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Fysher, Robert (bap. 1698, d. 1749), librarian, was baptized on 30 December 1698 at Grantham, Lincolnshire, the son of Robert Fysher of Grantham. Nothing further is known of his family background or early life. He matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 25 February 1715, aged sixteen, and graduated BA on 11 October 1718. He was elected to continue with his studies at Oriel College, but was not admitted until 19 April 1723 because the provost of Oriel opposed the bishop of Lincoln. Fysher proceeded MA in 1724 and BM in 1725. He was admitted a probationary fellow of Oriel on 18 July 1726 and in perpetuity the following year.

On 2 December 1729 Fysher was elected Bodley's librarian in the university, beating Francis Wise by 100 votes to 85. The antiquary Thomas Hearne gleefully reported how the whigs in the university, led by the vice-chancellor, had been defeated by Fysher's election: ‘The Whiggs were all, as it were, to a Man against Fysher, insomuch that Merton, Wadham, Exeter, & Jesus were in a combination for Wise. As far as I can understand, it was a party cause, & they rather contended in the score than for merit’ (Remarks, 207). With his friend Emmanuel Langford of Hart Hall, Fysher completed work on the catalogue of printed books in the Bodleian Library that had been started by his predecessor Joseph Bowles, and published it as Catalogus liborum impressorum Bibliothecae Bodleiannae (2 vols., 1738). Although Hearne and Moses Williams were in large part responsible for the ‘remarkable accuracy, and … the abundance and minuteness of its cross-references’ (Macray, 212–13) of the catalogue, Fysher incurred much work in organizing and editing the whole catalogue, which remained in use until the next century.

Fysher served three terms as dean of Oriel (1727, 1731–2, 1734–5) and acted as both junior and senior treasurer of the college on several occasions. He died, unmarried, on 4 November 1749 at Mr Warneford's house in Sevenhampton, Wiltshire, and was buried on 7 November in Adam de Brome's chapel in the university church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford. He had been in poor health in his final years and was accused of failing to catalogue new acquisitions. Richard Rawlinson defended him in a letter, dated 15 April 1751, to Fysher's successor, Humphrey Owen, on the grounds ‘that Dr Fysher's indisposition disabled him much from the duty of his office, and that I did not think every small benefaction ought to load the velom register’ (Macray, 222).

Dorothy M. Moore


W. D. Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford (1868) · Remarks and collections of Thomas Hearne, ed. C. E. Doble and others, 10, OHS, 67 (1915) · Foster, Alum. Oxon. · G. C. Richards and C. L. Shadwell, The provosts and fellows of Oriel College, Oxford (1922) · C. D. Frost, ‘The Bodleian catalogues of 1674 and 1738: an explanation in the light of modern catalog theory’, Library History, 46/3 (1976), 248–70 · IGI