Humphrey Gower 1638-1711

From Book Owners Online

Humphrey GOWER 1638-1711

Biographical Note

Born at Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire, son of Stanley Gower, rector there. BA and fellow of St John's College, Cambridge 1659, MA 1662, BD 1669, DD 1676. Rector of Hamoon, Dorset, 1663, and then of a succession of livings in Essex and Cambridgeshire before becoming rector of Terrington, Norfolk in 1688; prebendary of Ely, 1679. His career was mostly spent in Cambridge where he became Master of Jesus College in 1679, and then Master of St John's a few months later in the same year. Vice-chancellor of the University 1680-1, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity 1688. He sponsored the building of a new bridge over the Cam in the College grounds, finished in 1711.


Gower bequeathed the bulk of his books to St John's; his will is quite revealing about the organisation and content of his library, and of constituent parts of it. The College was to receive "such of my books that are of a sort or edition of which the College has none in their public library ... and shall be judged fit to have a place there". He added that "little inconsiderable books" would probably not pass this test (especially as the College library had "not much room to spare"), and so books to the value of £50 be allowed to be taken by Edmund Brome, his friend and also a fellow of the College, for his use as long as he remained at St John's. Once Brome's fellowship ended, these books were to return to the College, for acquisition or sale as they thought best. Gower also referred to his "pamphlets and single sermons and small paltry books that will yield little in sale", which were left to Edmund Brome's disposal. He had "several books (the remains of an old study that fell to my lot) written mostly by dissenters" over which his executors were to exercise discretion "if any thing can be made of them". The College was to decide which (if any) it wanted from his "collections bound up in quartos which are ... entered in my catalogue as miscellanies", and his "collection of printed sermons and other discourses in several volumes in quarto now standing in the study in the gallery", anything discarded going to Brome. His "manuscripts now in my study of my own composing" also went to Brome, "not to be published in the form they are in". Gower made various other bequests to the College and charitable causes, including £10 to Ely Cathedral to be spent on books for its library.

Brome was allowed to take about 400 books, of which £20-worth were subsequently sold to him, while others returned to the College under the terms of the will. Today the College has ca.1400 books from Gower's bequest, largely 17th-century imprints (but including 8 incunabula), covering a wide subject range. Examples: many in St John's, recorded in the online catalogue.

Characteristic Markings

A printed book label was made for the books given to St John's, which is regularly found in Gower bequest books. Gower also sometimes inscribed his name on titlepages.