Brian Twyne 1581-1644

From Book Owners Online

Brian TWYNE 1581-1644

Biographical Note

Born at Southwark, Surrey, son of Thomas Twyne, a physician. BA Corpus Christi, Oxford 1599, MA 1603, fellow 1607, 1610. Greek lecturer at Corpus Christi 1614-23. Vicar of Rye, 1614, but rarely resident there; he spent most of his life in Oxford. Made Keeper of the University Archives in 1634, following his active involvement in their ordering and listing as part of an exercise to review the University Statutes. He assembled extensive manuscript collections relating to Oxford, the University, and their history, drawing on earlier writers and archival research, though he published little besides Antiquitatis academiae Oxoniensis apologia (1608).


An active collector who inherited books originally acquired not only by his father but also by his grandfather John Twyne (d.1581), the Canterbury schoolmaster and antiquary. A Corpus Christi inventory of 1623 shows that Twyne had by then accumulated a sizeable library. He bequeathed his manuscript collections to the University of Oxford (now in the Bodleian Library), and all his books not already in the College library to Corpus Christi. Ca. 350 vols, containing ca. 750 items, survive in Corpus Library today; it is not clear how large Twyne’s original collection was, what the College declined, or how that material was dispersed. The Corpus collection, largely dated between 1550 and 1620, is striking for its high proportion of English imprints (ca. 40%), and contains many rare items on a variety of topics including agriculture and , veterinary practices, necromancy, chess and music. The books are mostly plainly bound but a small number of Oxford bindings of black-tooled vellum are noteworthy as the only known examples of this practice in Oxford; there is no evidence that bindings like this were ever made for anyone other than Twyne. Examples: plentiful in Corpus Christi College Library.

Characteristic markings

Commonly inscribed his books with his name or monogram; often added lists of contents to the flyleaves of multi-item volumes. The books acquired by Corpus Christi were inscribed as being from Twyne’s bequest.


  • Hegarty, A. J. "Twyne, Brian (1581–1644), antiquary." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Ovenell, R. Brian Twyne’s library, OBS ns 4 (1950), 1-42.
  • Pearson, D. A binding made in Oxford for Brian Twyne, ca.1615, The Book Collector 49 (2000), 248-251.