Purchas, Samuel (DNB00)

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PURCHAS, SAMUEL (1575?–1626), author of the 'Pilgrimes,' son of George Purchas of Thaxted in Essex, was born about 1575. Having graduated from St. John's College, Cambridge, and taken holy orders, he was in 1601 curate of Purleigh in Essex. From 1604 to 1613 he was vicar of Eastwood in Essex; in 1614 he was appointed chaplain to George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, and from 1614 to 1626 he was rector of St. Martin's, Ludgate. He died in September or October 1626, aged 51. His will was proved on 21 Oct.

He married, in December 1601, Jane, daughter of Vincent Lease of Westhall, Suffolk, yeoman. In the marriage license, dated 2 Dec. 1601, Purchas is said to be twenty-seven, and he and his bride are described as household servants of Mr. Freake, parson of Purleigh. The ages as stated at marriage and death are not in exact agreement.

Purchas was the author of:

  1. ‘Purchas his Pilgrimage, or Relations of the World and the Religions observed in all Ages and Places discovered from the Creation unto this present’(fol. 1613; 2nd edit, 1614; 3rd edit. 1617; 4th edit. 1626).
  2. ‘Purchas his Pilgrim. Microcosmus, or the History of Man. Relating the Wonders of his Generation, Vanities in his Degeneration, Necessity of his Regeneration …’ (sm. 8vo, 1619).

But the work by which alone Purchas's name is now known is 3. ‘Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes, contayning a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Land-Trauells by Englishmen and others … ,’ with portrait on the title-page, ætat. 48 (4 vols. 4to, 1625; the fourth edition of the ‘Pilgrimage’ [No. 1 above], being exactly the same size, is frequently catalogued as the fifth volume of the ‘Pilgrimes’ it is really a totally different work). This work has never been reprinted, and its rarity, still more than its interest, has given it an exaggerated value to book collectors. The intrinsic value of the book is due rather to its having preserved some record of early voyages otherwise unknown, than to the literary skill or ability of the author. It may fairly be supposed that the originals of many of the journals entrusted to him, of which he published an imperfect abstract, were lost through his carelessness; so that the fact that the 'Pilgrimes' contains the only extant account of some voyages is by his fault, not by his merit. A comparison of what he has printed with such originals as remain shows that he was very far indeed from a faithful editor or a judicious compiler, and that he took little pains to arrive at an accurate knowledge of facts, He inherited many of the manuscripts of Richard Hakluyt [q. v.], but the use he made of them was widely different from Hakluyt's.

[Brown's Genesis of the United States, pp. 491, 974; Christie's Voyages of Fox and James (Hakluyt Society), vol. i, p. x; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xi. 57; Transactions of the Essex Archæol. Society, iv. 164.]

J. K. L.