Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bagford, John

BAGFORD, JOHN (1650–1716), 'shoemaker and biblioclast,' was born in St. Anne's parish, Blackfriars, and brought up as a shoemaker. Like many of his craft, he had a turn for literature and general information, and in process of time became a collector of books on commission for booksellers and amateurs. In the exercise of his vocation he formed the two collections for which he is chiefly remembered, the 'Bagford Ballads,' which, by rescuing so many curious broadside ditties from destruction, has entitled him to the gratitude of all antiquaries and lovers of old English verse, and the enormous collection of title-pages and other fragments in sixty-four volumes folio, which has procured him the no less emphatic maledictions of all who object to the mutilation of books. 'He was,' says Dibdin, 'the most hungry and rapacious of all book and print collectors, and in his rage he spared neither the most delicate nor the most costly specimens.' His ravages were perpetrated under the idea that he was amassing materials for the history of printing, proposals for which were published in 1707, but which he would have been quite incompetent to write. He was, however, diligent and honest, and, according to Hearne, possessed a great knowledge of paper and binding. He was one of the revivers of the Society of Antiquaries, and a valuable letter from him on the antiquities of London is printed in the first volume of Leland's Collectanea. He himself exercised printing on a small scale. In his latter days he was admitted into the Charterhouse, and died on 15 May 1716. His collections were purchased after his death by Lord Oxford, and came eventually into the British Museum. 'The Bagford Ballads, illustrating the last years of the Stuarts,' were edited for the Ballad Society by the Rev. J. W. Ebsworth, 2 vols., Hertford, 1878; and other pieces referring to the periods of the Civil War, Commonwealth, and Restoration have appeared in others of Mr. Ebsworth's reprints. Some have been included in Mr. Chappell's editions of the Roxburghe Ballads.

[Dibdin's Bibliomania, pp. 430-37; Blades's Enemies of Books.]

R. G.