Charles Sedley 1639-1701

From Book Owners Online

Sir Charles SEDLEY, 5th baronet 1639-1701

Armorial stamp of Sir William Sedley (British Armorial Bindings).

Biographical Note

Son of Sir William Sedley. Sedley matriculated at Wadham College, Oxford in 1656, but did not graduate. After the Restoration he became established himself in court circles as a wit and man of fashion, a drinking companion of the King and occasionally in trouble for bad behaviour. He wrote a number of plays from the 1660s onwards which had success on the stage, as well as poems, and he moved in London literary circles. His daughter Catherine, later Countess of Dorchester, was a mistress of James II. He was MP for New Romney, Kent from 1668 and attended the Duke of Buckingham in his embassy to Louis XIV in 1670.


A number of books survive in various libraries with a Sedley armorial stamp; they are all late 16th or early 17th century imprints, and many appear to have changed hands during the 17th century; they are attributed to Sir William, though the Armorials database suggests that the tool may also have been used by later family members. In his will, Sir William bequeathed £100 each to the beneficiary Bodleian Library and the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and also left property to endow a lecture in natural philosophy at Oxford. There is no mention of books in his will but all the residue of his estate and household goods was left to his son John, the second baronet. His will, likewise, did not refer to books and passed the family property on to Henry; he endowed a school at Southfleet, and left property to Magdalen and Merton College in Oxford. It seems likely that any accumulated family library would have become the property of Sir Charles when he inherited the title in 1656. His will, similarly, is silent on books; he intended that his illegitimate son Charles should be his main heir, but he died shortly before his father in 1701. Sir Charles's library was sold by auction in London beginning on 24 March 1703, together with "part of the library of an eminent divine". The sale catalogue lists 1339 lots, subdivided between Latin and Greek books (826), English books (360), French books (90), and Italian and Spanish books (63). There is no indication as to which books came from which source, or what proportion of this whole came from Sidley. The sale catalogue entries are not systematically dated but those which are suggest imprint dates predominantly from the 17th century, with maybe 10% or less earlier.

Characteristic Markings

Cambridge UL P*.7.29, two 16th-century Venice imprints in a Cambridge binding of ca.1620 and a purchase note from a Cambridge bookseller dated 1621, has no inscriptions demonstrably by a Sedley.