John Prideaux 1578-1650

From Book Owners Online

John PRIDEAUX 1578-1650

Biographical Note

Born at Stowford, Devon, son of John Prideaux, farmer. BA Exeter College, Oxford 1600, fellow 1601, MA 1603, BD 1611, DD 1612. Chaplain to Prince Henry, and later to both James I and Charles I. Rector of Exeter College and vicar of Kidlington, Oxfordshire 1612, vicar of Bampton 1614, canon of Christ Church, Oxford 1617, of Salisbury 1620 (along with other ecclesiastical livings). Regius Professor of Divinity 1615. Prideaux was noted not only as an effective teacher (with a Calvinist theological standpoint) but also as an effective college head, raising funds for various new building projects. He was vice-chancellor 1619-21 and 1624-26, supported by the patronage of the chancellor William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke (who shared his Calvinist outlook), but the ascendancy of Laud reduced Prideaux’s influence.

He was made Bishop of Worcester in 1641; although he inspired more sympathy among parliamentary factions than many in the Anglican hierarchy, his bishopric was sequestrated in 1643. In 1646 he was permitted to live within 20 miles of London, with his books and manuscripts returned to him, and two years later he was allowed to live with his son in law in Bredon, Worcestershire, where he died. He published numerous sermons and theological works as well as textbooks for university students on logic, languages and other aspects of the contemporary curriculum.


Prideaux assembled a significant library whose importance to him is testified by the successful appeal for its return in 1646. According to Anthony Wood, he was forced to sell much of it during the 1640s, in order to survive: “having first by indefatigable studies digested his excellent library into his mind, [he] was after forced again to devour all his books with his teeth; turning them … into bread for himself and his children, to whom he left no legacy”. This is at least partly, and perhaps substantially, inaccurate; Prideaux’s will shows that he left to his wife his “great gilt Bible and Booke of common prayer bound up with the homilies” and that otherwise all his books were to be equally divided between his two sons in law, William Hodges and Henry Sutton. He also had some money and property to bestow on his family.

We do not know how many books were left to Hodges and Sutton or how it came about that ca.600 volumes subsequently passed into Worcester Cathedral Library, where they remain today. Books with Prideaux’s inscription are found in numerous other libraries so there was evidently some dispersal either before or after his death, or both. Examples: many in Worcester Cathedral; Balliol, Oxford 515.f.3; Brasenose, Oxford H.8.13; Hereford Cathedral S.1.8.

Characteristic Markings

Prideaux typically inscribed his titlepages “Jo. Prideaux”.