“Honest Tom Martin of Palgrave” (1773)

MARTIN (Thomas)

Bibliotheca Martiniana. A Catalogue of the Entire Library of the Late Eminent Antiquary Mr. Thomas Martin, of Palgrave, in the County of Suffolk. Containing some Thousand Volumes in every Language, Art and Science, a large Collection of the scarcest early Printers, and some Hundreds of Manuscripts... Which will begin to be sold very cheap, on Saturday June 5, by Martin Booth and John Berry, Booksellers, At their Warehouse in the Angel-Yard, Market-Place, Norwich, and continue on Sale only Two Months...

Published: [Norwich?]

Date: 1773

[ii],177,[1]pp., cont. ownership signature [Mr Wm. Durant?] in ink at head of title page, some old light damp-staining and browning running through the text, but unobtrusive, tipped-in is a slip with some related jottings in ink, expertly rebound in half calf in a contemporary style, marbled boards, red morocco label lettered in gilt, listing some 4895 items with printed prices.

ESTC locates just 3 copies (L; O; SCmH).

Thomas Martin (1697-1771), born at Thetford in the Free School House of St. Mary’s parish. Martin was largely self-taught, for many years he was the only pupil at the Thetford Free School and left to his own devices, where he took an early interest in antiquities. When Peter Le Neve visited Thetford in 1710, he sought a guide to the many antiquities of the town, he was told that no-one knew more than thirteen-year old Master Martin and here began a close friendship which was to have a far-reaching affect on the direction of Norfolk historiography for the remainder of the century. In 1723 Martin left Thetford and settled in Palgrave, Suffolk. When Peter Le Neve died in 1729, Martin, having been appointed one of the executors, set about helping Le Neve’s young widow in sorting the enormous library that had been assemble by her husband. The collection was particularly strong in Norfolk and Suffolk material, Richard Gough describing the Norfolk portion as “the greatest fund of antiquities for his native county that ever was collected for any single one in the kingdom”. It was during this time that their relationship grew and they eventually married in January 1732, soon afterwards the couple moved with the collection to Martin’s home in Palgrave. His continuing obsession with collecting printed books, manuscripts historical antiquities of all kinds, eventually took their toll on his fortune. By 1769 his financial embarrassments obliged him to dispose of his coin collections and many of his books, enriched with manuscript notes, to Thomas Payne. On his death in 1771, John Worth, a local chemist from Diss, purchased the remaining library with all other collections for 660 pounds, a fraction of their true value. The printed books were immediately sold to Booth & Berry of Norwich for £330; they in turn then produced this fixed price catalogue, which marked up to more than £2,000. The catalogue covers all the learned subjects, with an emphasis on British history. It also contains a substantial numbers of books in French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, Saxon, Arabic and Hebrew. There is section described as “Black letter books” which includes British and European incunabula, with the works of de Worde and Pynson's presses well represented. Thomas Martin had supplied information from these books for both Joseph Ames and William Herbert for respective their editions of the ‘Typographical Antiquities’.


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