William Musgrave 1655-1721

From Book Owners Online

William MUSGRAVE 1655-1721

Biographical Note

Born at Nettlecombe, Somerset, son of Richard Musgrave and Mary (Bond) Musgrave. Educated at Winchester College, New College, Oxford, and Leiden University. Fellow of New College, Oxford, 1677-92, and a founder of the 1680s Oxford Philosophical Society. Practised medicine from 1691 in Exeter. Elected FRS in 1684 (and editor of numbers 167-178 of the Society’s Philosophical Transactions. Elected FRCP in 1692. Married Phillippa Speke in 1691.

Books feature as generic background in a portrait of Musgrave, with the paper slip protruding from one bearing the legend 'Arthritidographia', to highlight his significance as an author on arthritis. Along with further medical topics, he published on his other key interest, the antiquities of Roman Britain, notably in his Antiquitates Britanno-Belgicae (1711-19).


In Exeter in 1723, which he praised for its ‘many bookseller’s shops’, William Stukeley visited Musgrave’s ‘library, a very good collection of books, coyns and other antiquarian suppellex’, noticing his unpublished early treatise on gout. Musgrave made no specific provision for his library in his will, and its sale at Exeter in 1725 may have been occasioned by need to repay debts in the family.

He used an engraved armorial bookplate: Franks *271 Musgrave, William, of the Citty of Exon. Med. Doc. 1700.

Wadham College Oxford e.16.13 (containing a note ‘è Biblioth:Musgravianâ’) bears the 1696 ownership signature of Musgrave’s father-in-law, William Speke. Several of Musgrave’s books were acquired by Theophilus Metcalfe (bequeathed to Queen’s College Oxford) and Samuel Bush (bequeathed to Wadham College Oxford). These and some others (mainly medical works) contained in Oxford college libraries, reveal a variety of inscription practices, e.g.

Jesus College Oxford: M.5.16 (‘Liber Gu: Musgrave è Coll. Novo Oxon’ and 'pret: 2s' on first free endpaper)

Queen’s College Oxford NN.s.510 (‘Guilh: Musgrave medicus Exoniensis…1704’ on recto of title page); NN.s.3720 (‘Sum Mosgravii pret: 2s 4d Junii 8⁰. 1715’on half-title page)

St John’s College Oxford: Z.3.1 (‘Ex libris Guilh: Musgrave, medici Exoniensis, Martii 2, 1708’).

Houghton Library, Harvard: f MS Eng 938.


  • A catalogue of books, in physick, history, classical learning, &c. Most of the classicks cum notis variorum. ... Being the library of the late learned Dr. Musgrave. Exeter, 1725. ESTC T9315.
  • Alston, R. C., Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
  • Cameron, Alick. "Musgrave, William (1655–1721), physician and antiquary." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Gambier Howe, E. R. J. Franks bequest: catalogue of British and American book plates bequeathed to the ... British Museum. London, 1903-4.
  • Stukeley, W. Itinerarium Curiosum. London, 1724.
  • Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. Portrait of Musgrave c1710 attributed to Thomas Hawker.