Henry Coventry 1617/8-1686

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Henry COVENTRY 1617/8-1686

Biographical Note

Henry and William Coventry, whose libraries were sold together, were the 4th and 5th sons of Thomas Coventry, 1st Baron Coventry. Henry graduated BA at Queen’s College, Oxford 1633; fellow of All Souls 1634, MA 1636, BCL 1638. He was admitted to the Inner Temple, 1633. He spent most of the 1640s and 50s on the continent, where he was a captain in the Dutch army in the 1650s. He returned to England in 1660 and became MP for Droitwich in 1661. He became increasingly involved in government affairs, holding various court and ambassadorial appointments, and became secretary of state for the northern department in 1672. He was heavily involved in parliamentary work throughout the 1670s, where he was generally noted for honest dealing; he resigned the secretaryship, on the grounds of ill health, in 1680.


The libraries of both brothers were sold together by auction in London, by William Cooper, 9.5.1687. The layout of the sale catalogue, with two sequences by format and subject, suggests that the two were catalogued and presented discretely. Assuming that the order in the catalogue follows that of the titlepage, Sir William’s collection comprised 1231 lots, and Henry’s 859. These were broken down as follows: Sir William, Latin books 274; French, Italian and other continental languages 489; English 468 (plus a quantity of bound and unbound pamphlets). Henry, Latin books 249, French, Italian etc 204, English 406. The catalogue claimed that “these books are in very good condition as to their binding, being most of them curiously bound and gilt back, and many of the books of maps in colours”.

Characteristic Markings

None of these books have been identified.


  • Alston, R. C., Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
  • A catalogue of books, of the several libraries of … Sir William Coventry, and … Henry Coventry, London, 1687, ESTC r16392.
  • Handley, Stuart. '"Coventry, Henry (1617/18–1686), politician."' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • McKitterick, D., Cambridge University Library: a history, vol. 2, Cambridge, 1986, 116.