Gabriel Harvey 1552/3-1631

From Book Owners Online

Gabriel HARVEY 1552/3-1631

Biographical Note

Born at Saffron Walden, son of John Harvey, yeoman and rope maker; brother of Richard Harvey. BA Christ's College, Cambridge 1570, fellow of Pembroke College 1570, MA 1573, praelector of rhetoric 1574, LL.B Trinity Hall 1584. He sought, numerous times during his life, to achieve further advancement in Cambridge without success. He moved to London in the late 1580s to become a barrister in the Court of Arches; shortly afterwards he and his brother became embroiled in a long and vicious pamphlet war with Thomas Nashe and others, set off by a suggestion that Harvey was involved in the Martin Marprelate tracts. After this ended in the late 1590s (with an order that all Nashe's and Harvey's publications be seized and not reprinted), he retired to Saffron Walden where he lived for the rest of his life, possibly undertaking some practice as a physician.


Harvey has long been celebrated and studied as a book owner for his voluminous annotations, usually in a clear and distinctive hand. He acquired books throughout his life - he was buying books in the 1560s, and in the 1620s - but we do not have an inventory, or any certain knowledge of the size of his library; it is usually thought to have been over 1000 volumes, possibly as many as 3000. Ca. 200 surviving volumes can be traced today. It was dispersed soon after his death and examples are now widely scattered around the world; it covered a wide range of subjects, as would be expected, embracing science, mathematics and medicine as well as theology, history, geography, classics, literature and law.

Characteristic Markings

Harvey regularly inscribed his books with his name and date of purchase. He often wrote extensive annotations, relating to the text, commenting on it, or supplementing it; he also used a series of astrological symbols as marginal marks to indicate the subject.