Griffin Higgs 1589-1659

From Book Owners Online

Griffin HIGGS 1589-1659

Biographical Note

Born at Stoke Abbas, Oxfordshire, son of a yeoman farmer. BA St John’s, Oxford 1610; fellow of Merton, 1611, MA 1615. Vicar of Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire 1625-30, of Cliffe-at-Hoo, Kent 1630-44 (but not resident there); spent most of the late 1620s and 1630s in the Netherlands as Chaplain to Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, living in exile there. Returned to England in 1638 when made Dean of Lichfield, which he had to leave after the military action there in 1643. He was deprived of his preferments and compounded for his estates in 1646; shortly afterwards he returned to Stoke Abbas where he spent the rest of his life. Theologically, he seems to have been moderate in his Protestantism.


Acquired books throughout his career, including during his time in the Netherlands; there is surviving correspondence from the 1630s between Higgs and the London bookseller Andrew Crooke, about supplying books for himself and for Dutch friends. His library was removed from Lichfield in 1647 and most of it was stored by others, mainly in Stafford, for the rest of Higgs’s life. He bequeathed all his books to Merton College (with the proviso that they could exchange duplicates), along with £50 to buy books to Merton and St John’s, and £100 to the Bodleian Library. He also endowed the post of Librarian at Merton. The books did not arrive at Merton until 1665 or later and over 650 survive today, although this may not be his whole collection. They are mostly plainly bound in leather or vellum. Around half are British imprints; the subject breakdown is about 37% theology, 33% history and politics, 8% classics, 7% medicine and astrology, 5% law and political theory, 10% miscellaneous other categories (there is a more detailed analysis in Morrish, Dr Higgs and Merton College Library). Examples: in Merton College Library.

Characteristic Markings

Higgs did not usually inscribe or mark his books and their identification relies mainly on later inscriptions by Merton librarians, noting the book as being from Higgs’s bequest.


  • Bancroft, Pat. "Higgs, Griffith [Griffin] (bap. 1589, d. 1659), dean of Lichfield and book collector." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Morrish, P. Dr. Higgs and Merton College Library, Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society (Lit and Hist section) 21 pt 2 (1988), 131-201.
  • Morrish, P. Bibliotheca Higgsiana: a catalogue of the books of Dr. Griffin Higgs, Oxford Bibliographical Society (Occasional Publication) 22, 1990.