Miller, William Henry (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

MILLER, WILLIAM HENRY (1789–1848), book collector, the only child of William Miller of Craigentinny, Midlothian, was born in 1789. He received a liberal education, and throughout life retained a taste for classical literature. In 1830 he entered parliament as one of the members for the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, defeating John Evelyn Denison, afterwards speaker. He was re-elected in 1831, 1832, 1835, and 1837, each time after a contest, and on two occasions at the head of the poll. In 1841, however, he was defeated, and he was again unsuccessful as a candidate for Berwick at the general election of 1847. He died, unmarried, at Craigentinny House, near Edinburgh, on 31 Oct. 1848, in his sixtieth year, and was by his own desire buried on his estate in a mausoleum erected after his decease, and decorated with sculptured friezes by Alfred Gatley.

As a book collector, Miller was regarded as the successor of Richard Heber, and many of the rarest works from the collections of the latter passed into the library which he formed at Britwell Court, near Burnham, Buckinghamshire. He was extremely particular in his choice of copies, and from his habit of carrying about with him a foot rule in order to measure the exact size of a ‘tall’ copy of a book which he wished to buy, he became known at sales and among collectors as ‘Measure Miller.’

The Britwell Library, formed chiefly at the time of the dispersal of the Heber and other important collections of half a century ago, and since added to by acquisitions from the Corser, Laing, and other sales of more recent years, is unrivalled among private libraries for the number, rarity, and condition of its examples of early English and Scottish literature. It contains six works from Caxton's press, many printed by Wynkyn de Worde and Pynson, and the greater part of the Heber collection of ballads and broadsides. It is especially rich in early English poetry, and possesses also the finest and most complete series in existence of DeBry's collections of voyages to the East and West Indies, both in Latin and in German.

Britwell Court and its library were bequeathed by Miller to his cousin Miss Marsh, from whom they passed to Samuel Christie-Miller, M.P. for Newcastle-under-Lyme from 1847 to 1859, and on his death, on 5 April 1889, to Mr. Wakefield Christie-Miller, their present owner.

A portrait of William Henry Miller, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, has been engraved.

[Gent. Mag. 1849, i. 98 ; private information.]

R. E. G.