account of man's salvation (1791) is the only known extant copy. 

Around 25 of the books, and a large number of the pamphlets, have Yorke's handwritten inscription, including a Clergyman's companion in visiting the sick and Every man his own broker, a practical guide to banking and accounting. His wife, Mary Maddox, contributed a translation of the Psalter into verse by Merrick (1765) and a copy of Isaac Watts' beginner's guide to astronomy (1745). The Episcopal Library covered a huge range of subjects and authors, from Cicero, Hume, Swift and Rousseau to a 28 volume History of England by Rapin-Thoyras (1727-47), Humphry Davy's Royal Institution Lecture on chemistry (1802, one of only four known copies) and Howard's State of the prisons in England and Wales (1784). Around a quarter of the books were published on the continent and the majority of these are French, including copies of a weekly journal, Nouvelles Extraordinaires, covering the years 1792-96.