Joseph Williamson 1633-1701
Sir Joseph WILLIAMSON 1633-1701
Born at Bridekirk, Cumberland, son of Joseph Williamson, vicar there. BA Queen's College, Oxford 1654, MA 1657, fellow 1658. Through the patronage of Sir Edward Nicholas he was appointed to a government secretaryship in 1660, which launched him on a successful and wealth-generating administrative career. He became Keeper of the royal library in 1661, and acquired numerous other offices through the 1660s. MP for Thetford 1669-85; fellow of the Royal Society 1663 (President 1677). He was knighted in 1672 and made clerk of the Privy Council ; in 1674 he became Secretary of State. He fell from grace during the Popish Plot and was replaced as Secretary of State in 1679; he spent time during the succeeding years focusing on the family estates, but returned to favour under William III and was involved in diplomatic work in the 1690s.
Williamson accumulated a significant library throughout his lifetime, and maintained contacts with other Queen's men and scholars who he both befriended and patronised (e.g. Thomas Barlow, Thomas Lamplugh). He bequeathed his library of ca.6000 volumes to Queen's, together with £6000 for building work. Most of the books, with manuscript inventories, survive there today; a contemporary list of the library has been fully digitised (see below). A small handful of books with Williamson's armorial stamps are recorded in the Armorials Database. Examples: many in Queen's.
- British Armorial Bindings.
- Birrell, T. Reading as pastime: the place of light literature in some 17th-century gentlemen’s libraries, in R. Myers (ed), Property of a gentleman, Winchester, 1991, 113-131, p.126-7.
- Jabez-Smith, A. R. Joseph Williamson and Thomas Lamplugh, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society 86 (1986), 145-163.
- Marshall, Alan. "Williamson, Sir Joseph (1633–1701), government official." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Digitised version of Williamson's library list, Queen's College MS 44(2).