Thomas Hearne (antiquarian)

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Thomas Hearne
Thomas Hearne.jpg
Portrait of Hearne, taken from “The Life Of Anthony à Wood” by Anthony Wood (1772)
BornJune 1678
White Waltham, Berkshire, England
Died10 June 1735(1735-06-10) (aged 56–57)
Alma materSt Edmund Hall, Oxford
Occupation(s)Editor, antiquary

Thomas Hearne or Hearn (Latin: Thomas Hearnius, July 1678 – 10 June 1735) was an English diarist and prolific antiquary, particularly remembered for his published editions of many medieval English chronicles and other important historical texts.


Hearne was born at Littlefield Green in the parish of White Waltham, Berkshire, the son of George Hearn, the parish clerk. Having received his early education from his father, he showed such taste for study that a wealthy neighbour, Francis Cherry of Shottesbrooke (c. 1665–1713), a celebrated nonjuror, interested himself in the boy, and sent him to the school at Bray "on purpose to learn the Latin tongue". Soon Cherry took him into his own house, and his education was continued at Bray until Easter 1696 when he matriculated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.[1]

At the university, he attracted the attention of Dr John Mill (1645–1707), the principal of St Edmund Hall, who employed him to compare manuscripts and in other ways. Having taken the degree of B.A. in 1699 he was made assistant keeper of the Bodleian Library, where he worked on the catalogue of books, and in 1712 he was appointed second keeper. In 1715 Hearne was elected Architypographus and Esquire Bedell in civil law in the university, but objection having been made to his holding this office together with that of second librarian, he resigned it in the same year.[1]

A nonjuror himself, he refused to take the oaths of allegiance to King George I, and early in 1716 he was deprived of his librarianship, and "he was, in fact, locked out of the library".[2] However, he continued to reside in Oxford, and occupied himself in editing the English chroniclers. Hearne refused several important academic positions, including the librarianship of the Bodleian and the Camden professorship of ancient history, rather than take the oaths. He died on 10 June 1735.[1]

The readers of Hearne's works were devoted to them because of the depth of scholarship. He corresponded, for example, with Dr Henry Levett, an early English physician and medical doctor at Charterhouse, London. In November 1715, indicating the devotion of Hearne's readers, he reminded Dr Levett that "you formerly desired to be a subscriber for every Thing I published. I have accordingly put you down for one copy of Acts of the Ap. in Capitals".[3]


Hearne's most important work was done as editor of many of the English chronicles, and until the appearance of the Rolls Series his editions were in some cases the only ones existent. Some have praised them for being well prepared and sourced.[1]

Among the most important of a long list are:

He also edited:

He brought out editions of:

Among his other compilations were:

  • Ductor historicus, a Short System of Universal History (1698, 1704, 1705, 1714, 1724)
  • A Collection of Curious Discourses by Eminent Antiquaries (1720)
  • Reliquiae Bodleianae (1703).

Hearne left his manuscripts to William Bedford, who sold them to Dr Richard Rawlinson, who in his turn bequeathed them to the Bodleian. Two volumes of extracts from his voluminous diary were published by Philip Bliss (Oxford, 1857), and afterwards an enlarged edition in three volumes appeared (London, 1869). A large part of his diary entitled Remarks and Collections, 1705–1714, edited by C. E. Doble and D. W. Rannie, has been published by the Oxford Historical Society (1885–1898). Bibliotheca Hearniana, excerpts from the catalogue of Hearn's library, was edited by Beriah Botfield (1848).[1]

Hearne's work in publishing these old manuscripts was not appreciated by all: Alexander Pope dismisses them as unappealing and "monkish" in An Epistle to Burlington and satirises Hearne as the pedant Wormius in The Dunciad, dropping into mock-Old English to do so. This in turn led Hearne in his diary to insult Pope's lack of scholarship.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ Shugrue, M. (1966). "The "Urry Chaucer" (1721) and the London Uprising of 1384: A Phase in Chaucerian Biography". The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. 65: 232.
  3. ^ Remarks and Collections of Thomas Hearne, Thomas Hearne, David Watson Rannie, Charles Edward Doble, Herbert Edward Salter, Printed for the Oxford Historical Society at the Clarendon Press, 1901
  4. ^ Ramsay, Nigel. "Sprott, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26183. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Rogers, Pat (2004). The Alexander Pope Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. pp. 154–5. ISBN 978-0-313-32426-0. OCLC 607099760.


  • Impartial Memorials of the Life and Writings of Thomas Hearn by several hands (1736)
  • William Dunn Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library (1890).
  • Hearne's autobiography in W. Huddesford's Lives of Leland, Hearne and Wood (Oxford, 1772)
  • Frederic Ouvry's Letters addressed to Thomas Hearn, privately printed (London, 1874)

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