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Hudson, Johnfree

  • Theodor Harmsen

Hudson, John (1662–1719), librarian and classical scholar, was born at Wythop, in the parish of Brigham, near Cockermouth, Cumberland, the son of James Hudson. His mother may have been Alice Hudson, whose will was proved in December 1690. No more is known about his family background than that he was educated in grammar by Mr Jerom Hechsteller of the same parish. In 1676 he was admitted as a servitor at the Queen's College, Oxford, and then elected a taberdar. He studied under Thomas Crosthwaite and graduated BA on 5 July 1681 and MA on 12 February 1684. He received his degrees of BD and DD on 5 June 1701, but made no career in the church. He became a fellow of University College on 29 March 1686. Working as a tutor of the college, he printed for his students Beveridge's Introductio ad chronologiam (1691), among a few other works, at Leonard Lichfield's Oxford press. Throughout his career Hudson worked closely with Arthur Charlett, who had been elected master of University College (with Hudson's support) in 1692 and who was an influential delegate of the Oxford University Press. Hudson's Velleius paterculus, printed together with Annales Velleiani by the nonjuror Henry Dodwell (1693; reprinted with additional notes in 1711) was Charlett's new year's gift to the college. In 1698 Hudson failed to get the Greek professorship, which instead went to Humphrey Hody through the political influence of Gilbert Burnet; Burnet emphasized Hody's loyalty, whereas Hudson was known to be a Jacobite. The experience may have caused Hudson to moderate his Jacobitism in future years.

On 11 April 1701 Hudson was elected librarian of the Bodleian Library on the resignation of Thomas Hyde. He chose as his assistant and later second librarian the industrious student Thomas Hearne, the Oxford antiquary. Hudson was a 'considerable bookman' (Philip, Bodleian, 72) who corresponded with scholars and librarians at home, such as Thomas Smith and Sir Hans Sloane, as well as with those abroad like Perizonius and Zacagnius. He collaborated with Hearne on several projects to expand the Bodleian collections in difficult times: financially the library was in a bad state, and there was no deposit system owing to the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695 (renewed in 1710). Hudson donated some 600 books himself and successfully approached authors and booksellers to send presentation copies. Lists of books to be procured for the library are among Hearne's papers. Hearne's Reliquiae Bodleianae (1703) was also planned as an attempt to draw attention to the Bodleian as a repository for private collections.

Hudson intended to publish a new catalogue of books, based on earlier plans. Modifying Vice-Chancellor Roger Mander's initial plan, Hudson wished to amalgamate Hyde's 1674 catalogue, by then fully revised by Hearne, and Hearne's 'Appendix' and to publish this Bodleian catalogue under his own name. To this end, he hired an assistant, Moses Williams, to transcribe the catalogue for publication in six volumes. Proposals and a specimen were published in 1714, but Hudson subsequently gave priority to his classical editing. Charlett maintained his interest in the project, and after renewed efforts by Hudson's successors Joseph Bowles and Robert Fysher, the new catalogue was published in 1738.

Despite Hudson's enthusiasm for books, he had a reputation as a negligent if not incapable librarian. The librarian Humfrey Wanley, previously an assistant at the Bodleian, commented contemptuously on Hudson's lack of knowledge about the collections, especially when Hudson failed to locate the recent acquisition of Edward Bernard's books and manuscripts. Hudson was much interested in the business aspect of book production and bookselling. He was closely involved with other scholars' projects, such as David Gregory's Euclid (1703) and Hearne's early classical editions: he financed Eutropius (1703), Justin (1705), and an edition of Pliny the younger (1703), and urged Hearne to publish new editions of Livy (1708) and Cicero. He sold Bodleian duplicates as well as his own publications and Theatre Press books from his library study. In 1713 he purchased, with two of his friends, the whole stock in the press warehouse for £751.

Contemporary critics commented that Hudson, nicknamed the Bookseller, confused his book business with his responsibilities as librarian. Among these critics were the biblical scholar John Mill, the German traveller Z. C. von Uffenbach, visiting the Bodleian in 1710, and Thomas Hearne. Von Uffenbach's caustic description of Hudson's book dealing and his neglect of the library may have been influenced by his talks with the assistant Hearne. As much as the young Hearne had praised Hudson's scholarship, their collaboration as classical editors had come to an end after Livy (1708). Their friendship seriously deteriorated through personal and political quarrels which led to the nonjuror and Jacobite Hearne being dismissed as second librarian in 1716. The estrangement caused most of the bitterly negative characterization of Hudson in Hearne's diaries. An anecdote from Thomas Warton (Milton, Poems, 1785), concerning the removal about 1720 of Milton's presentation copies from the Bodleian shelves to be sold as duplicates, is without foundation.

Hudson enjoyed an active career as a 'conscientious' classical scholar (Clarke, 528) and was responsible for editions of Thucydides (1696), Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1704), and Dionysius Longinus (1710), and other works. He was involved with many Oxford projects, among them Thomas Smith's edition of St Ignatius (1709), and together with Hearne he assisted his Cambridge friend Joshua Barnes in the latter's edition of Homer's works (1711). Hudson is especially remembered today as the editor of the Greek geographers, for which he enlisted Henry Dodwell's scholarly co-operation. The impressive Geographiae veteris scriptores Graeci minores was published in four volumes between 1698 and 1712.

