John Holt 1642-1710

From Book Owners Online

Sir John HOLT 1642-1710

Bookplate of Sir John Holt (British Museum Franks Collection *273)

Biographical Note

Born at Thame, Oxfordshire, first son of Sir Thomas Holt, MP and judge. Matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, 1658, but did not graduate; called to the bar at Gray's Inn 1664. He developed a successful career in London as a barrister, representing numerous wealthy and influential clients. Serjeant at law and King's Serjeant 1684; after the abdication of James II, he served as a legal adviser to the House of Lords. Chief Justice of King's Bench , and privy councillor, 1689. He did not publish his cases but he was widely respected for his "erudition, neatness of mind, and the force of his ideas" (ODNB), and as someone whose rulings made a significant contribution to the development of public administration; A report of all the cases determined by Sir John Holt was published posthumously in 1738. He had a London house in Bedford Row and a country estate at Redgrave Hall, Suffolk, which he purchased in 1702.


Holt used an armorial bookplate dated 1702 (Franks 15179/*273). He had no children and in his will he left "all my books whether manuscript or printed" to his nephew John, the son of his brother Rowland Holt, chief prothonotary of King's Bench 1696). On John's death in 1729, the books were sold by auction in London, beginning 20 May 1729, advertised as "the entire and very valuable library of the late Lord Chief Justice Holt"; the catalogue contained 526 lots. A number of his manuscript case book reports survive in the British Library (Add MSS 34125, 35979-82).

Characteristic Markings

None of Holt's books have been traced.


  • Alston, R. C. Inventory of sale catalogues 1676-1800. St Philip, 2010.
  • A catalogue of the entire and valuable library, of ... Lord Chief Justice Holt, [London, 1729], ESTC r475021.
  • Gambier Howe, E. R. J. Franks bequest: catalogue of British and American book plates bequeathed to the ... British Museum. London, 1903.
  • Halliday, Paul D. "Holt, Sir John (1642–1710), judge." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.