Josiah Child 1631-1699

From Book Owners Online

Sir Josiah CHILD 1631-1699

Biographical Note

Born in London, son of Richard Child, a merchant. His early career developed as a brewer and supplier of goods to the navy, and he was deputy treasurer of the navy at Portsmouth 1655-60. He moved to London after the Restoration and developed his business activities, becoming involved in lucrative financial transactions as a victualler for the navy. He was a founder member of the Royal African Company in the 1670s and a major shareholder in the East India Company, of which he was several times deputy governor or governor in the 1680s. He was widely disliked as a ruthless businessman, making many enemies but also a great fortune. He was mayor of Portsmouth and MP for Petersfield in the 1650s, later for Dartmouth (1673) and Ludlow (1685); he became a baronet in 1678. He published a number of works on economics and political theory, written in the 1660s though sometimes issued later, which had wide circulation and were much reprinted, particularly his Discourse about trade, first published in 1690; his philosophies were very much those of a practical and self-driven businessman seeking to encourage systems which would allow his kinds of business methods to flourish.


Child acquired a house and estate at Wanstead, Essex in 1673 and established a library there which continued to be developed over succeeding generations. His son Richard (d.1750, created 1st Earl Tylney in 1731) rebuilt the house on a massive scale in the 1710s; it descended via marriage to William Wellesley-Pole (1788-1857) and was demolished, with the contents sold, in 1822-24, to pay his debts. The 1822 sale catalogue of the library, which has been analysed by Denis Keeling, showed a collection of ca.5000 volumes, of which about 10% were pre-1700 imprints; many of these are assumed to have been Sir Josiah's but the size and nature of the library which he created can only be conjectured. His extensive will has no specific mention of books (the bulk of the estate passed to his eldest surviving son, Sir Josiah, 1668-1704), but does have a bequest to his wife of all the goods in her closet and bedchamber, no doubt including books.

Characteristic Markings

None of Child's books have been identified.