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Thomas Hearne

Thomas Hearne (July, 1678 - June 10, 1735), English antiquary, was born at Littlefield Green in the parish of White Waltham, Berkshire.

Having received his early education from his father, George Hearne, the parish clerk, he showed such taste for study that a wealthy neighbour, Francis Cherry of Shottesbrooke (c. 1665-1713), a celebrated nonjuror, interested himself in the boy, and sent him to the school at Bray "on purpose to learn the Latin tongue." Soon Cherry took him into his own house, and his education was continued at Bray until Easter 1696, when he matriculated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. At the university he attracted the attention of Dr John Mill (1645-1707), the principal of St Edmund Hall, who employed him to compare manuscripts and in other ways. Having taken the degree of B.A. in 1699 he was made assistant keeper of the Bodleian Library, where he worked on the catalogue of books, and in 1712 he was appointed second keeper. In 1715 Hearne was elected architypographus and esquire bedell in civil law in the university, but objection having been made to his holding this office together with that of second librarian, he resigned it in the same year. As a nonjuror he refused to take the oaths of allegiance to King George I, and early in 1716 he was deprived of his librarianship. However he continued to reside in Oxford, and occupied himself in editing the English chroniclers. Having refused several important academical positions, including the librarianship of the Bodleian and the Camden professorship of ancient history, rather than take the oaths, he died on the 10th of June 1735.

Hearne's most important work was done as editor of many of the English chroniclers, and until the appearance of the "Rolls" series his editions were in many cases the only ones extant. Very carefully prepared, they were, and indeed are still, of the greatest value to historical students. Perhaps the most important of a long list are:

He also edited John Leland's Itinerary (1710-1712) and the same author's Collectanea (1715); W Camden's Annales rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum regnante Elizabetha (1717); Sir John Spelman's Life of Alfred (1709); and W Roper's Life of Sir Thomas More (1716). He brought out an edition of Livy (1708); one of Pliny's Epistolae et panegyricus (1703); and one of the Acts of the Apostles (1715). Among his other compilations may be mentioned: Ductor historicus, a Short System of Universal History (1704, 1705, 1714, 1724); A Collection of Curious Discourses by Eminent Antiquaries (1720); and Reliquiae Bodleianae (1703).

Hearne left his manuscripts to William Bedford, who sold them to Dr Richard Rawlinson, who in his turn bequeathed them to the Bodleian. Two volumes of extracts from his voluminous diary were published by Philip Bliss (Oxford, 1857), and afterwards an enlarged edition in three volumes appeared (London, 1869). A large part of his diary entitled Remarks and Collections, 1705-1714, edited by CE Doble and DW Rannie, has been published by the Oxford Historical Society (1885?1898). Bibliotheca Hearniana, excerpts from the catalogue of Hearne's library, has been edited by B Botfield (1848).

See Impartial Memorials of the Life and Writings of Thomas Hearne by several hands (1736); and WD Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library (1890). Hearne's autobiography is published in W Huddesford's Lives of Leland, Hearne and Wood (Oxford, 1772). T Ouvry's Letters addressed to Thomas Hearne has been privately printed (London, 1874).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.