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Coke, Zacharylocked

(bap. 1618?)
  • Roland Hall

Coke, Zachary (bap. 1618?), logician and lawyer, was the son of Thomas Coke, of Cornwall; he may have been the Zachary Cocke baptized at St Andrew's, Plymouth, on 27 December 1618. Coke was admitted to Gray's Inn on 28 December 1649. Nothing further is known of his life. His book, The Art of Logick, or, The Entire Body of Logick in English, published in 1654, had a second edition in 1657. There was a facsimile reprint in 1969. It is one of the earliest books on logic in English, the first being Sir Thomas Wilson's in 1551, and has received virtually no attention, not being mentioned even in Wilhelm Risse's vast Logik der Neuzeit (2 vols., 1964–70), or in other histories of logic. It comprises three books (1, categories; 2, propositions; 3, syllogism) and further sections on method. Coke is interested in applying logic to theology, giving his examples in religious terms wherever possible. This marks him off from his predecessors in English, to whom he owes an obvious debt, for example Thomas Blundeville (1599) and Alexander Richardson (1629), having in common with them some rare logical words, such as 'contradicent', 'polyzetesis', 'privatively', and with Blundeville in particular the expression 'first intention', and also new senses, for instance, the 'foundation' (of a relation), a use not discovered earlier than in Blundeville, and 'simply' (of conversion). Some influence of the translation (1574) of Ramus's logic is to be found in Blundeville and Coke, for instance, the categorial sense of the noun 'inferior', and (just in Coke) the unusual logic terms 'affirmant' and 'negant'. But it has to be remembered that the authors of logic books in English were writing against a background of logics in Latin, which were continuing to appear and were perhaps the major textbooks. These will have given rise to some of the terms and content of the books in English. Coke himself was a learned author, using some expressions in Greek, indicating direct knowledge of some Aristotle. He also appears to have coined (or at least translated) some terms, as they are not found in previous English logics, for example, 'conominative', 'consignificative', 'counterplacing' (that is, contraposition), 'coupler' (in the logical sense), 'disjoiner', 'distinctness', 'distributable', 'monstrative', 'paronymical', and 'pure' (that is, assertoric). The suggestion that The Art of Logick was the work of Henry Ainsworth passed off as his own by Coke, though not entirely implausible, has proved incapable of substantiation.


  • R. Hall, ‘Antedatings in logic’, N&Q, 215 (1970), 322–32
  • R. Hall, ‘Unnoticed terms in logic’, N&Q, 217 (1972), 131–7, 165–71, 203–9
  • J. Foster, The register of admissions to Gray’s Inn, 1521–1889, together with the register of marriages in Gray's Inn chapel, 1695–1754 (privately printed, London, 1889)
  • J. S. Measell, ‘The authorship of The art of logick (1654)’, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 15 (1977), 321–4
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