William Harborne ca.1542-1617

From Book Owners Online

William HARBORNE ca.1542-1617

Armorial stamp of William Harborne (British Armorial Bindings).

Biographical Note

Born at Great Yarmouth, son of William Harborne, a merchant and municipal officer there. He began his career in the service of the London merchant Edward Osborne ca.1559, travelling abroad on trade missions; in 1577 he was one of the members of the newly incorporated Spanish Company. In 1578 he was sent to Constantinople as an English agent and negotiator with the Ottoman court to facilitate British trading, and in 1582 was appointed ambassador there, working partly on behalf of the recently formed Turkey Company. After some sometimes difficult but broadly successful years there he returned to England at the end of the 1580s and settled at Mundham, Norfolk, where he raised a family and lived for the rest of his life.


Harborne's record as a book owner rests on the survival of a small number of books with his armorial stamps; two of these are handsome early 17th century engraved books, of flowers and emblems, suggesting a taste for some luxury in books. His will, which distributes extensive holdings of property and money around his family, has no specific mention of books. Examples: British Library C.66.e.1, Cambridge University Library Rel.c.61.5.

Characteristic Markings

Two separate armorial stamps are recorded as having been used by Harborne; neither of the books in the BL or CUL have any inscriptions or annotations by him.