John Covel 1638-1722

From Book Owners Online

John COVEL or COLVILL 1638-1722

Biographical Note

Born at Horningsheath, Suffolk. Youngest son of William Covel (d.1661) and Alice Cook. Attended Bury St Edmunds Grammar School, BA Christ's College, Cambridge 1658, fellow 1659, MA 1661. Became chaplain to the Levant Company in Constantinople 1670-1677. While based at Constantinople, he travelled throughout Asia Minor. Once back in England he attained DD by royal mandate in 1679, was given the living of Littlebury, Essex and that of Kegworth, Leicestershire in 1681. chaplain to the Princess of Orange 1681-1685, chancellor of York 1687. In the same year Covel was elected master of Christ's College, Cambridge.


Covel's collection of manuscripts was sold to Lord Harley for £300 during his lifetime, and at least 43 of his manuscripts can still be found in the British Library's Harleian collection. His printed books, numbering around 3000, were catalogued by Humfrey Wanley and sold by auction in 1724, in London, by Covel's executor, his nephew Henry Sorel. The auction was advertised in the Daily Courant as containing "The entire library of that reverend and learned Antiquary Dr. John Covel... Consisting of a very valuable collection of the most celebrated Critical authors, ancient and modern, the classics... other books of divinity, civil-law, history, mathematicks, architecture, &c. in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, French and English".


  • Alston, R. C., Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
  • Leedham-Green, Elisabeth. "Covel (Colvill), John (1638–1722), college head." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • A catalogue of the entire library of that reverend and learned antiquary Dr John Covel [London, 1724] ESTC T30268.