William White

From Book Owners Online

William WHITE 1604-1678

Biographical Note

Born at Witney, Oxfordshire, son of Henry White, possibly a fuller. BA Wadham College, Oxford 1625, MA 1628. Master of Magdalen College School, Oxford, 1632; vicar of Wargrave, Berkshire 1637. He was ejected from these preferments by the parliamentary commissioners in 1647, but through the patronage of Brian Duppa he became rector of Pusey, Berkshire. In 1662 Magdalen College (where his former pupil Thomas Pierce was Master) appointed him rector of Appleton, Berkshire and he spent the remainder of his life living there and later at Pusey, where he died. He published a teaching manual, Ad grammaticen ordinarium supplementa, in 1648, and a tract on church unity in 1660.


In his will, White bequeathed "all my books and papers whatsoever" to the Mayor and Corporation of Marlborough, to be a library for the use of successive vicars of Marlborough, requesting that every vicar thereafter augment the collection by one book. He directed that all his diaries (kept from 1628) and papers "not fit for any to look on" be burnt.. He also referred to "my marginal scribblings and animadversions that I have made in many of the books" over 49 years, asking his executors to "make the most favourable construction" of them. It is not clear why White chose Marlborough, a town with which he did not have a direct connection, but it may have been suggested by his friend and patron Pierce, who had become Dean of Salisbury, and who had presented a new vicar to Marlborough (Thomas Yeate) shortly before White's death.

The books were duly transferred to Marlborough in 1678 and were kept in the church or vicarage for several hundred years thereafter, and after a number of threats to disperse the collection were averted in the first half of the 20th century, they were transferred on deposit first to Marlborough College in 1944, and then to the Bodleian Library in 1985, where they remain today. There are now ca.760 items in ca.600 volumes, most of which belonged originally to White. The contents are strongly theological (about two thirds), with the usual mix of classics, history, literature, law, medicine and science of any library of this period, but the presence of many early pedagogical and school books, including grammar books, is noteworthy. There is a high proportion of early English imprints (237 STC items). White's reference to marginalia is borne out by the fact that a number of the books are indeed annotated by him, sometimes heavily and with interleaving. Paul Morgan noted that "compared with most other parochial libraries, Marlborough Vicar's Library is outstanding in its rarities and contents".

Characteristic Markings

White regularly inscribed his books with his name, and sometimes also the price and date of purchase. The collection retains a number of 16th-century bindings and also many 17th-century Oxford ones.


  • Kempson, E., The Vicar's Library, St. Mary's, Marlborough, Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 51 (1947), 194-215.
  • Morgan, P., The Vicar's Library, Marlborough, Bodleian Library Record 12 (1985), 76-7.
  • Perkin, M., A directory of the parochial libraries of the Church of England, London, 2004, 281.
  • Quehen, Hugh de,'"White, William (bap. 1604, d. 1678), Church of England clergyman."' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.