Arthur Charlett 1655-1722

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Arthur CHARLETT 1655-1722

Charlett's bookplate (British Museum Franks Collection 5614)

Biographical Note

Born at Shipton, Gloucestershire, son of Arthur Charlett, rector of Collingbourne Ducis, Wiltshire. BA Trinity College, Oxford 1673, MA 1676, fellow 1680, BD 1684, DD 1692, the year in which he became master of University College, Oxford. He became much involved in university affairs, and politics, and had a reputation as a gossip and a place-seeker; he was also, however, supportive of many contemporary scholars such as Humphrey Wanley and George Hickes. He became vicar of Hambleden, Buckinghamshire in 1707 and was a royal chaplain 1697-1717. He was an active delegate of the University Press, but published little himself.


Charlett assembled an extensive library and he is noted as the commissioner of the first bookpile bookplate to have been made in Britain (Franks 5614); it was designed by Samuel Pepys, who was approached with the request by Charlett in 1698. He died intestate and part of his library was sold to an Oxford bookseller for 500 guineas, before being auctioned in London, beginning 24 August 1723. No catalogue survives, but the sale was advertised in the Evening Post as "a collection of very valuable books in most languages and faculties, consisting of near 4000 volumes". Many of Charlett's books, however, rather than being auctioned off, remained at University College and now form part of the Browne Library (which is fully searchable on Oxford's SOLO). This seems to have been a result of the mastership dispute that followed Charlett's death. When the Browne Library was catalogued, starting in around 2002, Charlett's plate was found underneath many of Browne's book labels. There are some manuscript hand lists remaining in the Library at University College, which are in the process of being transcribed so they can be compared to the books in the Browne Library. More information can be found by searching the University College website for 'Arthur Charlett'. His collection of coins and medals was sold separately, and his papers went to his nephew Thomas Rawlins (these were later given to the Bodleian Library).