Charles Otway (d. 1721)
Although Charles Otway gave one of the largest collections to the Library very little is known about him. He was born in Fareham, Hampshire, son of Sir John Otway, who was at various times a Fellow of St John's, Vice-Chancellor of the County Palatine of Lancaster and Chancellor of Durham, and who gave £100 for the building of Third Court at St John's. Charles attended Sedbergh School in Cumbria, was admitted to Gray's Inn in 1671, studied at St John's and gained his BA in 1674-5. His MA followed in 1678, and his LL.D. in 1688. He was a Fellow of St John's from 1677 until his death in 1721.
Otway's gift to the Library
Although Otway left several books to St John's between 1683 and 1685, his main donation to the Library was a vast collection of several thousand pamphlets, mainly concerning the theological and political debates of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, such as the Bangorian Controversy surrounding Benjamin Hoadly, and the impeachment of Henry Sacheverell. His collection also includes a wide variety of sermons, poetry, descriptions of trials, etc. These are all bound up in an apparently random fashion. A sample of some of the more disparate items might include the following:
- an English translation of Hymnus tabaci (1651), a
"poem in honour of tobacco".
- Thomas Fuller's work on the crusades with its lively frontispiece, Historie of Holy warre (3rd ed., 1647).
- a contemporary tract on the Scottish Darien Expedition, A defence of the Scots settlement at Darien, (1699).
- a first edition of one of Berkeley's key philosophical works, An essay towards a new theory of vision (1709).
It is not always immediately obvious which volumes came from Otway. Often his large, distinctive signature is to be found somewhere in a volume, but because these are made up of various pamphlets, this may not be in a prominent location, but secreted away halfway through, and frequently only partially present due to trimming. The few volumes which he gave prior to his death (over the period 1683-85) bear a book label, and a fuller inscription.