On 2 April 1710 Hudson married Margaret (bap. 1686, d. 1731), widow of Robert Knapp, a barrister at the Inner Temple and a commoner of University College, and only daughter of Sir Robert Harrison, alderman and mercer of Oxford. Their daughter, Margaret, was born on 24 July 1711. In that year Hudson refused the principalship of Gloucester Hall and on 14 June resigned the fellowship of University College. He was elected principal of St Mary Hall and installed on 16 January 1713, through the interest of John Radcliffe. Hudson had the lodgings of the principal built. In 1714 John Ayliffe's Antient and Present State of the University of Oxford printed an account of the Bodleian Library contributed by Hudson. Hudson's last edition, Flavii Josephi opera, was published posthumously by his friend Anthony Hall in 1720. Hudson died of dropsy in Oxford on 27 November 1719, and he was buried on 30 November in the chancel of the university church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford. He left the first choice of his books to University College. Hudson's daughter, Margaret, was later involved in a notorious, and much publicized, case in which she was threatened with breach of promise of marriage by John Goole, vicar of Eynsham, and master of the free school at Witney, Oxfordshire. The case was mediated by John Wesley and described by Goole in his The contract violated, or, The hasty marriage (1733). Margaret Hudson subsequently married the Rev. John Boyce, rector of Saintbury, Gloucestershire.


  • Bodl. Oxf., MSS Rawl. D. 316, D. 732; MS Rawl. letters 7; MS Ballard 17; MS Lister 37; MS Locke c. 24
  • J. Hudson, correspondence, Bodl. Oxf., MSS Smith 50, 63
  • T. Hearne, correspondence, Bodl. Oxf., MSS Rawlinson K (Hearne–Smith)
  • corresp., BL
  • Remarks and collections of Thomas Hearne, ed. C. E. Doble and others, 11 vols., OHS, 2, 7, 13, 34, 42–3, 48, 50, 65, 67, 72 (1885–1921)
  • Wood, Ath. Oxon., new edn, 4.451–60
  • T. Harmsen, ‘Bodleian imbroglios, politics and personalities, 1701–1716: Thomas Hearne, Arthur Charlett and John Hudson’, Neophilologus, 82/1 (1998), 149–68
  • T. H. B. M. Harmsen, Antiquarianism in the Augustan age: Thomas Hearne, 1678–1735 (2000)
  • H. Carter, A history of the Oxford University Press, 1: To the year 1780 (1975), 151, 241; appx
  • I. Philip, The Bodleian Library in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (1983), chap. 4
  • M. L. Clarke, ‘Classical studies’, Hist. U. Oxf. 5: 18th-cent. Oxf., 513–34
  • Letters of Humfrey Wanley: palaeographer, Anglo-Saxonist, librarian, 1672–1726, ed. P. L. Heyworth (1989), 74, 162, 185, 240, 253, 318
  • S. Gibson and J. Johnson, eds., The first minute book of the delegates of the Oxford University Press, 1668–1756 (1943), 38–9, 41, 75
  • I. G. Philip, ‘Libraries and the University Press’, Hist. U. Oxf. 5: 18th-cent. Oxf., 725–54
  • J. E. B. Mayor, Cambridge under Queen Anne (1911), 379, 386
  • J. Ayliffe, The antient and present state of the University of Oxford, 2 vols. (1714), vol. 2, pp. 457–66
  • P. Bayle and others, A general dictionary, historical and critical, 6 (1738), 299–302
  • J. R. Magrath, The Queen's College, 2 (1921), 62
  • W. Hutchinson, The history of the county of Cumberland, 2 (1794), 229–30
  • M. Clapinson and T. D. Rogers, Summary catalogue of post-medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (1991)
  • F. Madan and others, A summary catalogue of Western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, 7 vols. (1895–1953)
  • will, proven in deanery of Copeland, 22 Dec 1690, Cumbria AS [Alice Hudson, widow of Wythop]


  • Bodl. Oxf., papers
  • Bodl. Oxf., ‘Indices auctorum a variis scriptoribus vel citatorum vel etiam laudatorum’, Rawl. MS misc. 350
  • Bodl. Oxf., biographical information, MS Rawl. J fol. 3. 317, MS Rawl. 4°2. 251, 7.363
  • BL, notes relating to A. Beverland, Add. MS 4221
  • BL, letters to P. Desmaizeaux, Add. MS 4284. 88–92
  • BL, letters to W. Kennett, J. G. Graeve, F. Rostgaard, C. Neville, M. Lequien, Add. MSS 4275–4277
  • BL, letters to Sir Hans Sloane, Sloane MSS 4038–4043
  • BL, letter to Wanley, loan MS 29/255
  • BL, letters, Harley MS 3781, 191–212
  • BL, loan 29
  • Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Thomas Smith
  • Bodl. Oxf., Ballard MSS
  • Bodl. Oxf., MSS Hearne diaries
  • Bodl. Oxf., MSS Rawl. lett.


  • S. Gribelin, line engraving (after W. Sonmans), BM
  • W. Sonmans, oils, Bodl. Oxf.

Wealth at Death

see Remarks, ed. Doble and others

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Oxford Historical Society
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A. Wood, , 2 vols. (1691–2); 2nd edn (1721); new edn, ed. P. Bliss, 4 vols. (1813–20); repr. (1967) and (1969)
T. H. Aston, ed., , 5: , ed. L. S. Sutherland & L. G. Mitchell (1986)
Bodleian Library, Oxford