William Burkitt 1650-1703
Born at Hitcham, Suffolk, son of Miles Burkitt, rector there (but ejected at the Restoration). BA Pembroke College, Cambridge 1668, MA 1672. Curate of Bildeston, Suffolk 1669, of Milden 1672, where he became rector in 1679; he was made vicar of Dedham, Essex in 1692 but retained the Milden living. He was noted as a caring minister to his parishioners, and wrote a number of devotional works intended for popular consumption, including The poor man’s help and young man’s guide (1694) and Expository notes … on the New Testament (1700). His will made numerous charitable benefactions to Dedham and the surrounding towns, as well as his library bequest.
A catalogue of Burkitt's library drawn up by him in 1672, now surviving in the MSS of Pembroke College, lists 663 titles. By the time of his death his library had grown to ca. 2650 titles in ca.2000 volumes. His will stipulated the disposition of a small number of books to individuals – some English devotional books to his wife, Lightfoot’s works to a neighbouring clergyman (Nathaniel Parkhurst), 20 volumes to his curate John Shearman – but the bulk was to be established as a parish library at Milden for the benefit of succeeding incumbents. The books were to be kept in his study at Milden and his successors were to have the right to “exchange what he pleases” while also being required to “leave under his hand a catalogue of the books he received from his predecessor and of what he leaves to his successor”. Burkitt’s bequests also included provision for buying Bibles and catechisms for the poor children of Milden.
The arrangements for the library were respected and one subsequent catalogue by a succeeding rector is known to survive, drawn up by Nathaniel Hallward in 1842 (rector of Milden, 1827-82). This is now in private hands. The collection remained at Milden until 1904, when it was sold en bloc for £70, to generate funds for an archidiaconal clergy library for Sudbury. Only two books from the library have subsequently been traced. The 1842 catalogue shows that the collection was largely theological and philosophical, including two 15th-century imprints, 163 16th-century ones, and otherwise 17th-century content. It is likely that some of Burkitt’s books were inherited from his father Miles. Examples: Huntington Library 61730.
Burkitt seems not to have inscribed or marked his books, and they were not marked as belonging to the parish library, making them hard to trace.
- Fitch, J., Three lost Suffolk libraries [letter to the Editor], The Library 5th ser 31 (1976), 147-9.
- Ginn, Richard J. '"Burkitt, William (1650–1703), Church of England clergyman and devotional writer."' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Moate, G., The ‘lost’ library of William Burkitt, The Library 7th ser 12 (2011), 119-141.
- Perkin, M., A directory of parochial libraries of the Church of England, London, 2004.
- Suffolk parochial libraries: a catalogue, London, 1977, p.xv.