William Burton 1575-1645

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William BURTON 1575-1645

Biographical Note

Son of Ralph Burton of Lindley, Leicestershire, and elder brother of Robert Burton, the author of The anatomy of melancholy. BA Brasenose College, Oxford 1594; admitted to the Inner Temple 1593, where he became a Barrister in 1603. Soon afterwards he retired to his estate at Fauld, Staffordshire; he inherited the Lindley estate from his father in 1619. He devoted himself extensively to antiquarian studies, working with Sampson Erdeswicke, and in regular correspondence with other key scholars of the time, like Sir Robert Cotton and John Selden; his Description of Leicestershire (1622) was an early milestone in the compilation and publication of county histories.


The extent and disposition of Burton's library are not known, though he assembled significant antiquarian collections and is bound to have had many books; some with his inscription are found in Robert Burton’s library. He gave the original manuscript of John Leland's Itinerary and Collectanea to the Bodleian Library in 1632.


  • Cust, Richard. "Burton, William (1575–1645), antiquary." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Kiessling, N. The library of Robert Burton, 1988.
  • Macray, W. D. Annals of the Bodleian Library. 2nd edn, Oxford, 1890, 75.