Thomas Comber 1645-1699

From Book Owners Online

Thomas COMBER 1645-1699

Biographical Note

Born at Westerham, Kent, son of James Comber, a freeman of the Cutlers’ Company of London. His early years were overshadowed by privations which his royalist family suffered during the Civil War and Interregnum. BA Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge 1663, DD 1678. Curate at Stonegrave, Yorkshire 1663, chaplain to the Thornton family at East Newton Hall 1665, rector of Stonegrave 1669. Prebendary of York 1677, rector of Thornton-le-Dale 1679, precentor of York 1683, Dean of Durham 1691, chaplain in ordinary to William and Mary 1692.

Comber’s reputation was forged through his publications, both devotional and polemical. He wrote numerous tracts during the 1670s and 80s in support of the established Church, but is best remembered for his commentary on the Book of Common Prayer, A companion to the temple (1672-76, and subsequently issued in expanded versions).


Comber’s extant letters contain many references to obtaining and passing on books, and to his links with members of the London book trade. Both at York, and at Durham, he was closely involved with the cathedral libraries. As precentor at York, he undertook an extensive reorganisation of the Library, following the bequest of books from Archbishop Dolben; he reordered and catalogued the books, created a donors’ book, began a loan register and possibly initiated a purchase fund. He was Dean at Durham at the time of the completion of work to turn the monastic Refectory there into a library (a project began by Dean Sudbury, d.1685), and his diary includes references to moving the books into the new space in 1696, with the help of the librarian.

In his will, Comber directed that all his books should be given to his eldest son William, provided he entered the ministry, and on condition that his younger son (Thomas) be given £50, or books to the value of £60. This suggests a total collection valued at more than £120. If Thomas became a priest, and William did not, the conditions were to be reversed; if neither did, the books were to be divided equally between them, with £10 worth of books given to each of their sisters. Both sons matriculated at Oxford shortly after their father’s death but their subsequent career is [not recorded in Foster]. Examples: Marsh’s Library, Dublin K.2.5.1.