Ben Jonson

From History of Canterbury Cathedral Library
Jump to: navigation, search

Ben Jonson (1572--1637), poet, critic and dramatist. Books with his inscription and motto are now found in many libraries. McPherson (1974) listed over 200 examples[1] but was unaware of these Canterbury books. Robert Evans has since reported on the holdings of the Folger Library.[2]

Jonson's motto Tanquam Explorator is found in several books in the Cathedral Library. One has an inscription recording that Jonson gave it to William Dakins.

Shelfmark W2/A-2-18
Sir Thomas More. Omnia, quae hucusque ad manus nostras peruenerunt, Latina Opera: quorum aliqua nunc primum in lucem prodeunt, ... 1566.
Inscriptions on title page:
Tanquam Explorator [motto of Ben Jonson]
Sum Ben: Jonsonij Liber.
Amicissimo, et eruditissimo viro Guil. Dakensio. Ben. Jonson D.D.D.
Joanni Blumfeild doctiss[im]o & amiciss[im]o dono dedi amoris causa hunc librum. Guilielmus Dakins.
Shelfmark W/I-6-13
Joannes Goropius. Opera Ioan. Goropii Becani, hactenus in lucem non edita: nempe, Hermathena, Hieroglyphica, Vertumnus, Gallica, Francica, Hispanica. 1580.
Inscription on title page: tanqua[m] Explorator.
Gilt lettering on both boards: C W.
Shelfmark W/I-6-14
Joannes Goropius. Ioan. Goropii Becani Origines Antwerpianae, siue Cimmeriorum Becceselana nouem libros complexa. ... 1569.
Inscription on title page: tanqua[m] Explorator.
Shelfmark W/T-9-25(1)
John Caius. De antiquitate Cantebrigiensis Academiae libri duo. Aucti ab ipso authore plurimùm. ... de Oxoniensis quoque gymnasii antiquitate disseritur ...
London: 1574.
On verso of second free endpaper: Tamquam explorator 1631.
On verso of second free endpaper: Pretium – 4s. the best edition. William Watts. [In a different hand:] A quo pretio quo supra emptus per Williami Somneri.
Inscription on title page: for the nether Diall Chamber. [and lower down:] For the Diall Chamber.


  1. D. McPherson, 'Ben Jonson's library and marginalia: an annotated catalogue', Studies in Philology 71 (1974), 1-106.
  2. Robert C. Evans, 'Ben Jonson's Library and Marginalia: New Evidence from the Folger Collection', Philological Quarterly, 66:4 (1987: Fall) 521–8.
See also
David Pearson, Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook, London: British Library (1994) p. 37.
David Pearson, English book owners in the seventeenth century: A work in progress listing, The Bibliographical Society, Electronic Publications (2007, s.v. Jonson (version cited July 2011)