Lord William Howard (1563-1640)

Lord William Howard was the younger son of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, executed by Queen Elizabeth for treason. After his father's death William was placed under the guardianship of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and, following in his footsteps, entered St John's in 1577. In the 1580s Howard embraced Catholicism and was twice incarcerated in the Tower of London. During his second stay he was imprisoned with Nicholas Roscarrock, a noted antiquary, and this may have influenced his subsequent development as an antiquary and collector of manuscripts and books. His main residence was at Naworth Castle in Cumberland, where he entertained William Camden and other notable scholars, whilst also making his mark on Border politics by pacifying the Reivers and enforcing local justice. He died in Greystoke, Cumberland, to which he had fled through fear of a Scottish army.

Howard's gift to the Library

Although Howard had a notable collection of important illuminated manuscripts, his library was dispersed on his death, and none of these ended up at St John's. The books the College does have come from a gift to the value of £100, given in 1629. It is unclear whether he gave the books or simply the money to buy them, although the former seems more likely, as there is reference to a courier delivering books from Howard in the College rentals. There are some 50 items bearing his mark in the Library, mostly works of the Church Fathers and other theological works printed in the early 17th century. His stamp also appears on some classical editions of the same period, as well as on a copy of Sir Richard Whitborne's A discourse and discouery of New-found-land (1622).

Provenance markings

Howard's books all bear his crest of a lion, flanked by his initials, stamped on both covers. On some volumes this was quite clearly stamped in silver, and it may be that this was the case on all of them, the silver leaf having subsequently tarnished or disintegrated.