William Sedley ca.1558-1618

From Book Owners Online

Sir William SEDLEY, 1st bart ca.1558-1618

Armorial stamp of Sir William Sedley (British Armorial Bindings).

Biographical Note

Sedley was the son of John Sidley/Sedley of Southfleet, Kent. BA Balliol College, Oxford 1575, MA 1577; called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn 1584, treasurer there 1608. Knighted 1605, created a baronet 1611. The title and family estates passed to his son John, 2nd baronet (ca.1597-1638) and then passed in swift succession through John's three sons, Henry (3rd baronet, d.1641), William (4th baronet, d.1656) and Charles (5th baronet), who retained the title for longer, but after whose death the baronetcy became extinct.


A number of books survive in various libraries with a Sedley armorial stamp; they are all late 16th or early 17th century imprints, and many appear to have changed hands during the 17th century; they are attributed to Sir William, though the Armorials database suggests that the tool may also have been used by later family members. In his will, Sir William bequeathed £100 each to the Bodleian Library and the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and also left property to endow a lecture in natural philosophy at Oxford. There is no mention of books in his will but all the residue of his estate and household goods was left to his son John, the second baronet. His will, likewise, did not refer to books and passed the family property on to Henry; he endowed a school at Southfleet, and left property to Magdalen and Merton College in Oxford. It seems likely that any accumulated family library would have become the property of Sir Charles when he inherited the title in 1656. His will, similarly, is silent on books; he intended that his illegitimate son Charles should be his main heir, but he died shortly before his father in 1701. Sir Charles's library was sold by auction in London beginning on 24 March 1703, together with "part of the library of an eminent divine". The sale catalogue lists 1339 lots, subdivided between Latin and Greek books (826), English books (360), French books (90), and Italian and Spanish books (63). There is no indication as to which books came from which source, or what proportion of this whole came from Sidley. The sale catalogue entries are not systematically dated but those which are suggest imprint dates predominantly from the 17th century, with maybe 10% or less earlier.

Characteristic Markings

Cambridge University Library P*.7.29, two 16th-century Venice imprints in a Cambridge binding of ca.1620 and a purchase note from a Cambridge bookseller dated 1621, has no inscriptions demonstrably by a Sedley.