William Brewster 1665-1715

From Book Owners Online

William BREWSTER 1665-1715

Biographical Note

Born at Eardisland, Gloucester, son of John Brewster, apothecary. BA St John’s, Oxford 1687, MA 1689, BMed 1692, DMed 1697. Went to London to study anatomy before settling in Hereford in 1697 to practice as a physician, where he remained until his death. Inherited property and £1800 in money when his father died in 1684, together with some of his books (others went to his half-brother Benjamin).


Assembled an appreciable library, which he bequeathed primarily to All Saints, Hereford, to which he left “all such my books of divinity, morality and history” as his executors thought fit to found a parish library. The books at All Saints became the last English library to be set up with chains; Brewster directed that "presses shelves cupboards or boxes" be provided for the "keeping and preserving of the said books", that they were not to be loaned out from the church "on any pretence whatsoever", and that "the usage and keeping of the said books be subject unto the visitation and direction of the Bishop". He also left "all the volumes of the Acta Eruditorum Lipsiae I shall dye possessed of" to William Brome of Ewithington. Those books not given to All Saints were to be disposed of at his executors' discretion, and were divided between St John's College, Oxford and the Bodleian Library. A catalogue of his books dated 1706 lists 1069 titles, divided between divinity (220), ethics and morality (24), law (13), history (84), physick/natural philosophy (287), humanities (180) and natural history/philosophy/geography (261). Humfrey Wanley noted in his diary in 1715 that Brewster possessed a few medieval manuscripts (which were given to the Bodleian). Examples: Bodleian Library ms Bodley 191 [more]


  • Macray, W. D. Annals of the Bodleian Library. 2nd edn, Oxford, 1890, p.195.
  • Morgan, Dr William Brewster of Hereford, Medical History 8 (1964), 137-48.
  • Perkin, M. A directory of the parochial libraries of the Church of England. London, 2004, p.239.
  • Wright, C. E. and R. (eds), The diary of Humfrey Wanley. London, 1966, v.1 p.8.