Thomas Fuller



John Eglington Bailey, The Life of Thomas Fuller, D.D., with notices of his Books, his Kinsmen, and his Friends, (London, 1874).


Strickland Gibson, ‘A Bibliography of The Works of Thomas Fuller, D.D.’ (with an introduction by Geoffrey Keynes), Proceedings & Papers of the Oxford Bibliographical Society, 4 (1936 [for 1934-5]), 63-161, and NS 1 (1947), 44.


The Poems and Translations in Verse (including fifty-nine hitherto unpublished epigrams) of Thomas Fuller D.D., ed. the Rev. Alexander B. Grosart (Liverpool, 1868).


Despite the enormous productivity of Thomas Fuller, who has been described as ‘one of the busiest and most eagerly inquiring of seventeenth-century authors’, not a single example of his literary or antiquarian manuscripts is known to have survived. His hand is recorded in only a relatively few documents, ranging from his early university subscriptions in the 1620s (FuT 10-12) to a clerical document signed by him not long before his death (*FuT 15).

Fuller is perhaps most widely represented in manuscripts by extracts from his printed works in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century miscellanies, commonplace books and antiquarian compilations, which bear witness to how widely his works were read. A number of examples of these are given entries below.

Printed Works Annotated by Early Readers

By the same account, exempla of Fuller's published works are often found to contain manuscript annotations by early readers, some of them supplying a considerable amount of information to, for instance, Fuller's biographical accounts. Some examples may be listed briefly here:

The Church History of Britain (London, 1655): Exemplum once owned by Judge Samuel Sewell (1652-1730), a member of the Commission at the Salem witch trial in 1692, and with notes by John Hull (1624-83), Treasurer of Harvard College. Now in Boston Public Library, H. 10. 5. Described in Bailey, p. 733.

The Church History of Britain (London, 1655): Exemplum with notes by the antiquary Sir Daniel Fleming (1633-1701). Quaritch's catalogue English Books before 1701 (October 1983), item 185.

The Church History of Britain (London, 1655): Further exempla owned by Increase Mather and others, recorded in Bailey, p. 734.

The History of the Worthies of England (London, 1662): Exemplum with notes by Ralph Thoresby (1658-1725), Yorkshire antiquary and topographer c.1812 (Bodleian, MS Top. Gen. e. 33).

The History of the Worthies of England (London, 1662): Exemplum with notes by Edmond Malone (1741-1812), literary scholar, biographer and book collector, formerly owned by George Steevens (1736-1800), literary editor and scholar, and with a transcript of notes by Ralph Thoresby and by William Oldys (1696-1761), Norroy King of Arms and antiquary. Bodleian, Malone 3. Recorded in Bailey, p. 742).

The History of the Worthies of England (London, 1662): Exemplum owned by Thomas Hearne (1678-1735), Oxford antiquary, and formerly by John Baron (d.1721/2), Master of Balliol College, with notes perhaps by John Arnold (c.1635-1702), politician. Bodleian, MS Rawl. Q. c. 3.

The History of the Worthies of England (London, 1662): Exemplum with notes by Thomas Leigh [? the supplier of one of the maps in Fuller's A Pisgah-sight of Palestine (London, 1650), pp. 154-5]. Sotheby's, 8 November 1983, lot 336, to Blackwell.

The Canon

Fuller's prose works were published under his own name, otherwise there is no collected edition of his voluminous works. Two works, or manuscripts, may be tentatively added to the canon under the category of ‘Works of Uncertain or Doubtful Authorship’ (FuT 7-8).

Otherwise Fuller's only literary works significantly represented in manuscript are his verse epigrams. An extensive series of these first came to light in the 1860s with the discovery of an annotated exemplum, partly made up of page proofs, of Crashaw's Steps to the Temple, a volume associated with Dudley Posthumus Lovelace and containing copies of 59 epigrams by ‘Mr Thomas Fuller’ (FuT 1). A further copy, containing 65 epigrams, came to light in 1901 with the discovery of a miscellany which is now in the Folger (FuT 2).

