Joseph Hall 1574-1656

From Book Owners Online

Joseph HALL 1574-1656

Biographical Note

Born at Bristow Park, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, son of John Hall, bailiff of the town. BA Emmanuel College, Cambridge 1593 (his university education was interrupted by financial constraits), fellow 1595, MA and university lecturer in rhetoric 1596, BD 1603, DD 1610. Rector of Hawstead, Suffolk 1601, of Waltham Cross 1607, prebendary of Wolverhampton 1610, Dean of Worcester 1616. He became a chaplain to Prince Henry around 1607, accompanied James I to Scotland in 1617, and was a member of the English delegation to the Synod of Dort in 1618. Bishop of Exeter 1627, of Norwich 1641. During the 1630s he was increasingly drawn into political as well as ecclesiastical controversy; as a moderate Calvinist, not in sympathy with Laudian high churchmanship, he was several times accused of supporting puritans but in 1641 he was engaged by Laud to publish a defence of episcopacy, heavily edited by Laud and Matthew Wren (Episcopacie by divine right). It was felt that this would have more weight with Hall's name attached, given his popularity and Calvinist sympathies (the thinking behind his translation to Norwich). In fact he was committed to the Tower in 1642 with other bishops, and although released and allowed to go to Norwich in 1643, he was immediately subject to sequestration, vandalism of the cathedral, and ultimately (1647) expulsion from the bishop's palace. He moved to Higham, Norfolk where he remained for the rest of his life, continuing to preach and ordain according to Anglican rites.

Hall was a prolific author, not only of many works of ecclesiastical and doctrinal controversy, but also of devotional ones which became hugely popular; his Contemplations and Meditations, which he began writing in the early 1600s, went through many editions during his lifetime and beyond, as did his collected works. In his youth he also wrote poems and satires, and he continued to write during his final years at Higham.


We do not know the extent of Hall's library. but it is clear that books were always a key part of his life and in his early years he complained that he was forced to write books to buy books (ODNB). In 1643, as part of his sequestration in Norwich, his books were seized and were exposed in Norwich for sale, but were saved for him by well-wishers and subsequently returned when he found the money to buy them back. In his will, he directed that his fourth son Samuel should receive his library, on condition that his elder brothers Robert and George "whom I know to be well furnished in that kind" first had the choice of 20 books. Robert and George were to receive his sermon notes, with the rest of his manuscripts going to Samuel. He further specified that his "little black trunk" containing "letters of intercourse with foreign divines and some sermons and tractates" should not be "meddled with or disposed" without the oversight and agreement of the three sons.

Characteristic Markings

None of Hall's books have been identified.