William Ellis 1609-1680

From Book Owners Online

Sir William ELLIS of ELLYS 1609-1680

Biographical Note

Born Lincoln, July 1609. BA Christ’s College, Cambridge 1627. Admitted to Gray's Inn in 1627 and called to the bar 1635, he would later hold a number of positions at the Inn. He was a long-serving Member of Parliament, representing Boston, Lincolnshire, in the Short and Long Parliaments and during the Civil War. He was elected MP for Grantham in 1656 and for the same seat in 1660. In 1679, he was once more returned by Boston.

During the Protectorate, he was Solicitor General. In 1679 he was made serjeant-at-law and took up residence in the Serjeant’s Inn in Chancery Lane. In 1671 he was made King’s serjeant and knighted. The following year he was appointed a justice of the court of common pleas.


The extent of Ellis' library is unknown, but in his will he bequeathed all of his law books and manuscripts to his nephew, John Ellis, along with his chambers at Gray's Inn "if he will take upon him the studdie and profession of the Laws, and I desire that they may be carefully kept and preserved for him till he be capable to make use of them".

Characteristic Markings

A 1674 Bible (Rare books Coll. FOL. BS185 C74) held by the Foyle Special Collections Library contains an inscription on the recto of the frontispiece by the eminent Puritan divine, Richard Baxter, recording the ownership of the book by the judge Sir Matthew Hale and himself. An inscription in another 17th century hand details ownership by Ellis: "London June 3rd 1681” and mentions Sir Richard Hampden, with whom he had found refuge during the plague of 1665.

A further inscription on the front free endpaper reads: "John Victor Macmillan given him by his father-in-law Maj. Gen. Sir F. Maurice KCB July 1906. (The book had passed out of the possession of Gen. Maurice though it had been given him as the son of the Rev. Frederick Denison Maurice by Miss Ellis the surviving descendant of the Sir William Ellis to whom Richard Baxter gave it)."