William Dowsing 1596-1668

From Book Owners Online

William DOWSING 1596-1668

Biographical Note

Born Laxfield, Suffolk, son of a farmer. Became a yeoman-farmer himself, first in Coddenham, subsequently in Stratford St Mary (both in Suffolk). He was “a godly middling-sort puritan: a man of comfortable means, uncertain social status [but] educated, well read” (Morrill). During 1643-44 he was appointed a parliamentary commissioner for removing monuments and images from churches in East Anglia; his detailed account of the work he carried out, which survives, has been much valued and analysed by historians.


Dowsing had an appreciable personal library, of which ca.25 volumes are known today, including a set of 161 Civil War sermons bound in 6 volumes. Known contents are largely theological, political, historical. He bequeathed his books to his eldest son, who sold them to a London bookseller in the 1690s, when the collection was dispersed. Examples: British Library Ames I/595, II/590 (titlepages only); Aberystwyth University Library RBR* BS1305.R7 Qto (Rogers, Commentary, 1615); Ipswich Town Library King 654/6E; Maggs 1272 (1999)/64.

Dowsing's inscription, from the titlepage of T. Clarke, The popes deadly wound, 1623, British Library Ames 2/590

Characteristic Markings

Dowsing regularly wrote his name on titlepages, together with a numerical code showing the date of acquisition and the date of reading, sometimes the price paid. An extensive annotator, regularly noting biblical textual references and personal reactions to what he read.