The library of Francis Lodwick FRS

A transcription of the shelf lists contained in British Library Sloane manuscripts 855 and 859, prepared and annotated by William Poole and Felicity Henderson (2007)

Lodwick's Libraries | The Domestic Library | The Private Library | Provenance | Bibliography


One avowed output of the AHRC project 'Free-Thinking and Language-Planning in Late Seventeenth-Century London' is to provide for bibliographers and historians an edition of the remarkable shelf-lists of two libraries connected with Francis Lodwick FRS (1619-1694), linguist and free-thinker. Because the extant shelf-lists contain almost 6,000 titles, it was soon obvious that it would require a great deal of time and a greater deal of money to produce a printed edition with adequate commentary and indexing. We therefore publish now this searchable electronic edition until such time as a printed edition becomes financially viable, and serious work on the apparatus suitable for a printed edition can commence.

Lodwick's Libraries

Two shelf-lists in the Sloane collection have been attributed to Lodwick by Sloane himself, although neither bears Lodwick's name in his own hand. These are Sloane MSS 855 and 859.
The first of these MSS comprises the same shelf-list copied out twice in different hands (the reason for this repetition remains unknown). These two lists are themselves bibliographically distinct, and are bound with an unconnected item, the ship's log of J. Bevan, 1684-1685. The second of these lists, a direct copy of the first, is in the hand of Francis Lodwick's son Simon (1655-1703). We can be confident that the library recorded twice in this MS is connected with Lodwick: it is marked as such by Sloane, it is in the vicinity of Lodwick's other MSS, and it also lists Lodwick's own works A Common Writing (once) and The Ground-work (twice) (fols. 63v, 64r, 65v). These lists were completed in or shortly after 1689, the latest publication date mentioned. Some 2,300 titles are recorded.

The second shelf-list for Lodwick's library is longer, containing perhaps 2,800 titles. It also contains repetition, this time in the form of a recataloguing (from fol. 52r) of Lodwick's 'Sticht Books' (i.e. pamphlet collections), which are also then renumbered. This shelf-list has been completed in another hand, probably that of Lodwick's son Simon, and it remained slightly active after Lodwick senior's death. The library was still substantially in one piece in 1702, as a note on books missing as of 1 March 1702 demonstrates (fol. 4r). Thereafter it was dispersed some time before 1710, by which date Hans Sloane at least had acquired some of Lodwick's pamphlet collections (see below). More will be said about this library and its organisation in due course. We can be sure that this library belonged to Lodwick, both for similar reasons given for Sloane 855, and because various titles bearing both annotations in Lodwick's hand and shelf-marks corresponding to this list have recently come to light. This list does contain Lodwick's folios and indeed a few MSS, but these MSS are predominantly news books or scribal copies of printed works. It is also worth noting at this point that Lodwick's catalogues are restricted to texts and do not record the presence of art objects or scientific instruments, although he undoubtedly owned both.

Scholars have hitherto reasonably assumed that both Sloane 855 and Sloane 859 refer to the same library at different points in its evolution; they provide, as Marika Keblusek puts it, momentopnamen or 'snapshots' of a changing phenomenon. While it is true that shelf-lists of necessity provide snap-shots, recording the physical layout of a library at the time of compilation, the current editors have reached the conclusion that we are not dealing with two stages in the life of one library here, but two independent shelf-lists of two independent libraries, almost certainly kept in different properties and witnessing to different intellectual contexts. We have been drawn to this conclusion by the extremely small amount of overlap between the two lists, something Keblusek had herself noted in the case of Lodwick's holdings in Dutch. This is a considerably more exciting conclusion: rather than one collection that grew from just over 2,000 to just under 3,000 titles over the course of just over a decade, we now have two large libraries with separate histories. And although Sloane 855 may be an incomplete witness to that library, there is no reason to regard Sloane 859 as substantially lacunose. If it is a snapshot, it is nevertheless a mature portrait, made at the end of the existence of its subject, and recording even what was missing at that date (see below).

The Domestic Library: Sloane 855

The library recorded in Sloane 855 we term 'the domestic library', because its contents seem suitable for the domestic use of a merchant and his family, especially one of Flemish-French extraction. There is a large proportion of devotional and educational works, and many holdings are in French or Dutch. While there is no doubt that this library was connected with the Lodwick family, it is less certain that Francis Lodwick himself was the main contributor to the collection. His son Simon catalogued the books in 1689 or shortly after, and the library was still in existence in 1702. The current whereabouts of any of these books are unknown; this library has effectively vanished.

