Thomas Barlow 1608/9-1691

From Book Owners Online

Thomas BARLOW 1608/9-1691

Biographical Note

Born at Orton, Westmorland, son of Richard Barlow. BA Queen's College, Oxford 1630, MA and fellow 1633, University reader in metaphysics 1635, BD 1657, DD 1660. He remained at Oxford through the Civil War and Interregnum (though technically expelled from his fellowship in 1648), and became Keeper of the Bodleian Library in 1652, where he tightened up procedures and received the gift of John Selden's books. Provost of Queen's, 1658. He left his Bodleian position in 1660, when he became Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and a prebendary of Worcester. He became Bishop of Lincoln in 1675 and remained active in national ecclesiastical affairs, conforming as necessary to James II and subsequently William III. He published extensively, primarily on doctrinal matters, defending his staunchly Calvinist position against various opponents, particularly Roman Catholics; he is noted as being a late survival, at senior level, of early 17th-century theological thinking into the second half of the century when his ideas were increasingly anachronistic and out of fashion. Despite his strongly-held views, he is noted for his sociability and maintenance of a wide network of academic and clerical contacts throughout his career.


Books and learning were of fundamental importance to Barlow and he acquired a substantial library. He formed the intention in the 1670s of bequeathing it firstly to the Bodleian and then to Queen's, and this was carried out through his will, directing that the University should have choice of any books wanting in the Bodleian, with the remaining part given to Queen's. The only exception to this was a gift to his chaplains, William Offley and Henry Brougham, of all his English, Latin and Greek Bibles, together with his own manuscript writings and a copy of Christophe Justel's Codex canonum ecclesiae Africanae.

It is not clear how many books went to either the Bodleian or to Queen's, but Barlow's library evidently ran to several thousand volumes. They were received in those places in the mid-1690s and the Bodleian accounts note ca.£40 paid for carriage of the books; in the Bodleian, they were all given a shelfmark beginning Linc and there were some manuscripts as well as printed books, subsequently bound in 54 volumes. There are ca.500 books identified in Queen's today from Barlow's bequest, but the original total was probably significantly higher, and their receipt was a catalyst to the College to build a new library in the 1690s.

Characteristic Markings

Inscription of Thomas Barlow (Magdalen, Oxford F. Junius, Caedmonis ... paraphrasis poetica, Amsterdam, 1655)

Barlow regularly inscribed his books with his name and sometimes the source of the book (the many presentation copies to him among his books has been noted). He was also a copious annotator, often adding notes and marginalia expressing his reaction to texts and their ideas.