William Dowsing 1596-1668
William DOWSING 1596-1668
Born Laxfield, Suffolk, son of a farmer. Became a yeoman-farmer himself, first in Coddenham, subsequently in Stratford St Mary (both in Suffolk). He was “a godly middling-sort puritan: a man of comfortable means, uncertain social status [but] educated, well read” (Morrill). During 1643-44 he was appointed a parliamentary commissioner for removing monuments and images from churches in East Anglia; his detailed account of the work he carried out, which survives, has been much valued and analysed by historians.
Dowsing had an appreciable personal library, of which ca.25 volumes are known today, including a set of 161 Civil War sermons bound in 6 volumes. Known contents are largely theological, political, historical. He bequeathed his books to his eldest son, who sold them to a London bookseller in the 1690s, when the collection was dispersed. Examples: British Library Ames I/595, II/590 (titlepages only); Aberystwyth University Library RBR* BS1305.R7 Qto (Rogers, Commentary, 1615); Ipswich Town Library King 654/6E; Maggs 1272 (1999)/64.
Dowsing regularly wrote his name on titlepages, together with a numerical code showing the date of acquisition and the date of reading, sometimes the price paid. An extensive annotator, regularly noting biblical textual references and personal reactions to what he read.
- Epstein, N., William Dowsing breaker of idols and marker of books.
- Hines, Bill, "Bad hair day" at Bury Assizes - an iconoclast's tale, Library and Information History Group Newsletter Winter 2016, 4-6.
- Maggs (catalogues of the London booksellers Maggs bros) 1272 (1999)/64; 1324 (2002)/37.
- Morrill, J. William Dowsing, the bureaucratic puritan in J. Morrill et al (eds), Public duty and private conscience in seventeenth-century England, Oxford, 1993, 173-203.
- Morrill, John. "Dowsing, William (bap. 1596, d. 1668), iconoclast." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Roberts, D. Additions to the library of William Dowsing, electronic British Library Journal,2013, article 10.
- Roberts, D., William Dowsing reads a plague sermon, New College Notes 13.