John Holmes 1702/3-1760

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John HOLMES 1702/3-1760

Biographical Note

Holmes’s family background and the nature of his qualifications are still obscure. He described himself in a publication of 1729 as ‘ex schola Holtensis’, and in 1730 was appointed headmaster of Gresham’s School, Holt, Norfolk. Married to Jane (pre-marriage surname not established). He published grammars of Latin and Greek which went through numerous editions, as well as on modern languages and astronomy, and was a significant figure in the history of efforts to broaden the curriculum.


Holmes was probably instrumental in persuading his school’s governors to buy ‘a valuable and useful library of the best Latin and Greek authors now used in the most celebrated schools in England’, at a cost of £72 14s 6d. for the books and £14 14s for binding and stamping.

The extent and the disposition of his own books are not yet established. He used an ‘extraordinary engraved label’ dated 1755 (Lee, pp. 146-7; Franks, 15153). A copy listed by Maggs Bros of an Anacreon translation (1683) contains this label and also bears his signature on the title page (above that of an earlier owner Philip Ayres), and a note on the front flyleaf indicating that in 1736 it was ‘No. 440’.


  • Gambier Howe, E. R. J. Franks bequest: catalogue of British and American book plates bequeathed to the ... British Museum. London, 1903-4.
  • Lee, B. N. British bookplates: a pictorial history. Newton Abbott, London and North Pomfret VT, 1979.
  • Lee, P.J. A Catalogue of the Foundation Library of Gresham’s School. Holt, 1965.
  • Maggs Bros. Catalogue 1447/7: ‘Wing Books Printed in England 1641-1700 from the Library of James Stevens Cox (1910-1997)’. London, 2011.
  • Radford, L. B. ‘Gresham’s School, Holt. 1555-1900 (continued)’. The Gresham, 3.3 (1909), p. 52.
  • Stoker, David. ‘Holmes, John (1702/3–1760), schoolmaster and writer on education.’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.