Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wilkins, David
WILKINS, DAVID (1685–1745), scholar, was born of Prussian parentage in 1685. His true name was Wilke, which he latinised as Wilkius, and then anglicised into Wilkins, a name already renowned in the person of John Wilkins [q. v.], bishop of Chester. He led for some years the life of a migratory student, visiting Berlin, Rome, Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, Oxford, and Cambridge. Oxford denied him the M. A. degree (23 May 1712); but at Cambridge he was created D.D. in October 1717, and appointed lord almoner's professor of Arabic in 1724. Besides Arabic he was versed in the Hebrew, Chaldaic, Coptic, Armenian, and Anglo-Saxon tongues–a width of erudition purchased by a certain want of accuracy. Wilkins was ordained in the church of England, and found a patron in Archbishop Wake, who made him in 1715 librarian at Lambeth Palace, and rewarded his services with the Kentish rectories of Mongeham Parva (30 April 1716) and Great Chart (12 Sept. 1719), both of which he resigned upon his collation in November 1719 to the rectories of Hadleigh and Monks Eleigh, Suffolk, and the place of joint commissary of the archiepiscopal deanery of Bocking, Essex. In the same year he was appointed (21 Nov.) domestic chaplain to the primate. To these preferments were added the twelfth prebend in the church of Canterbury (26 Jan. 17201721) and the archdeaconry of Suffolk (19 Dec. 1724). On 13 Jan. 1719-20 he was elected F.S.A.
Wilkins died at Hadleigh on 6 Sept, 1745. His remains were interred in the chancel of Hadleigh church. His portrait is in Lambeth Palace library. He married on 15 Nov. 1725, Margaret, eldest daughter of Thomas, fifth lord Fairfax, of Leeds Castle, Kent, by whom he left no issue. She died on 21 May 1750. Her brother Robert (afterwards seventh Lord Fairfax) is supposed to have purchased the greater part of Wilkins's manuscripts. The printed books were dispersed.
Wilkins was librarian at Lambeth for little more than three years; but during that time he improved and completed Gibson's catalogue, and also compiled a separate catalogue of the manuscripts. He contributed the Latin prefaces to Chamberlayne's polyglot edition of the Lord's Prayer, and Tanner's 'Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica' [see Chamberlayne, John and Tanner, Thomas, 1674-1735]. He edited the following works: (1) 'Paraphrasis Chaldaica in Librum Chronicorum,' Amsterdam, 1715, 4to; 'NovumTestamentum Aegyptium,vulgo Copticum,' Oxford, 1710, 4to; 'Leges Anglo-Saxonicae Ecclesiasticae et Civiles; accedunt Leges Edvardi Latinae, Gulielmi Conquestoris Gallo-Normannicae, et Henrici I Latinae. Subjungitur Domini Henrici Spelmanni Codex Veterum Statutorum Regni Angliae quae ab ingressu Gulielmi I usque ad annum nonum Henrici III edita sunt. Toti operi praemittitur Dissertatio Epistolaris G. Nicoleoni de Jure Feudali Veterum Saxonum,' London, 1721, fol.; (2) 'Johannis Seldeni Jurisconsulti Opera omnia tam edita quam inedita,' London, 1725, 1726, 3 vols. fol. (3) 'Quinque Libri Moysis Prophetae in Lingua Aegyptis,' London, 1731, 4to; (4) 'Concilia Magnae Britannia et Hiberniae a Synodo Verolamiensi A.D. 446 ad Londinensem A.D. 1717; accedunt Constitutiones et alia ad Historiam Ecclesiae Anglicanae spectantia,' London, 1737, 4 vols. fol. His sole English publication seems to have been a 'Sermon preached at the Consecration of Thomas [Bowers], Lord Bishop of Chichester,' London, 1722, 4to. He left in manuscript an 'Historical Account of the Church of Hadleigh,' which passed into the possession of his successor in the living, Dr. Tanner, and an 'Historia Ecclesiae Alexandrinae.' As an orientalist Wilkins did laborious pioneer work, and the inaccuracy of his scholarship was largely due to the want of adequate apparatus. His fame rests chiefly upon the 'Concilia,' a magnificent monument of learning and industry, even yet only very partially superseded by Haddan and Stubbs's ' Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents relating to Great Britain and Ireland,' Oxford, 1869-71, 3 vols. 8vo.
[For correspondence of and concerning Wilkins, see Thesaur. Epistol. Lacroz. Leipzig, 1742, 4to; Letters to and from William Nicolson, D.D., ed. Nichols (1809); Addit. MSS. 6185 f. 212, 6190 if. 87, 97, 6468 f. 22, 32415 f. 239, 32556, f. 211, 34265, ff. 160, 164, 166, 168; Bodl. Lib. Tanner MS. xxxiii. f. 55; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. pp. 467-8, App. i. iv.. 8th Rep. App. i. 100, iii. 10, 12, 11th, Rep. App. 191. To the above-mentioned correspondence may be added as authorities: Nichols's Lit. Anecd. and lllustr.; Hearne's Remarks and Collections (Oxford Hist. Soc.); Adelung's Mithridates, i. 664; Zedler's Univ. Lexikon; Hirsching's Hist.-Litt. Handbuch; Russell's Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti, ed. 1863, p. 64; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, iv. 186; Gent. Mag. 1745, p. 502; Chron. List of Soc. of Antiq.; Herald and Genealogist, ed. Nichols, vi. 406; Addit. MS. 19088, f. 166; Pigot's Hadleigh (Lowestoft, 1860), p. 205; New and Gen. Biogr. Dict. ed. Tooke; Biogr. Univ.; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Rose's Biogr. Dict.; Quatremere's Recherches sur la Langue et la Litterature de 1'Egypte, p. 80; Bibl. Topogr. Brit. vol. ii. pt. iv. p. 72; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl.; Allen's History of Lambeth, p. 189, Todd's Cat. of the Archiepiscopal manuscripts in the library at Lambeth Palace, preface; Hasted's Kent (fol.), iii. 251, iv. 143, 622; Morant's Essex, ii. 389; Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual, ed. Bohn; Brit. Mus. Cat.]