Sylvanus Morgan 1620-1693

From Book Owners Online

Sylvanus MORGAN 1620-1693

Biographical Note

Born in London; apprenticed to John Aleyn, Warden of the Painter Stainers Company. He became a freeman of the Company in 1644, and subsequently a leading member; he was Master in 1676. Much of his work involved arms painting, and he wrote numerous books relating to heraldry, including The sphere of gentry (1661-3), and Armilogia ... the language of arms (1666). These were much criticised by professional heralds, but his friend John Gibbon, Bluemantle Pursuivant, described him as "the prince of arms-painters".


Two of Morgan's notebooks now in Cambridge University Library (MS Dd V178) include two lists of his books made in 1646 and 1653, running to ca.100 titles. These include books relating to heraldry, but also a wide range of other subjects; most of them were in English.

Morgan's library of printed books was auctioned in London, 5.4.1693; many of his manuscripts, which remained in his family, were auctioned 3.12.1759. The 1693 sale catalogue includes 1087 lots, divided between Latin theology and miscellaneous (481 lots), English theology, history and miscellaneous (432 lots), and "libri omissi" (174 lots). The titlepage refers to the inclusion of "the Latin part of the library of an honourable gentleman, lately deceased", which (according to an entry in Robert Hooke's diary) comprised part of the library of Robert Boyle. The catalogue does not make clear which books these were.

An earlier sale of "Mr Morgan's maps and books", advertised in the London Gazette in May 1687, is identified by Alston as Sylvanus Morgan, but the attribution here seems debatable, and it may well be a different Morgan.

Characteristic Markings

The Armorials Database describes a book decorated with Morgan's initials and monogram, inscribed "Sylvanus Morgan his book".


  • British Armorial Bindings.
  • Alston, R. C. Inventory of sale catalogues 1676-1800. St Philip, 2010.
  • Bibliotheca Morganiana, [London, 1693], ESTC r180701.
  • Cust, L. H., and Colin Lee. "Morgan, Sylvanus (1620–1693), arms painter and author." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Hughes, Francis Rothwell, Sylvanus Morgan's library, The Library 7th ser 22 (2021), 69-92.
  • Hunter, A. (ed), Thornton and Tully's scientific books, libraries and collectors, 4th edn, Aldershot, 2000, p.352.