Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rawlinson, Thomas (1681-1725)
RAWLINSON, THOMAS (1681–1725), bibliophile, born in the Old Bailey in the parish of St. Sepulchre, London, on 25 March 1681, was eldest son of Sir Thomas Rawlinson (1647–1708) [q. v.], by Mary (d. 1725), eldest daughter of Richard Taylor of Turnham Green, Middlesex; Richard Rawlinson [q. v.] was a younger brother. After education under William Day at Cheam, and at Eton under John Newborough, Thomas matriculated at Oxford, from St. John's College, on 25 Feb. 1699; but he left the university in 1701, and studied at the Middle Temple, where he had been entered as early as 7 Jan. 1696 (certificate of admission in Bodleian Library). He was called to the bar on 19 May 1705, and thereupon made a long tour through England and the Low Countries, his travels fostering an already precocious taste for antiquities, manuscripts, and rare books. These, said his brother Richard, he ‘collected in almost all faculties,’ but more particularly ‘old and beautiful editions of the classical authors, and whatever directly or indirectly related to English history.’ Returning to London, Rawlinson devoted himself to the study of municipal law, with a prospect of good practice, but on succeeding to a large estate upon the death of his father in November 1708, his main efforts were directed to amassing books, manuscripts, and, in a lesser degree, pictures. He resided for some years in Gray's Inn, where his accumulation of books compelled him to sleep in a passage. In 1716 he hired London House in Aldersgate Street for the reception of his library; there, ‘among dust and cobwebs and bulwarks of paper,’ he used to ‘regale himself with the sight and scent of innumerable black-letter volumes, arranged in sable garb, and stowed three deep from the bottom to the top of the house’ (Dibdin, Bibliomania, p. 344; an engraving of London House as it stood in 1808 is given in Roberts's Bookhunter in London, 1895, p. 40). He was elected a governor of Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals in 1706, of St. Bartholomew's in 1712, a fellow of the Royal Society on 19 Feb. 1713, and of the Society of Antiquaries in 1724. Rawlinson's sole publication under his own name was a copy of verses in the Oxford University Collection on the death of the Duke of Gloucester in 1700, but he supplied valuable materials to many scholars. He was on intimate terms with Joseph Ames [q. v.], the antiquary; with John Murray, the bibliophile; and with the ‘biblioclast,’ John Bagford [q. v.] Michael Maittaire [q. v.] dedicated his ‘Juvenal’ to him in 1716. Rawlinson frequently lent manuscripts to and otherwise benefited Thomas Hearne, who speaks of him warmly as a fellow Jacobite, a staunch friend, a strenuous upholder of the church, ‘contra fanaticorum rabiem,’ and as the most judicious and industrious of collectors. Hearne's ‘Aluredi Beverlacensis Annales’ (1716) was printed from a manuscript in Rawlinson's collection. Rawlinson married, on 22 Sept. 1724, his servant, Amy Frewin, formerly a maid at a coffee-house in Aldersgate Street, and died without issue at London House on 6 Aug. 1725 (Hist. Regist. Chron. Diary, p. 36). He was buried in St. Botolph's, Aldersgate Street.
Rawlinson's collection of printed books, ‘the largest at that time known to be offered to the public’ (Nichols), was sold in sixteen parts, the first sale beginning on 7 March 1722, the sixteenth and last on 4 March 1734, and each occupying between fifteen and thirty days. Of these sales the first six were arranged for by Thomas himself (though the sixth actually took place after his death), the remainder by his brother Richard. At the last sale (besides eight hundred printed books) were sold Rawlinson's manuscripts, 1,020 in number. The auctioneer was Thomas Ballard; the catalogues, which were compiled in heterogeneous fashion, are now very rare. The Bodleian Library, however, possesses them all, the majority being marked in manuscript with the prices realised, and a few with the purchasers' names as well. A list of these catalogues is given in the ‘Bibliotheca Heberiana.’ In choice Elzevirs and Aldine editions of the classics, Rawlinson's ‘C. & P.’ (collated and perfect) may still often be traced. His collection of Caxtons (which are not noted by Blades) was also superb. Rawlinson's pictures, including a crayon portrait of the collector by his brother Richard, were sold by Ballard at the Two Golden Balls, Hart Street, Covent Garden, on 4 and 5 April 1734. Of the Rawlinson catalogues the enthusiastic Dibdin writes that if ‘all these bibliothecal corps had only been consolidated into one compact, wedge-like phalanx’ (by which he means one thick octavo volume), we should be better able to do homage to the ‘towering spirit’ of this ‘leviathan of book-collectors.’ Addison, who had an antipathy for bibliomaniacs, is supposed to have had Rawlinson in view when (in Tatler, No. 158) he drew his celebrated portrait of ‘Tom Folio,’ a ‘learned idiot—an universal scholar so far as the title-pages of all authors;’ who thinks he gives you an account of an author when he tells you the name of his editor and the year in which his book was printed.
[Rawlinson MS. (Bodl. Libr. J. 4to, 4 pp. 147 b–55); Foster's Alumni Oxoniens. 1500–1714; Hist. Register, 1724 and 1725; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. vol. v. passim, and Lit. Illustr. vol. iii.; Curll's Miscellanea, 1727, i. 67; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Wheatley and Cunningham's London, i. 24, 221; Hearne's Collectanea, ed. Doble (Oxford Hist. Soc.), vols. ii. and iii. passim; Aubrey's Lives, 1813, ii. 93; Gough's British Topogr.; Maittaire's Annales Typographicæ, pp. 128, 374; Roberts's Book-hunter in London, pp. 39, 40; Dibdin's Bibl. 1842, pp. 343–6, containing a full list of the Rawlinson catalogues as derived from Heber; Didot's Nouvelle Biographie Générale.]