The shelf-list is organised as a seriatim listing of the contents of 21 shelves, each containing a numbered string of books. If its owner employed a lost author or subject catalogue for this library, it would only require simple cross-references to the shelf-list in the form of shelf number/book number. The shelf-list proper is followed by a list of 'books not numbered' and then a break-down of his 'stitched books' or pamphlet collections into 862 numbered titles in 15 volumes, a further 7 volumes of unnumbered pamphlets and other texts, and some miscellaneous items. It has been suggested that this may not represent the library in its entirity, because the catalogue opens by listing quartos (whereas the usual procedure would be to begin with folios). However, lesser formats are not mentioned either, but appear scattered among the subsequent shelves. The current editors argue for this catalogue being complete at the time of its inscription: it begins at 'the first Shelfe' and carries on through twenty-one shelves and a large number of other titles, including two volumes of 'Stitcht Books in folio'; the second copy is an exact replica of the original list (odd if somehow the folio listing had become detached from the rest of the catalogue); and a list of 'books missing' dated 1702 follows this catalogue and makes no reference to folio volumes not listed here.

The Private Library: Sloane 859

The library recorded by Sloane 859 we term 'the private library' because it witnesses to Lodwick's personal scientific and heterodox tastes. It is in this library that the bulk of Lodwick's expensive continental and insular natural philosophical texts will be found, as well as his fascinating holdings in indigenous and continental radical literature. This catalogue is also remarkable for its inclusion of a lending-and-borrowing list and - most of all - for its inclusion of a folio headed 'of m Writings' (fol. 74r). Somehow a piece of Lodwick's work revising John Wilkins' Essay has become caught up in this manuscript: fol. 3 is an extension of 'Sa' for Wilkins' Essay, the category dealing with civil relations.

Lodwick also took the organisation of this library very seriously. The former manuscript was arranged, we saw, as a shelf-list, in which shelf and position on shelf were the only variables that could be employed to locate a given book. Sloane 859 is prefaced by Lodwick's own notes on the evolution of his organisational protocols for his library. Initially he had employed an alphabetic system, but later replaced this with a fractional order. In the former system, an alphabetic bigraph (aa, ab, ac ...) corresponded to the order of books on the shelves in his study, but Lodwick soon found himself having to double or even triple letter combinations as the library grew, adding the occasional number (abb, aa2 etc.). Finding this system 'not so Convenient', he moved his books into cases and replaced his alphabetic shelfmarking system with a fractional model in which the numerator marked the case and the denominator the book number. His cross-index survives at the beginning of Sloane 859 (see illustration). Thus a system that initially reflected only sequence was replaced by a superior rationale, in which location was also included. This final locating mark thus functioned like the shelf marking of Sloane 855. However, there are signs that the version of the catalogue we have in Sloane 859 did not perhaps represent as stable an organisational structure as Lodwick's remarks suggest. The second part of the catalogue, from f. 52r onwards, contains pamphlet titles previously listed in volumes found in cases 16 to 22 - that is, Lodwick's collection of 'stitcht books'. These pamphlets, which Lodwick would have bought unbound, seem to have undergone slight rearrangement before being bound into the volumes listed in cases 16 to 22. The pamphlet groups listed after f. 52 have been numbered consecutively, the quarto groups running from 1 to 117, and smaller formats separately from 1 to 24. However the quarto groups also have another series of numbers, non-consecutive, next to their original numberings, which suggests they were re-ordered at some stage, for reasons which are not apparent. So it is possible that Lodwick's collections were bound at a fairly late stage in the development of his personal library, and that prior to binding he had kept his pamphlets organised in subject-oriented groups. This suggestion is strengthened by the presence of alphabetical shelfmarks for the collections up to case 14, meaning that (most of) these volumes were present in the collection when it was still located in Lodwick's study, before the change in storage and shelfmarking scheme.

