George Digby 1612-1677

From Book Owners Online

George DIGBY, 2nd Earl of Bristol 1612-1677

Biographical Note

Born in Madrid, where he grew up, son of John Digby, 1st Earl of Bristol, ambassador to the Spanish court. MA Magdalen College, Oxford 1636, after which he travelled in France. MP for Dorset 1640, when he became a vigorous critic of royal government, before falling out with parliament and becoming an active royalist. He fought for Charles I at Edgehill and was appointed secretary of state shortly afterwards. His political advice and military actions all produced bad outcomes for the royal cause and during the 1650s he served in the French army. His chances of advancement after the Restoration were spoilt by his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1659, and disputes with Clarendon led to an order for his arrest in 1663. His career has been summarised as “one of the foremost English examples of irresponsible brilliance” (ODNB).


Digby bought much of Sir Kenelm Digby’s Paris library after his death in 1665, and returned it to England. These books were auctioned in London, 19.4.1680, along with the Earl’s own books and “the library of another learned person”. The sale catalogue includes 3685 lots, divided into Latin theology (414), Latin philology (843), Medicine (315), Mathematics (214), French books (434), Spanish books (135), Italian books (404), English books (926), plus 88 bundles of stitched pamphlets, 25 bound volumes of pamphlets, 10 “libri incompacti” and 69 manuscripts. Although the catalogue states that “the great part … were the curiosities collected by the learned Sr. Kenelme Digby”, it is not possible to separate the books out with certainty. The sale made £908 4s 10d.

Characteristic Markings

None of George Digby's books (as opposed to Kenelm's) have been identified.