Fuller's Books and Papers

Fuller's personal library, as well as a number of his papers, suffered to some extent at the hands of Parliamentary ‘sequestrators’ during the Civil War, although, according to the dedication of A Pisgah-sight of Palestine (1650), ‘the greatest part’ was saved through the intervention of Frances Devereux (1599-1674), Marchioness of Hertford (see Bailey, pp. 298-303), and he later benefited from a gift of the remains of the ‘numerous and choice library’ of Lionel Cranfield (1575-1645), first Earl of Middlesex, at Copt Hall, Essex (Bailey, pp. 445-6). Fuller remained acutely sensible of ‘what the loss of a library (especially of Manuscripts) is to a Minister’. Precious few, however, of those books which he did manage to retain can be identified today.

One book apparently presented to William Howell by Fuller while he was rector of Cranford (after 1658) is an exemplum of John Viccars, Decapla in Psalmos (London, 1639), inscribed on a flyleaf ‘Liber Guil Howell Cranfordensis Ex dono Cla[ri] viri Thomæ Fuller T: B: et: ibid: Pastoris reverendi’. This volume is now in the library of Robert S. Pirie, New York.

One other book possibly associated with Fuller is an exemplum of Sebastian Münster's Hebrew and Latin Bible (Basle, [1534?]), which was owned in 1874 by the Rev. H. Moule, Vicar of Fordington, Dorset. It bears the signature ‘Thomas Fuller DD’, which is reproduced in facsimile in Bailey, p. 108. If genuinely by Fuller the author it must date from the last year of his life, after September 1660 when he received his doctorate. It bears, however, no resemblance to Fuller's other known signatures, even granted their variation of style over the years. Its identity therefore remains uncertain.


Numerous other documents of biographical relevance to Fuller, including a series of letters by his uncle John Davenant (1576-1641), Bishop of Salisbury (in the Tanner Manuscripts in the Bodleian), have been cited by his biographers, notably Bailey. They include (Bailey, pp. 582-3) an anecdote of a conversation which took place between Fuller and Izaak Walton which is reported by William Oldys in Biographia Britannica, 7 vols (London, 1747-66), III (1750), 2061. Oldys gives his source as ‘a Medley of diverting Sayings, Stories, Characters, &c. in Verse and Prose, written in Quarto, about the Year 1686, (as it is attested in another hand) by Charles Cotton, Esq; some time in the Library of the Earl of Hallifax’. For some account of Cotton's manuscripts and of the library of the Earl (afterwards Marquess) of Halifax, see the Introductions to those authors above and below. However, that particular manuscript is not known today.

Another manuscript, a quarto of 100 pages written partly by John Nichols c.1812, now in the Bodleian (MS Top. gen. e. 33), is described as ‘Notes in a copy of Fullers Worthies in the handwriting of Mr. Ralph Thoresby [(1658-1725), Yorkshire antiquary and topographer]...copied from the original MS. in the margins of his copy of Fuller now in the possession of Craven Ord, Esq. [(1755-1832), antiquary]’.

Bailey is also the indispensable guide for distinguishing what relates to the church historian from references to various other Thomas Fullers (such as Dr Thomas Fuller (d.1701), of Christ's College, Cambridge, whose ‘Prevaricator speech’ is found in several manuscript copies (see Bailey, pp. 465-8)). Bailey's own interleaved and annotated exemplum of his Life of Fuller is preserved, with many of his other books relating to Fuller, in Manchester Central Library (828.41 B15, B23 and B24), as are his working papers for the book (in six boxes in the Archives Department there, MS f 828.41 B26).

A few other biographical notes on Fuller, by White Kennett (1660-1728), Bishop of Peterborough, are to be found in the British Library (Lansdowne MS 985, f. 270).

Peter Beal