Bradshaw, Henry (1831–86), bibliophile, librarian, and scholar, was born 2 February 1831 at 2 Artillery Place, Finsbury Square, London, third son of Joseph Hoare Bradshaw (d. 1845), a native of Mile Cross, near Newtownards, Co. Down, and a partner in the city banking firm of Barnett & Hoare, and his wife Catherine, daughter of Robert Stewart of Ballintoy, Co. Antrim. A precocious bibliophile, Bradshaw was found studying a genealogy when aged three or four and took a large collection of books with him to Eton. Some of these belonged to his father, also a book collector, but he was already an habitué of second-hand book shops and had his own bookplate. As a scholar at King's College, Cambridge (from 1847), he spent much of his time in the university library immersing himself in books on Irish subjects.
From March 1854 (shortly after graduating BA in classics) until April 1856 he was a master at St Columba's College, Rathfarnham, near Dublin, founded in 1843 on high-church principles. Bradshaw was contemplating ordination in the established church, though his father had been a Quaker until his marriage (1823). In Ireland he became acquainted with James Henthorn Todd (qv), a founder of St Columba's and afterwards librarian of TCD. Not being cut out for a schoolmaster, Bradshaw returned to England. In November 1856 he was appointed principal assistant at Cambridge University Library. The routine proved irksome and he resigned two years later, only to be immediately re-employed, in a semi-honorary capacity, to arrange and catalogue the library's manuscript collection. During the years that followed he made some remarkable discoveries, most notably in 1862 of the long-lost portion of a Waldensian manuscript brought to England under Oliver Cromwell (qv) and divided between Cambridge and TCD. An edition was published by Todd (1865). Bradshaw's discoveries and scholarly reputation – he was also a Chaucerian scholar – led to his appointment (1867) as university librarian.
On 30 March 1870 Bradshaw offered to the library the whole of his collection of books, pamphlets, and other printed papers of Irish interest. Started by his father, whose particular interest was Ulster, it amounted by then to some 1,000 bound volumes or 5,000 items. The collection was accepted and kept together by Cambridge University Library; it was enlarged at Bradshaw's death – which occurred on 10 or 11 February 1886 – by the addition of the books acquired by him after 1870 and other acquisitions. A three-volume catalogue, even more important for its arrangement and detail than for its content, was compiled by Charles Sale and published in 1916. A bachelor, Henry Bradshaw travelled widely on bibliographical pursuits and often visited Ireland; he lived and died in rooms at King's College, of which he was a fellow.