John Aubrey 1626-1697

From Book Owners Online

John AUBREY 1626-1697

Biographical Note

Born at Easton Pierse near Kington St Michael in north Wiltshire as the eldest son of Richard Aubrey (1603–1652) and his wife, Deborah (1610–1686). Entered at Trinity College, Oxford as a gentleman commoner in 1642, but his studies were interrupted by the civil war. Enrolled at the Middle Temple 1646 but did not complete his legal training. Aubrey became an active member of the Royal Society following his election in 1663; he presented various papers and developed a wide acquaintance, including Sir William Petty, Robert Hooke, and Anthony Wood. A noted antiquary, natural philosopher, and writer, Aubrey is perhaps best known as author of the collection of short biographies Brief Lives (1691), described on his ODNB page as ‘one of the great literary works of his age’. Aubrey's life was rife with legal entanglements following his inheritance of his father's debts on his death in 1652. By 1671 he was 'reduced thereafter to the life of a peripatetic scholar, reliant on the hospitality of various patrons and friends' (ODNB).


Aubrey bequeathed many of his books to the Ashmolean Museum (hence now in the Bodleian), but also gave books to Gloucester Hall (there are now ca. 40 of Aubrey’s books at Worcester College, Oxford).

Characteristic Markings

Some of Aubrey's books carry an armorial bookplate, engraved for him by Wenceslaus Hollar, probably made in the 1650s. A copy of Cicero, Philosophicorum tomus II, 1659, at Aberystwyth University Library (Rare Book Room PA6300) has the inscription 'Sum Jo: Aubreij. R.S.S' on the pastedown.


  • Bennett, K. John Aubrey’s collections and the early modern museum, Bodleian Library Record 17 (2001), 185-212.
  • Buchanan-Brown, J. The books presented to the Royal Society by John Aubrey, Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 28 (1974), 167-93.
  • Fox, Adam. "Aubrey, John (1626–1697), antiquary and biographer." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Gunther, R. The library of John Aubrey, Bodleian Quarterly Record 6 (1931), 230-6.
  • Hunter, M. John Aubrey and the realm of learning, London, 1975.
  • Lee, B. N. British bookplates: a pictorial history. Newton Abbot, 1979, 4.
  • Wilkinson, C. H. Worcester College Library, Oxford Bibliographical Society Proceedings & papers 1 (1927), 263-320, p.266.
  • Information from Bill Hines.