Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Agard, Arthur
AGARD or AGARDE, ARTHUR (1540–1615), a distinguished antiquary and deputy-chamberlain in the Exchequer, was descended from an ancient Derbyshire family (Camden, Britannia, ed. Gough, ii. 306), and was born at Foston in 1540. He was probably at one time a ‘scholar of Cambridge,’ but no details are known of his university career (Coles, MS. Athen. Cantab. i. 37). Educated for the law, he became at an early age clerk in the Exchequer; it has been repeatedly stated on Wood's authority that in 1570 he was promoted by Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, the chamberlain of the exchequer, to the office of deputy-chamberlain, and that for forty-five years he continued to fill this position. But his patent of appointment in the Pell office proves conclusively that he succeeded one Thomas Reve in the deputy-chamberlainship on 11 July 1603 (Palgrave, Antient Kalendars of the Exchequer, iii. 451).
Agard's energies were chiefly devoted to preparing catalogues and other aids for succeeding keepers of the rolls, and for students of the state papers at the Tower or at the Palace and Chapter House of Westminster. Three years he spent in making, with the assistance of Sir Walter Cope and Sir Robert Cotton, a catalogue of the records in the Four Treasuries of the Exchequer, as the chief muniment rooms were called, and in drawing up a complete list of all leagues and treaties of peace, of all ‘intercourses’ and marriages arranged between England and other countries down to the end of the sixteenth century. Both these compilations, of which the latter is still of use to the student, were published, shortly after his death, in Powell's ‘Repertorie of Records,’ in 1631, and were reprinted in 1772 by Sir Joseph Ayloffe in his ‘Calendars of Ancient Charters;’ Agard's catalogue of the records was again reissued by the record commissioners in 1836. Many manuscript copies of these works are preserved in the British Museum (Harleian MS. 94; Lansd. MSS. 137 and 799; Addit. MSS. 25, 256). Agard also put together an ‘Abbreviatio Placitorum in Banco Regis, 1272–1307’ (Addit. MSS. 25, 160), and translated the statute as to weights and measures (Harl. MS. 251). Neither of these has been printed, and several transcripts of documents in Agard's handwriting, and stated to have been ‘revised, repaired, and sorted’ by him, are also extant in manuscript (Harl. MSS. 94 and 293). Five folio volumes, containing numerous and valuable extracts from ancient records, some in print and some in manuscript, with charters and deeds of various dates from the Conquest onwards collected by Agard, are now among the Stowe MSS. recently purchased from the Earl of Ashburnham for the British Museum. A few of Agard's manuscripts of like character are in the Ashmolean collection at the Bodleian Library. To the elucidation of the Domesday Book Agard gave especial attention, and prepared a Latin treatise upon it, ‘which,’ an old writer says, ‘if you peruse it, it will ready the searcher for the reading and for the better understanding thereof’ (Powell's Repertorie of Records, p. 133). Its object was to explain obsolete words in the Survey, the etymology of its title, the mode of its compilation, and its general uses. It was printed by Roger Gale as an appendix to his ‘Registrum Honoris de Richmond’ in 1722 (App. I. pp. 1–7). A copy is among the Cottonian MSS. (Vitell. C. ix.).
Agard was probably one of the earliest members, as he was subsequently one of the most active supporters, of a society of antiquaries founded by Archbishop Parker in 1572 (Archæologia, i. iii), and including among its members at a little later date Camden, Selden, Stow, Spelman, and Cotton. All of these, and especially the last, with whom he lived on terms of the utmost intimacy, were friends of Agard and warm admirers of his industry. Camden called him antiquarius insignis (qu. by Wood, Athen. Oxon. ii. ed. Bliss, 427), and Selden referred to him as ‘a man known to be most painful, industrious, and sufficient’ in archæological matters (Titles of Honour, 1614, Index, s.v. ‘Gervasius’). For the meetings of this society Agard prepared many elaborate papers on antiquarian topics. During Easter Term, 1591, he read papers there on the antiquity and privileges of the Houses or Inns of Court, and on the antiquity of shires in this country. In 1599 he discussed the terms defining the dimensions of land in England. Five years later, just before the society dissolved, he explained the diversity of the names of this island, and, about the same time, the authority, office, and privileges of English heralds. None of his writings were printed in his lifetime, but these five essays were published by Thomas Hearne in his ‘Collection of Curious Discourses written by eminent Antiquaries’ (pp. 29–33, 70–81, 100–107, 157–165) in 1720. Another paper, probably read before the same society, on the antiquity of parliament, was printed by Doddridge, with five other antiquarian essays on the question, in a volume on the subject in 1658; and again in 1775, in a later edition of Hearne's ‘Collection’ (pp. 295–9). Other articles, prepared by Agard—on the antiquity of arms in England (2 Nov. 1598), on the antiquity of the christian religion in England, on stewards, on barons, on dukes, on castles, on funeral ceremonies, on epitaphs, on the offices of constable and marshal, on lawful combat, on seals, on sterling money, and on forests and forest laws—were printed for the first time in 1775 in the revised edition of Hearne's ‘Collection,’ and many of them are now among the Harleian MSS. (Harl. MS. 5177, fol. 131 et seq.). A French treatise of apparently greater pretensions is also to be numbered among Agard's contributions to historical literature. It bears the title ‘Aduertissements pur vn Roy ou Prince,’ and was dedicated ‘a haut et puissant Seignr Henry, Prince de Galles,’ the eldest son of James I. From the address to the prince we gather that the work was completed in 1612. It is now preserved in manuscript in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, to which it was probably presented by the son of Sir Adam Newton, Prince Henry's tutor; it has never been printed.
All Agard's original English writings are characterised by a pleasant fluency of style and a careful arrangement of recondite facts; but modern historical scholarship has falsified many of his conclusions, and he made some distinct errors (Archæologia, i. 345, xiv. 164). He must, however, be credited with considerable critical acumen, and the first discovery of the true authorship of the well-known tract, ‘Dialogus de Scaccario,’ which had been erroneously assigned to Gervase of Tilbury, is ascribed to him by both Selden (Titles of Honour, 1614, Index, s.v. ‘Gervasius’) and Madox (Firma Burgi, 1726, Pref.).
Agard died towards the end of August 1615, at the age of seventy-five (Cal. State Papers, 1611–18, p. 305). On the death of his wife in 1611 he caused a monument to be erected to her memory in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, near the Chapter House, and there, where his life was mainly spent, he was buried. His tomb was inscribed with the words ‘Recordorum regiorum hic prope depositorum diligens scrutator’ (Stanley, Memorials of Westminster Abbey, p. 443). He bequeathed eleven of his manuscripts to the Exchequer Office, and the rest to his friend, Sir Robert Cotton. The majority of them have since passed to the British Museum.[Biographia Britannica; Rev. Joseph Hunter, in S.D.U.K. Biog. Dict.; Archæologia, i. vii; Wood, Athen. Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 427–8; Rymer's Fœdera, xvi. 497; Lysons's Magna Britannia, v. 253; Bolton Corney on Rose's Dictionary, pp. 21–3; Chester's Registers of Westminster Abbey (Harleian Soc.), pp. 110, 112, 151; information from W. Aldis Wright, Esq., of Trinity College, Cambridge, and G. F. Warner, Esq., of the British Museum.]