Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Theyer, John
THEYER, JOHN (1597–1673), antiquary, son of John Theyer (d. 1631), and grandson of Thomas Theyer of Brockworth, Gloucestershire, was born there in 1597. Richard Hart, the last prior of Lanthony Abbey, Gloucestershire, lord of the manor of Brockworth, and the builder of Brockworth Court, was brother of his grandmother, Ann Hart (Trans. Bristol and Gloucester Archæological Soc. vii. 161, 164). Theyer inherited Richard Hart's valuable library of manuscripts, which determined his bent in life.
He entered Magdalen College, Oxford, when about sixteen, but did not graduate. On 6 July 1643 he was created M.A. by the king's command, ‘ob merita sua in rempub. literariam et ecclesiam.’ After three years at Magdalen he practised common law at New Inn, London, whither Anthony Wood's mother proposed to send her son to qualify under Theyer for an attorney (Wood, Life and Times, Oxford Hist. Soc., i. 130). Although Wood did not go, he became a lifelong friend, and visited Theyer to make use of his library at Cooper's Hill, Brockworth, a small estate given him by his father on his marriage in 1628. He lived here chiefly (cf. State Papers, Dom. 1639–40 pp. 280, 285, and 1640 pp. 383, 386, 388, 392), but in 1643 was in Oxford, serving in the king's army, and presented to Charles I, in Merton College garden, a copy of his ‘Aerio Mastix, or a Vindication of the Apostolicall and generally received Government of the Church of Christ by Bishops,’ Oxford, 1643, 4to. Wood says he became a catholic about this time, and began, but did not live to finish, ‘A Friendly Debate between Protestants and Papists.’ His estate was sequestrated by the parliament, who pronounced him one of the most ‘inveterate’ with whom they had to deal. His family were almost destitute until his discharge was obtained on 4 Nov. 1652.
Theyer died at Cooper's Hill on 25 Aug. 1673, and was buried in Brockworth churchyard on the 28th.
By his wife Susan, Theyer had a son John; the latter's son Charles (b. 1651) matriculated at University College, Oxford, on 7 May 1668, and was probably the lecturer of Totteridge, Hertfordshire, who published ‘A Sermon on her Majesty's Happy Anniversary,’ London, 1707, 4to. To this grandson Theyer bequeathed his collection of eight hundred manuscripts (catalogued in Harl. MS. 460). Charles offered them to Oxford University, and the Bodleian Library despatched Edward Bernard [q. v.] to see them, but no purchase was effected, and they passed into the hands of Robert Scott, a bookseller of London. A catalogue of 336 volumes, dated 29 July 1678, prepared by William Beveridge [q. v.], rector of St. Peter's, Cornhill, and afterwards bishop of St. Asaph, and William Jane [q. v.], is in Royal MS. Appendix, 70. The Collection, which in Bernard's ‘Catalogus Manuscriptorum Angliæ,’ 1697, had dwindled to 312, was bought by Charles II and passed with the Royal Library to the British Museum, where they are now numbered MS. Reg. C. 13 et seq.
[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 996; Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 59; Atkyn's Gloucestershire, p. 158; Bigland's Gloucestershire, 1791, i. 251; Life and Times of Wood (Oxford Hist. Soc.), i. 404, 474, ii. 143, 146, 268, 485, 486, iv. 74, 109, 298; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vii. 341, 4th ser. ii. 11, 6th ser. xi. 487, xii. 31; Cal. of Comm. for Comp. pp. 2802, 2803; Cal. of Comm. for Adv. of Money, p. 1286.]