Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Owen, Humphrey

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1430042Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 42 — Owen, Humphrey1895Herbert Edward Douglas Blakiston ‎

OWEN, HUMPHREY (1712–1768), Bodley's librarian and principal of Jesus College, Oxford, son of Humphrey Owen, gentleman, was born at Meifod in Montgomeryshire in 1712. On 15 Nov. 1718 he was admitted batellar of Jesus College, elected scholar 23 Dec. 1723, and fellow 13 June 1726. He took the B.A. degree in 1722, M.A. in 1725, B.D. in 1733, and D.D. in 1763. In 1744 he became rector of Tredington (second portion), Worcestershire, which he held till 1763, though recalled to Oxford by his election unopposed to the Bodleian librarianship on 10 Nov. 1747. In 1762–3 he was curate-in-charge of Kingston-Bagpuze, Berkshire, and having been, on 10 May 1763, elected principal of his college, was presented on 13 Aug. to the rectory of Rotherfield-Peppard, Oxfordshire. He died on 26 March 1768 (Oxford Journal, 2 April 1768), and was buried in Jesus College Chapel (Wood, Colleges and Halls, ed. Gutch, p. 589).

As Bodley's librarian, Owen is chiefly remarkable for his numerous appointments of Welshmen to subordinate posts. The best known of these was John Price [q. v.], who succeeded him, having been acting-librarian from 1765 to 1767. Owen superintended the removal of the Arundel marbles from the gallery to a special room in 1749, gave the rare St. Albans' ‘Fructus Temporum’ in 1750, and took over the valuable Clarendon and Carte papers, and the Walker, Ballard, Holman, and Rawlinson manuscripts; but the process of cataloguing, ‘generally inert’ in his time, was so completely paralysed by the last bequest, in 1755, that it is still in arrears (Clark, Cataloguing of MSS. in the Bodl. Libr. 1890). Letters are extant to Owen from Browne Willis and Rawlinson, 1748–1756 (Rawl. MS. C. 989); and it is clear that he was, like his correspondents, a Jacobite. There are other letters and notes to or by him in various Bodleian books, and a letter to Ducarel is printed in Nichols's ‘Illustrations of Literature’ (iv. 666).

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library, passim; authorities above; notes from Jesus College books, kindly communicated by the Rev. Ll. Thomas, M.A., vice-principal.]

H. E. D. B.