Herbert, William (1771-1851) (DNB00)

HERBERT, WILLIAM (1771–1851), antiquary, was born in 1771. He appears to have lived in London, where he became intimately acquainted with Edward Wedlake Brayley the elder [q. v.], a young man of his own age, whose ardent interest in topographical and antiquarian studies he warmly shared. With Brayley he produced in 1803 a volume of tales and poems, entitled 'Syr Reginalde, or the Black Tower; a romance of the Twelfth Century' (London, 8vo), and in 1806 a history of Lambeth Palace, which he dates from Globe Place, Lambeth. Another edition of the latter work was published for the illustrators in the same year. He was also associated with Robert Wilkinson in producing 'Londina Illustrata,' a sumptuously illustrated account of ancient buildings in London and Westminster (London, 1819-25, 2 vols. 4to). According to the plates of this work he lived at Marsh Gate, Lambeth, in 1808-9.

In 1828 he was elected librarian of the Guildhall Library, which had been recently re-established by the corporation of London. He prepared a second edition of the catalogue in 1840, and retired in 1845. He died, aged 80, on 18 Nov. 1851, at 40 Brunswick Street, Haggerston; he was survived by Eliza Herbert, probably his daughter (certificate of death, registrar-general's office).

Herbert is best known by his 'History of the Twelve great Livery Companies of London,' 1836-7, 2 vols. 8vo, a work of great labour and research, which still remains the principal authority upon the subject. All Herbert's works are lavishly illustrated, and he took great pains to secure accuracy in this respect. Besides the works already mentioned he published: 1. ‘Antiquities of the Inns of Court and Chancery … with a concise history of the English law,’ 1804, 8vo; illustrated. 2. ‘Select views of London and its environs … from original paintings and drawings, accompanied by copious letterpress descriptions’ (by William Herbert), 1804-5, 2 vols. 4to. 3. ‘London before the Great Fire,’ parts 1-2, 1817, folio. In the Guildhall Library is preserved a unique copy of part 3, which contains a manuscript note on the fly-leaf by the author (dated 22 Aug. 1831), stating that it consists of proof-sheets of the letterpress and proof impressions of the plates. 4. ‘Illustrations of the site and Neighbourhood of the new Post Office … with an account of the antient Mourning Bush tavern, &c., Aldersgate, and various London taverns,’ 1830. 8vo. 5. ‘The history and antiquities of the parish and church of St. Michael, Crooked Lane, London; with historical sketches of the Boar's Head tavern, Eastcheap,’ 1831, 8vo; illustrated. This work was published by subscription, and was intended to be finished in six parts, of which only two appeared. 6. ‘School elocution, or the young academical orator,’ 1853, 8vo; published posthumously. 7. Collections, chiefly manuscript, for the history of various London livery companies and of London chantries and monasteries, now preserved in the Guildhall Library.

[Official Records of the Corporation of London; Cat. of Guildhall Library.]

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