Parsons, William (1658-1725?) (DNB00)


PARSONS, WILLIAM (1658–1725?), chronologer, born at Langley, Buckinghamshire, in 1658, was the younger son of William Parsons, who was created a baronet by Charles II on 9 April 1661. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Laurence Parsons, knight. He matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 28 April 1676, and having entered the 1st regiment of foot-guards as ensign in 1682, he was promoted captain in 1684, and obtained the rank of lieutenant-colonel 15 June 1687. In 1695 he was acting lieutenant-colonel of Colonel Tollemache's regiment of foot (now the 5th Northumberland fusiliers). Parsons married the daughter of Sir John Barker of Grimston Hall, Suffolk, and died without issue, probably about 1725.

He published two works of some utility: 1. ‘A New Book of Cyphers … wherein the whole Alphabet (twice over), consisting of Six Hundred Cyphers, is variously changed, interwoven, and reversed. The whole engraved,’ obl. 4to, London, 1703. The object of this manual of monograms was mainly, it would appear, to assist the labours of coachbuilders, carvers, and designers, but it was also addressed to the general public, and the letterpress is engraved in both French and English. 2. ‘Chronological Tables of Europe. From the Nativity of our Saviour to the year 1703. Engraven on forty-six copper-plates. Licensed 10 Nov. 1689. Robert Midgley,’ obl. 12mo, London. The first impression known appears to be that of 1707. An eighth edition appeared in 1718. This work, which was regarded in its day as an invaluable vade mecum by the young student, was dedicated to Charles, marquis of Worcester, son of the Duke of Beaufort. It seems to have been derived with but slight modification from Guillaume Marcel's ‘Tablettes Chronologiques,’ Paris, 1682. There are also attributed to Parsons in the British Museum Catalogue ‘The Tent of Darius Explain'd,’ from the French of Félibien, 1703, fol., and, with Thomas Tuttell, ‘Proposals for a New Pair of Globes,’ s. sh. fol. n.d.

To some copies of the ‘Chronological Tables’ is prefixed a small portrait of Parsons, in an oval, engraved by Gribelin, after Berchet.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, p. 401; Collins's and Wotton's Baronetages; Noble's Continuation of Granger, i. 276; Dalton's Army List, i. 295, 315, 325, 328; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.