John Bankes 1589-1644

From Book Owners Online

Sir John BANKES 1589-1644

Biographical Note

Sir John, born in Keswick, Cumberland, matriculated at Queen’s College, Oxford 1605 and subsequently pursued a successful legal career, being knighted 1631 and becoming Attorney General in 1634. He acquired the royal castle of Corfe, Dorset, and the adjacent Kingston Lacy estate in 1635. He was impeached and dispossessed by Parliament during the Civil War and died at Oxford in 1644. Corfe Castle was destroyed by military action in 1646 but the family property was regained by Sir John’s wife Mary and sons, John and Ralph Bankes in 1647, by payment.


Only a few books now at Kingston Lacy can be traced back to Sir John’s time, although he is likely to have had a collection. Some high quality late 16th century bindings are thought to have come from his original library at Corfe Castle. John (the son), Ralph and Mary were all active book purchasers throughout the middle decades of the 17th century and their books form the foundation of the present library at Kingston Lacy. Their books cover a range of subjects and languages and are predominantly contemporary 17th century publications (i.e. they appear not to have acquired many 16th century books), in fairly plain bindings of the period, with a few exceptions of more upmarket work. The collection seems to have gone through a period of little growth between the late 17th and late 18th centuries (i.e. after Ralph’s death), and books were certainly dispersed after 1677. Examples: primarily at Kingston Lacy.

Characteristic Markings

John and Ralph regularly inscribed their names on titlepages, sometimes with prices and other acquisition details; endleaves were commonly used for notes which may be in the language of the text (e.g. Italian notes, and Italian forms of name, in Italian books). Some books are marked as belonging to Mary.


  • Barker, N. Treasures from the libraries of National Trust country houses, 1999.
  • Brooks, Christopher W. "Bankes, Sir John (1589–1644), judge." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Lewis, Y. Sir Ralph Bankes (?1631-1677) and the origins of the library at Kingston Lacy, Library History 18 (2002), 215-23.
  • Mitchell, A. Kingston Lacy, Dorset, 1994.
  • Purcell, M. The country house library. New Haven & London, 2017, 62, 95.