Abraham Farley (?1712-1791) was a lifelong civil servant, who was appointed deputy chamberlain of the Exchequer in 1736, and soon became involved with the public records at the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey. First amongst these was Domesday Book, of which Farley became custodian, granting visiting antiquaries access to the Book and making transcripts for a fee. In 1753 he was approached by Philip Carteret Webb to make a transcript from Domesday Book; this he did, and, perhaps in return for Webb’s help in raising awareness of Domesday’s importance, waived the usual fee – two years later Webb’s paper on the Book was read to the Society of Antiquaries of London.
In later life Farley was to produce the first printed edition of Domesday Book, which was then much in demand. Following a Parliamentary order in 1767, Farley was appointed co-editor of the Domesday printing project in 1770, alongside Charles Morton of the British Museum.
In his Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, the printer John Nichols remarked that Morton and Farley’s relationship was characterised by rivalry and mistrust. Farley, whom Nichols called "of all men the properest person for so important a trust", due to his "long and intimate acquaintance with the original record", evidently considered himself best fitted to produce the landmark work. Farley eventually cut Morton out altogether, pressing ahead with the work with Nichols’ co-operation. Farley received payment to the tune of £2,500 for his services.
Although it seems that he was not otherwise active on the antiquarian scene, Farley’s crucial role in producing the first complete printed edition of Domesday Book is enough to secure his place in history.
- G. H. Martin, "Farley, Abraham (bap. 1712, d. 1791), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008
- E. Hallam, Domesday Book through Nine Centuries, (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1986), p. 134
- Hallam, Elizabeth (1986). Domesday Book through Nine Centuries. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 135–6.
- Jonathan Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century Vol. III (London: Nichols, son, and Bentley, 1812), p. 266
- Condon, M. M.; Hallam, E. M. (1984). "Government Printing of the Public Records in the eighteenth century". Journal of the Society of Archivists 7: 378.
- Condon and Hallam 1984, p. 379.