William Hewer 1642-1715

From Book Owners Online

William HEWER 1642-1715

William Hewer's bookplate (British Museum Franks Collection *282)

Biographical Note

Born in London, son of Thomas Hewer, stationer. His uncle was a navy secretary during the Interregnum and via his influence, Hewer was hired by Samuel Pepys as his clerk and servant in the Navy Office in 1660. This flourished into a successful and lifelong professional, and friendly relationship; while working for Pepys through the 1660s, Hewer gradually developed his own fortune and standing, and he became chief clerk to the Admiralty in 1673. He was trading with the East India Company by 1669, and advancing personal finance for shipbuilding in 1674; he held numerous naval posts and positions during the 1670s and 80s, was master of the Clothworkers' Company in 1686-7, and was MP for Yarmouth in 1685. Declining the oaths to William and Mary, his public service career ended in 1688, but he remained a successful businessman, with directorships in the East India Company and an estimated wealth in 1702 of £24,000. Pepys took over Hewer's house at York Buildings; in 1688 Hewer moved to Clapham, where Pepys moved towards the end of his life.


Hewer was the custodian of Pepys's library from 1702, when it moved into Clapham, until the end of his life; he was one of the trustees, in Pepys's will, with responsibility for determining its long-term future as an entire collection to be given to "one of our universities". He also had his own books, although we do not know the size of his library; his will has no specific reference to books, but left all the residue of his estate in trust for the benefit of his main heir, his godson Hewer Edgley. The bookplate he commissioned in 1699 from the engraver William Jackson (Franks 14623/*282) is one of the earliest bookpile design bookplates used in England. Hewer's library was sold by retail sale in London, beginning 23 April 1730, together with the books of Thomas Hobart 1668/9-1728 and John Hancocke.

Characteristic Markings

Hewer's bookplate incorporates a monogram of the letters of his name.


  • Alston, R. C., Inventory of sale catalogues ... 1676-1800, St Philip, 2010.
  • A catalogue of the libraries of the late Honourable William Hewer ... Thomas Hobart ... and the Reverend John Hancocke, [London, 1730], ESTC t58303.
  • Gambier Howe, E. R. J. Franks bequest: catalogue of British and American book plates bequeathed to the ... British Museum. London, 1903.
  • Knighton, C. S. "Hewer [Ewers], William (1642–1715), naval administrator." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Lee, B. N. Bookpile bookplates, London, 1992, no.93.
  • Loveman, K. Samuel Pepys and his books, Oxford, 2015.
  • Tomalin, C. Samuel Pepys: the unequalled self, London, 2002.