It must be stressed that the lists we have for either library are quite useless for locating a given book if all that was known in advance was its title or author. Both the libraries represented by Sloane 855 and 859 must have required author or title or subject catalogues; the shelf-lists were presumably for the purposes of checking now and then that all the books were present and correct, a purpose for which an alphabetical catalogue is not nearly so convenient. And indeed we can piece together something of how Lodwick used his lost catalogues because he mentions such objects both in his prefatory remarks on cataloguing and in the list 'of m Writings'. In the former he comments that 'because in the notes of my reading I haue referred to som of my bookes by their litterall mark, which marks I haue since altered into numericall marks, I shall therefore here following place all the litterall marks with the numericall marks they are or shall be Changed into' (fol. 1r). In other words, Lodwick cross-referenced his commonplace book entries to specific copies in his library, a habit we can also observe throughout the commonplace books of his friend Abraham Hill. Next, in 'of m Writings', Lodwick lists the following MSS pertinent to his use of his library:

2. in 2 parts, observations or notes of my reading under several heads
9. Catalogue of my Books
23. Journall of my reading
24. Index of my books as to their matter and Authors

In other words, Lodwick maintained commonplace books which, as we have seen, he keyed to his own copies; a catalogue of the library; a chronological list of his reading; and - crucially - an index arranged both by subject and author headings, either separately or intermingled. Although Keblusek judged that the 'catalogue' cannot be Sloane 859 itself - otherwise we would be holding a self-referential object - this does seem plausible to us. In order for the library to function properly, we need at the minimum an author(/subject/title) catalogue, and a shelf list. Both certainly once existed; only one now does, and in the absence of a competing MS, it is Sloane 859.


Both Lodwick's libraries were dispersed some time in the first decade of the eighteenth century. Of the former no trace has been found. Of the latter, some titles have recently started to reappear. These were initially identified in the Bodleian Library by one of the editors by means of annotations in their margins made in Lodwick's distinctive hand. The vicinity of these pamphlets was then scrutinised, yielding dozens of pamphlet titles bearing an alphanumeric code, and sometimes a fractional code that invariably corresponded to the relevant entry in Sloane 859. The (very much more common) alphanumeric codes were then matched to the accession codes employed by Hans Sloane for his own library, and one mystery was thereby solved: as his manuscripts, so (at least some of) Lodwick's printed books went to Sloane. The appearance of some of these titles in the Bodleian is explained by Sloane's gifting his duplicates to that library throughout the first four decades of the eighteenth century. Entries in the Bodleian Benefactors' Book demonstrate that Sloane stopped donating anonymous bundles of pamphlets after 1710, and hence we can fix the dissolution of Lodwick's private library to a date between mid-1702 and 1710. What happened to Lodwick's books between his death and 1702 is a little more obscure, but even if his library of printed books remained substantially intact, it is plausible that Lodwick's MSS went to his friend Robert Hooke, as the few MSS listed in Sloane 859 that can be identified elsewhere in the Sloane collection reside in the vicinity of both Lodwick's own holograph MSS, and Hooke's own MS collections. Again, several of the Lodwickian titles in the Bodleian can be found very near to pamphlets bearing Hooke's signature, so either Hooke got hold of some of Lodwick's stitched books before the library was dispersed, or Sloane acquired similar formats of books from both men at the same time, or very nearly so. No Lodwick folio has so far been identified, and the British Library's own holdings deriving from Sloane have not proved as yielding as one might expect had Sloane absorbed much or most of Lodwick's library. Lists of identified Lodwickian books and MSS can be found in Francis Lodwick: A Working Bibliography.


Marika Keblusek, 'Sleutel tot de wereld. De catalogi van Francis Lodwick (1619-1694).' In Jos Biemans, Lisa Kuitert & Piet Verkruijsse, eds. Boek & letter. Boekwetenschappelijke bijdragen ter gelegenheid van het afscheid van prof. dr. Frans A. Janssen als hoogleraar in de Boek- en bibliotheekgeschiedenis aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam. Amsterdam: De Buitenkant, 2004, pp. 319-333.
William Poole, 'Francis Lodwick, Hans Sloane, and the Bodleian Library', The Library 7 no. 4 (2006), 377-418.
William Poole, 'Francis Lodwick's annotations to John Webster's Academiarum Examen (1654) and John Dury's Considerations concerning the Present Engagement (1649)', Bodleian Library Record 19 no. 1 (2006), 1-10.
William Poole and Felicity Henderson, 'Francis Lodwick: a Working Bibliography'


1. For the context in which this leaf was written, see Rhodri Lewis Language, Mind and Nature: Artificial Languages in England, Bacon to Locke (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), especially chapter 6. [return to text]