William Bates 1625-1699

From Book Owners Online

William BATES 1625-1699

Biographical Note

Born in Bermondsey, Surrey, son of William Bates, gentleman. BA Queens’ College, Cambridge 1645, MA 1648, DD 1660. Vicar of Tottenham, Middlesex 1649, of St Dunstan’s in the West 1654. Assistant to the Middlesex Commission into the Minstry, 1654, Commissioner for the Approbation of Ministers 1660. Although involved in negotiations to facilitate the Restoration, and appointed a chaplain in ordinary in 1660, Bates refused to read the Book of Common Prayer, and he was ejected in 1662. He remained in London as a leading independent minister, based in Hackney, and was much involved in (unsuccessful) negotiations to achieve a more tolerant religious settlement. He was licensed as a Presbyterian preacher in 1672, and founded the Salters’ Hall lecture in 1694. He was much respected for his scholarship as well as for his moderation and effectiveness as a preacher, and published numerous sermons and theological treatises.


Bates was described, in his funeral sermon, as “an earnest gatherer and devourer of books, a living library … who knew how to choose and was curious in his choice”. He was said to have lost a library worth £200 in the Great Fire of 1666, but by the time of his death he had amassed another considerable collection, which was purchased in its entirety for £500 by Daniel Williams; it then became part of the foundation collection of Dr Williams’s Library when he died in 1716.

The distinction between Bates’s books and Williams’s is not always clear, but much of the literary, foreign language and non-theological material is generally thought to have belonged to Bates. The library bequeathed by Williams in 1716 contained approximately 7,641 items in 6,241 volumes, in addition to 127 volumes of tracts. The 1727 printed catalogue (Bibliothecae quam vir doctus, admodum Reverendus, Daniel Williams, STP bono publico legavit, (Londini, 1727)) does not distinguish them, but many are identifiable from inscriptions. The foundation library was kept distinct from later additions until the 19th century, when it was merged in the general collections. The Library’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, sold in 2006, is believed to have been his, with evidence of his having read and annotated it.


  • Attar, K. Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Facet Publishing, London, 2016.
  • Matthews, A. G. Calamy revised. Oxford, 1934.
  • West, A. J. The Shakespeare First Folio … vol. II, a new worldwide census, 2003.
  • Wright, Stephen. "Bates, William (1625–1699), clergyman and ejected minister." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Information from Carlo Dumontet.