John Birkenhead 1617-1679

From Book Owners Online

Sir John BIRKENHEAD 1617-1679

Biographical Note

Born in Northwich, Cheshire, son of Randall Birkenhead, saddler and alehouse keeper. Matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford 1632: BA 1637, MA 1639, and fellow of All Souls, on the recommendation of Archbishop Laud, for whom he did some transcription work which was well received. Birkenhead was part of the royalist coterie in Oxford in the 1640s, where he became the lead author and editor of Mercurius Aulicus, the weekly newsbook (1643-45) which was influential in shaping public opinion, and a prototype for published political propaganda. He continued to write poems and satires, and after the Restoration was well acquainted with the literary circles of the time. He spent some time in France at the beginning of the Interregnum – he was knighted at St Germains in 1649 – and in 1661 was awarded the DCL degree, and elected MP for Wilton, Wiltshire. He was licenser of the press, 1660-63, and was a founding member of the Royal Society in 1663.


Birkenhead's brief, dictated will has no mention of books, disposing of his goods to friends, charities, and the payment of his debts. Antony Wood refers to his "leaving behind him a choice collection of pamphlets, which came into the hands of his executors Sir Richard Mason and Sir Muddiford Bramston".

Characteristic Markings

None of Birkenhead's books have been identified.