Robert Heath 1575-1649

From Book Owners Online

Sir Robert HEATH 1575-1649

Biographical Note

Born in Brasted, Kent, son of Robert Heath, a barrister from a family of lawyers. He matriculated at St John's College, Cambridge in 1587 but did not graduate, going on to Clifford's Inn in 1592, and subsequently the Inner Temple. Working as a lawyer for various court patrons in the early 1600s, he entered the service of George Villiers, later Duke of Buckingham, in 1616 and was supported by him in 1618 in being appointed Recorder of London. Elected an MP in 1620, he became solicitor-general in 1621 and later attorney-general, and was involved in many high profile legal cases and judgments in the 1620s. He became chief justice of common pleas in 1631 but his standing at court was diminished after Buckingham's assassination in 1628. His fortunes rose and fell with various political tides – Laud had him dismissed from common pleas in 1634 – but he was made a judge again (on King's Bench) in 1641 and he followed the King on his various travels during the early years of the Civil War. He was formally impeached by Parliament in 1645 and left England the following year, spending his last three years in France, where he died. He married Margaret Heath (1578-1647) and had two sons: Edward (1612-1669) and Francis Heath (1622-1683).


Evidence of the ownership of books by various members of the Heath family survives in the Heath papers in the British Library, now part of the Egerton MSS. Of particular interest – being less common, a list of books owned by a woman – is "An inventory of bookes in the Lady Heaths closet" in MS Egerton 2983, fo.79, which appears to be a list of books left by Margaret when she died in 1647. This comprises 82 titles, all in English, in a mixture of formats; many of the books are devotional/theological but there are also some household and medical books, botanical ones (Gerard's Herbal and Parkinson's Garden of all sorts of pleasant flowers), and a copy of Herbert's poems. The same manuscript volume also includes (fo.28) two lists of books bequeathed to Edward Heath by his father-in-law Paul Ambrose Croke (d.1631, bencher of the Inner Temple), one of books from his study in the Inner Temple, the other from his study in his house at Cottesmore. The first of these lists 94 titles in Latin, Greek, English and Hebrew, arranged by format, covering the usual mixture of subjects including Bibles and patristics, theology, classics, dictionaries, law and geography; the second list is similar but shorter (ca.40 titles), and at the end has a list of 6 "English books taken out of his study at that time for my wife". At fos. 157-60 there is "a catalogue of Dr Francis Heaths books left in his lodging when he died", containing ca.130 titles, again comprising a typical selection of material. A "Catalogus librorum" of "Mr Heaths books" just preceding that (fos. 155-6), of mid to late 17th c in date, is inscribed "for Mr Francis Heath from Phillip Barrow" and is presumably a list of books belonging to another family member which passed to Francis; it includes an entry for "Shakespears playes", in quarto.

Sir Robert gave a small group of books to St John's College, Cambridge in 1630, all relating to Councils of the Catholic Church; these were marked with an armorial stamp, and a printed gift label. The extent and whereabouts of his personal library are not known; Kopperman, in his biography, speculates that he may not have had an extensive collection, and that a list of over 120 books owned by "Mr Heath of the Temple", seized by the Committee for Sequestrations in 1643, belonged to Edward. Ian Roy thought that this might be one of Sir Robert's other sons (John Heath). Francis Heath's will has no mention of books, bequeathing his property around various members of his family.

Characteristic Markings

No books belonging personally to members of the family have been identified.


  • British Armorial Bindings.
  • Empey, M. Lady Margaret Heath, in Private Libraries in Renaissance England 11 (forthcoming).
  • Kopperman, Paul E. "Heath, Sir Robert (1575–1649), judge." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Kopperman, P. Sir Robert Heath, 1989.
  • Roy, I. The libraries of Edward, 2nd Viscount Conway, and others, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 43 (1968), 35-46.