Thomas Rymer 1642/3-1713
Thomas RYMER 1642/3-1713
Born in Yafforth, Yorkshire, son of Ralph Rymer, lord of the manor of Brafferton (hanged in 1663 for participating in the Presbyterian rising). Matriculated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge 1659, but did not graduate; he entered Gray’s Inn in 1666 and was called to the bar 1673. He combined his legal career with literary interests and published Reflections on Aristotle’s treatise of poesie in 1674, a critical essay on The tragedies of the last age consider’d in 1678, and his own tragic play Edgar in the same year. During the 1680s he turned to historical writing and was appointed historiographer to William III in 1692. Shortly afterwards he became editor of a project to publish all the nation’s treaties; the first volume of Foedera appeared in 1704, 15 more appeared during Rymer’s lifetime, and the last 4 were edited posthumously by his assistant Robert Sanderson. Rymer also published poems; he died poor.
Rymer bequeathed all his property to his housekeeper, Anna Parnell, who sold his manuscripts collections relating to the Foedera to the Treasury for £215 (these are now BL Add mss 4573-4630). Rymer’s books were sold in London at a fixed price sale on 10 March 1714, together with those of “another learned gent. deceas’d”; the true extent of Rymer’s collection cannot be determined, not only because of the mixing but also because the catalogue makes clear that many books were not included in the printed list, but only in a written catalogue. The printed catalogue includes 653 lots, divided between architecture, maps and books of prints (37), Latin history (63), classics (17), other Latin and Greek books (193), French books (30), English history and affairs (265), and other English books (48). The caption title to the catalogue noted the inclusion of maps, “a large collection of state tracts”, plays, and manuscripts.
None of Rymer’s books have been identified.
- Will of Thomas Rymer, The National Archives PROB 11/537/198.
- Alston, R. C., Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
- A catalogue of the libraries of Thomas Rymer [etc], 1714, ESTC t30162.
- Sherbo, Arthur. "Rymer, Thomas (1642/3–1713), literary critic and historian." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.