Sir Edward Maunde Thompson (18401929), palaeographer and librarian, was born on 4 May 1840 at Clarendon, Jamaica. He was educated at Rugby School and continued to University College, Oxford, although he was forced to leave before gaining a degree as his father was unable to support him. He married in 1864 Georgina (d. 1917), daughter of George Mackenzie of Frankfield, Jamaica; they had three sons and one daughter.
Thompson began working at the British Museum as an assistant to the principal librarian, Sir Anthony Panizzi, in 1861 and transferred to the manuscripts department in 1862; becoming principal associate to the new keeper, Edward Augustus Bond, in 1866. He gained a profound knowledge of the collections through his work on the Catalogues of Additions, allowing him to publish scholarly works on medieval chronicles, palaeography (of which he is the modern father) and illuminated manuscripts.
Thompson succeeded Bond first as keeper of manuscripts, in 1878, and then as principal librarian, in 1888; from 1898 he was styled director and principal librarian, a position he maintained until his retirement in 1909. He is remembered at the Museum for his work to improve the accessibility of the collections with electric lighting, well priced guidebooks and comprehensive catalogues. New acquisitions were also encouraged and Thompson supervised trips to many excavations in Africa and Asia. His toils were rewarded with numerous honours and memberships of scientific societies. He died in 1929 in Mayfield, Sussex.
Deposited in the Library, 1897.
Please cite as Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Sir Edward Maunde Thompson: Sanders Lectures on Greek and Latin Paleography, MS Add.3844