John Harvard and Samuel Pepys: A Cambridge College Tour

Harvard Club of the UK


John Harvard and Samuel Pepys:

a tour of their Cambridge Colleges

Sunday 26 June 2011, 10.00am – 12.30pm


Tour includes Emmanuel College, Magdalene College and the Pepys Library


The tour has been arranged for the morning after the annual Harvard Dinner at Emmanuel College (as many of those interested will already be in Cambridge that weekend), but you are welcome on the tour regardless of whether you are attending the dinner.


Although John Harvard and Samuel Pepys were both brought up in 17th century London, they were not quite contemporaries (Harvard was born in 1607; Pepys in 1633), and they and their families never knew each other.  But they did have at least three things in common: they were both educated at Cambridge University, both amassed large book collections and both bequeathed their libraries to places of learning.  Harvard famously gave his library and half his estate to the fledgling Massachusetts college for puritan ministers that would shortly bear his name; Pepys bequeathed his library to his alma mater, Magdalene College, where it survives intact today.


Our tour will begin at Emmanuel College where this year’s Lionel de Jersey Harvard Scholar, Laurel Gabard-Durnam, will tell us something about the history of the College and of Cambridge University as we tour some of the buildings.  Tour organiser Stuart Gordon will also discuss why so many Emmanuel graduates, including John Harvard, emigrated to New England in the 1630s, and the sequence of events that led to the founding and naming of Harvard College.  At the end of the tour Laurel will provide refreshments in her College rooms, which were once occupied by John Harvard himself before he graduated in 1632.


We then move on to Magdalene College, from where Samuel Pepys graduated in 1653.  Pepys Librarian Dr. Richard Luckett will show us round the College and the Pepys Library, where he has been the keeper since he became a Fellow of Magdalene in 1978.  The library is housed in a building of considerable architectural interest as it contains numerous anomalies and irregularities.  Pepys made three subscriptions to the building fund, but it was not until he made his will that he expressed the wish that his library might be placed in ‘the new building.’  The library houses his famous diaries and 3000 other books, all arranged in the original nautical style bookcases exactly as he left them.


Cost: All alumni/ae and guests: £10     Recent Harvard graduates (AB ’06-’11): £5


How to book your place: Simply send a brief e-mail to with your name plus the name(s) of any guests.  You will receive payment instructions with your confirmation e-mail.