Godfrey Copley ca.1653-1709

From Book Owners Online

Sir Godfrey COPLEY, 2nd bart ca.1653-1709

Copley's bookplate (from a copy of F. Bacon, The historie of ... Henry the seventh, 1642, private collection)

Biographical Note

Son of Sir Godfrey Copley, 1st baronet, of Sprotborough, Yorkshire, who he succeeded as 2nd baronet in 1678. Admitted to Lincoln's Inn 1674, to the Inner Temple 1681. Fellow of the Royal Society 1691, and an active member of the Society, to whom he left a bequest of £100 which became the Copley medal, still awarded today. MP for Aldborough 1679-81, for Thirsk 1695-1709; "politically, a country tory back-bencher" (ODNB) although he engaged in debates around financial and religious affairs, and was a parliamentary commissioner for accounts from 1701, and comptroller of army accounts from 1704.


Copley's estate was left in trust for the benefit of his wife and descendents, and it passed after his wife's death to his cousin Lionel (1677-1720). The will has no mention of books, and we do not know the extent of the collection left at his death (de Ricci believed it to be a "fine library"), but it was augmented by successive generations of the family and eventually sold at Sotheby's, 23 November 1925. Ralph Thoresby, visiting Copley at Sprotborough, noted his paintings and mathematical instruments.

Copley's dated inscription, from the same copy of Bacon, Henry the seventh

Characteristic Markings

Copley used an armorial bookplate, whose Jacobean style suggests it must have been made towards the end of his life. An example of his inscription is shown here. Peterhouse, Cambridge I.5.4 (B. Varenius, Geographia, 1672) has a similar inscription on the flyleaf, "Godfrey Copley Junior", dated 8 April 1674.