Edward Bernard 1638-1697

From Book Owners Online

Edward BERNARD 1638-1697

Biographical Note

Born at Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, son of Joseph Bernard, curate there. Won a scholarship to St John’s College, Oxford 1655; fellow 1658, BA 1659, MA 1662, college reader in mathematics 1663, BD 1668. Rector of Cheam, Surrey 1672, and chaplain to Peter Mews, Bishop of Bath and Wells. Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford 1673, succeeding Christopher Wren, for whom he had been deputising; he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, and resigned his ecclesiastical preferments, at the same time. Spent time in Paris in 1676, as tutor to two of Charles II’s illegitimate sons. He resigned his Oxford chair in 1691, on being made rector of Brightwell, Berkshire, though he continued to live in Oxford.

Bernard’s scholarship, much respected by his contemporaries, was directed at oriental studies as well as scientific ones, and he studied many non-western languages. He proposed an edition of al-Maydani’s proverbs in Arabic and Latin in 1673, and unsuccessfully sought the chair of Arabic at Leiden in 1683. A projected edition of Euclid, edited by Bernard, did not progress beyond proof sheets (1677). He contributed towards several publications but his name is most readily associated with the union catalogue of manuscripts in British libraries, Catalogi manuscriptorum Angliae et Hiberniae, which he edited and which was published shortly after his death (the titlepage is dated 1697; it appeared in 1698). Bernard was a major driver of this project, which he recommended to the Curators of the Bodleian in 1692, and for which a prospectus was issued under his name in 1694.


Bernard assembled a significant library, noted not only for its orientalia but also for its holdings of classics. He bought books during his trips abroad, and was a noted purchaser at the sales of Nicholas Heinsius (Leiden, 1683) and Jacobus Golius (Leiden, 1696). He was actively involved with library affairs in Oxford during his career there and was sometimes perceived by outside scholars as being in charge of the Bodleian Library.

Bernard’s books were left to his widow, along with the rest of his estate. Humfrey Wanley selected a significant number for the Bodleian Library, for which £340 was paid; they included many early classical texts, both printed and manuscript, and Bernard’s personal papers and adversaria. The remainder of his library was sold by auction in Oxford by Edward Millington, 25 October 1697. The catalogue lists 1478 lots, plus 8 bundles of pamphlets, divided between Latin theology (233), Oriental (including Hebrew, Chaldaic, Arabic, Turkish, Syriac, Slavonic; 226), Latin miscellaneous (including geography, history, lexicography, philology, classics and literature; 544), Latin philosophy, medicine and mathematics (361), and English medicine, mathematics, history, divinity and miscellaneous (114).


  • Bibliotheca Bernardina, 1697 (ESTC R1922).
  • Alston, R. C. Inventory of sale catalogues 1676-1800. St Philip, 2010.
  • Heyworth, P. Humfrey Wanley and ‘Friends of the Bodleian’, Bodleian Library Record, 9 (1976), 219-230, p.228-9.
  • Macray, W. D. Annals of the Bodleian Library. 2nd edn, Oxford, 1890.
  • Philip, I. The Bodleian Library in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 1983.
  • Quehen, Hugh de. "Bernard, Edward (1638–1697), mathematician and Arabist." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.