John Rastrick 1650-1727

From Book Owners Online

John RASTRICK 1650-1727

Biographical Note

Born at Heckington, Lincolnshire, son of John Rastrick, a yeoman and fellmonger, and his wife Ellen. He received his earlier education from several local ministers as well as attending a school in Great Hale, Grantham Free School, and Sleaford Free School. He matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1667; BA 1671, MA 1674. He was curate at Wyberton, Lincolnshire in 1672, and ordained in 1673, becoming vicar of Kirton, but left the Church of England in 1687, and became minister to a nonconformist congregation in Spalding from 1688 to 1697. Thereafter he moved outside the county of his birth, first as a minister in Rotheram and then as Presbyterian pastor in King’s Lynn, where he settled in 1701. Married 1. Jane Wilson; 2. Mary Harrison; 3. Elizabeth Horn. ‘A narrative; or an historical account of the most materiall passages in the life of John Rastrick…’, a manuscript autobiography mainly written ca.1713 (now in the Huntington Library), is summarised by its editor as ‘a pearl of nonconformist writing and a treasure trove of information about religion, politics, and culture in the half-century after the Restoration’.


Rastrick’s ‘Narrative’ highlights the importance of books in his life from an early age, when his father bought only ‘very small and cheap ones’. Before university he ‘as yet had very few Books’ but a gift of ‘2 or 3 half Crowns’ enabled him to buy more; the ‘Narrative’ details a few divinity items acquired. It would seem that by 1669 he had assembled a somewhat more substantial library: when a fire was burning down part of the family property that year ‘all my care’ was for the books, and he filled a sack with ‘as many of the best of them as I could’, but there were far too many for all to be rescued. Back at Cambridge in 1670 he set aside a ‘little stock of money’ left him by his mother, for book purchases, in particular works by Richard Baxter, a great influence on him. But in reviewing the course of his studies he perhaps spoke for most book owners: ‘I was not able (morally speaking) to buy so many Books as I desired, and after which I had so great a thirst’.

Rastrick bequeathed to his son William ‘all my Books manuscripts mathematicall instruments Tellescopes Double Barometer and all other things whatosever of that kind found in my study and parler adjoining Shelves Drawers Cases &c’. This was on the condition that William continue as a minister and preacher, conforming or otherwise; were that not to be the case, Rastrick enjoined that ‘my said Library’ should not be auctioned or sold to booksellers, but ‘disposed of to raise a publick library’ for dissenting ministers in Norwich, to be added to their stock and with duplicates sold to raise more money for books. In the event, William did take over as preacher to the King’s Lynn Presbyterian congregation, and so would have inherited the library.