Charles Bernard 1652-1710

From Book Owners Online

Charles BERNARD 1652-1710

Biographical Note

Born at Waddon, Surrey, son of Samuel Bernard, Vicar of Croydon. Apprenticed to Henry Boone, surgeon, 1670; admitted a freeman of the Barber-Surgeons Company, 1677. Surgeon to the Charterhouse 1679, assistant surgeon at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, 1683, full surgeon 1686; sergeant-surgeon to Queen Anne, 1703. Assistant of the Barber-Surgeons’ Company 1697, Master 1703. Fellow of the Royal Society 1696. Bernard’s career was one of steady rise to success and fame as a surgeon, being much admired for his operating skill, and medical judgment.


Like his brother Francis, the physician, Bernard assembled a significant library. His will, which reveals a considerable estate largely divided among his family, directed that “all my books shall be sold except the English historical and devotional”. An auction sale was duly held in London by Jacob Hooke, 22 March 1711. The sale catalogue lists 3467 lots, divided into Latin theology (116), Latin medicine (including surgery, physick, anatomy and botany: 987), Latin geography, history, chronology and numismatics (297), Greek and Latin classics (579), Latin miscellaneous (including law, politics, philology, lexicography and bibliography: 697), Latin mathematics (including geometry, optics, astronomy, astrology and magic: 111), French (61), Italian (74), Spanish (4), English (all disciplines: 437), volumes of prints (41) and manuscripts (41). Although the preface to the catalogue declares that no books had been removed from Bernard’s collection, the relatively low proportion of English titles suggests that his instruction to retain historical and devotional books for his family had been at least partly carried out.

The sale catalogue also highlights the value of Bernard’s annotations (“by writing now and again in the blanck leaves … particular remarks upon the author, or that edition”), and the quality of his bindings (“he always thought the best books deserved the best covering, and considered, that many a good book happening to fall into ignorant hands, is thrown away and lost by the meanness of its dress, which would have been preserved, had its ornament been suitable to its worth”). Jonathan Swift noted the sale in his letters to Esther Johnson, regretting the fact that his “itch to lay out nine or ten pounds for some fine editions of fine authors” was frustrated by the high prices fetched by the books.

Bernard gave a manuscript of Tacitus to the Bodleian Library in 1705. Catalogues of Bernard’s library, dated 1676, survive in BL Sloane MSS 1770 and 1694. Examples: British Library 620.g.1, 551.b.6(1), Ames 9/1408; Pembroke, Cambridge 11.3.26; Queen’s, Oxford NN.S.2030; York Minster Library VII.P.30; Aberystwyth University Library RBR*PA 6372.A3 (Claudianus, 1530); Sotheby’s 29.11.1976/4718; Maggs 1140 (1992)/13.

Characteristic Markings

Typically inscribed his titlepages, in the top corner, “Caroli Bernard”.