John Boys 1571-1625

From Book Owners Online

John BOYS 1571-1625

Boys in his study, as depicted on the titlepage of his Workes, 1622

Biographical Note

Born at Elmton, Kent, son of Thomas Boys, gentleman. BA Corpus Christi College, Cambridge 1590, MA 1593; he then moved to Clare College (BD, 1600, DD 1605). Rector of Betshanger, Kent, and Master of Eastbridge Hospital, Canterbury, 1597; he was given other Kentish livings during the succeeding years. He was made Dean of Canterbury in 1619, and in 1620 a member of the Court of High Commission. Theologically he embraced the pulpit-centred predestinarian Calvinism which was common in the English church around the turn of the 17th century, but he also oversaw the development of musical activity in the Cathedral during his Deanship.

Boys’s reputation was based partly on his preaching but also on his publication of a systematic series of expositions of scriptural passages used in the English liturgy (originally given as sermons). His collected Workes were published in 1622, and a further volume of Remaines in 1631.


Although we have no direct evidence of the size of Boys’s library, and few surviving books are known, evidence of his likely possession of a sizeable collection for his time can be deduced not only from his writings, but also from visual representations. His marble memorial in Canterbury Cathedral depicts him surrounded by books, and the engraved title page to the 1622 Workes includes a vignette of Boys in his study, against a background of bookshelves. Examples: Canterbury Cathedral Library W/H-2-28/29.

Characteristic Markings

Canterbury Cathedral Library W/H-2-28/29, a copy of Henry Ainsworth's Annotations, 1622, has "Jo: Boys Feb. 27 1623" on the flyleaf.