The son of a building contractor, he was born at Stirling and educated at the University of Edinburgh. In 1856 he became a Presbyterian minister at Kinross. In 1865 he went to Liverpool, and three years later to Blackburn.
Dr Grosart is chiefly remembered for his exertions in reprinting much rare Elizabethan literature, a work which he undertook because of his strong interest in Puritan theology. Among the first writers whose works he edited were the Puritan writers, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Brooks and Herbert Palmer. Editions of Michael Bruce's Poems (1865) and Richard Gilpin's Demonologia sacra (1867) followed. In 1868 he brought out a bibliography of the writings of Richard Baxter, and from that year until 1876 he was occupied in reproducing for private subscribers the "Fuller Worthies Library," a series of thirty-nine volumes which included the works of Thomas Fuller, Sir John Davies, Fulke Greville, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, John Donne and Sir Philip Sidney. The last four volumes of the series were devoted to the works of many little known and otherwise inaccessible authors.
His Occasional Issues of Unique and Very Rare Books (1875-1881) is of the utmost interest to the book-lover. It included among other things the Annalia Dubrensia of Robert Dover. In 1876 still another series, known as the "Chertsey Worthies Library," was begun. It included editions of the works of Nicholas Breton, Francis Quarles, Dr Joseph Beaumont, Abraham Cowley, Henry More and John Davies of Hereford.
Grosart was untiring in his enthusiasm and energy for this kind of work. The two last-named series were being produced simultaneously until 1881, and no sooner had they been completed than Grosart began the "Huth Library," so called from the bibliophile Henry Huth, who possessed the originals of many of the reprints. It included the works of Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, Gabriel Harvey, and the prose tracts of Thomas Dekker. He also edited the complete works of Edmund Spenser and Samuel Daniel. From the Townley Hall collection he reprinted several manuscripts and edited Sir John Eliot's works, Sir Richard Boyle's Lismore Papers, and various publications for the Chetham Society, the Camden Society and the Roxburghe Club. Dr Grosart's faults of style and occasional inaccuracy do not seriously detract from the immense value of his work. He was unwearied in searching for rare books, and he brought to light much interesting literature, formerly almost inaccessible.
He resigned from the ministry in 1892, and died at Dublin.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.