Caldecott, Thomas (DNB00)

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CALDECOTT, THOMAS (1744–1833), bibliophile and Shakespearean student, was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, where he obtained a fellowship and proceeded B.C.L. on 24 Oct. 1770. He was called to the bar at the Middle Temple; afterwards became a bencher, and was for many years a prominent member of the Oxford circuit. He published, in continuation of Sir James Burrow's ‘Reports,’ two volumes of ‘Reports of Cases relative to the duty and office of a Justice of the Peace from 1776 to 1785’ (2 vols. 1786, 1789). Caldecott died at the age of ninety, at Dartford, at the end of May 1833. He best deserves to be remembered as a book collector and Shakespearean student. He laid the foundations of his library at an early age, and at his death it was singularly rich in sixteenth-century literature. He was a regular attendant at the great book sales, and many of Farmer's, Steevens's, West's, and Pearson's books passed to him. He bequeathed to the Bodleian an invaluable collection of Shakespearean quartos, some of which cost him the merest trifle, but the bulk of his library was sold by auction by Messrs. Sotheby between 2 and 7 Dec. 1833. Dr. Dibdin, the bibliographer, described the rarest books in three papers contributed to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1834 (pt. i. pp. 59, 195, 284). Caldecott had views of his own on Shakespearean editing. Dibdin describes him as ‘the last of the old breed of Shakespearean commentators of the school of Johnson and Steevens,’ and he certainly had characteristic contempt for Malone, Steevens, and the Shakespearean scholars of his own day. After many years' labour he published privately in 1832 a volume containing ‘Hamlet’ and ‘As you like it,’ with elaborate notes. This was intended to be the first instalment of a final edition of Shakespeare. But the compilation proved singularly feeble and was not continued. Caldecott was well acquainted with ‘honest Tom Warton’ and Bishop Percy, and entered heartily into the former's quarrel with Ritson, whom he styles in a letter to Percy ‘that scurrilous miscreant.’

[Nichols's Illustrations, viii. 372–3; Martin's Privately Printed Books, 304; Gent. Mag. 1833, pt. i. p. 573, 1834, pt. i. pp. 59, 195, 284; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

S. L. L.