John Arbuthnot 1667-1735

From Book Owners Online

John ARBUTHNOT 1667-1735

Biographical Note

Born in Arbuthnott in Kincardineshire, he was the eldest son of the minister Alexander Arbuthnot and Margaret Lammie. He studied at Marischal College, and after the death of his father in 1691, travelled to London. He became a private tutor, and accompanied his charge to Oxford, where he studied medicine privately, before enrolling at the university of St Andrews in 1696 where he graduated MD. He published extensively on scientific topics, and intervened in contemporary controversies with responses which became known for their satirical tone. Following the treatment of Queen Anne’s husband, he was appointed one of the physicians extraordinary to the queen in 1705, who he served until her death in 1714. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1704, which marked the beginning of a successful career in medicine, including the successful publication of a medical work An essay concerning the nature of aliments (1731), aimed at the general reader.

Arbuthnot was a notable political satirist, and was an intimate friend of Swif with whom he worked on many political pamphlets and poems. In 1712 he published the best-selling political satires the John Bull pamphlets. Arbuthnot was part of the ‘Scriblerus Club’ of Swift, Pope, Parnell, Gay, and Lord Treasurer Oxford. He died in London, and is buried in St James's, Piccadilly.


It seems likely that on his death his library was inherited by his son George, who died, unmarried, in September 1779. Arbuthnot’s library was sold in London by Christie and Ansell on 21st December 1779 over three days. The auction contained 426 lots, though around 20% of the books were printed after 1735, and thus could not have been owned by John Arbuthnot. The majority of his library was in English, with a few books in French and only two in Latin. Literature and medicine were the most well represented subjects.


  • A catalogue of the capital and well-known library of books, of the Late Celebrated Dr. Arbuthnot, deceased; which will be sold by auction, By Mess. Christie and Ansell, at their great room, the Royal Academy, Pall Mall, on Tuesday, December 21, 1779, and to the time of sale (Sunday excepted), which will begin each day exactly at 12 o'clock, London, 1779 ESTC T067306
  • Arbuthnotiana...a catalogue of Dr Arbuthnot's library... ed. P. Kōster, Augustan Reprint Society, 154 (1972)
  • Ross, Angus. "Arbuthnot, John (bap. 1667, d. 1735), physician and satirist." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.