On his appointment as a sub-commissioner of the public records, Hunter removed to London in 1833 and edited various volumes of records. On the reconstruction of the record service in 1838 he was appointed an assistant-keeper of the first class, and to his care were committed the queen's remembrancer's records, with the especial duty of compiling a calendar of them.
Much of his time in middle life was devoted to the illustration of the text of Shakespeare's plays, and he made large collections of notes concerning the lives and works of English verse-writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His discoveries in relation to the first settlements in New England attracted great attention in America. He was a fellow, and for many years a vice-president, of the Society of Antiquaries, and read many papers before the society. He died in Torrington Square, London, on 9 May 1861, and was interred at Ecclesfield, near Sheffield.
He married in 1815 Mary, daughter of Francis Hayward, M.D., of Bath; by her (who died in 1840) he had six chidren, of whom three sons and a daughter survived him.
The sale of his library occupied four days in December 1861, and realised 1,105l.
His principal works are: 1. Four sermons printed between 1811 and 1819, and other writings on religious subjects. 2. 'Who wrote Cavendish's Life of Wolsey? A Dissertation,' London, 1814, 4to [see Cavendish, George]. 3. 'Hallamshire. The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield in the County of York. With Historical and Descriptive Notices of the Parishes of Ecclesfield, Hansworth, Treeton, and Whiston, and of the Chapelry of Bradfield,' London, 1819, folio; new and enlarged edition by the Rev. Alfred Gatty, London, 1869, folio. 4. 'Golden Sentences. A Manual that may be used by all who Desire to be Moral and Religious,' Bath, 1826, 12mo, compiled from the works of Bishop Hall, Fuller, Sir Thomas Browne, Whichcote, and Dr. Richard Lucas, of whom brief biographies are given. 5. 'South Yorkshire. The History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster,' 2 vols., London, 1828–1831, folio. 6. 'Life of Sir Thomas More, by his great-grandson Cresacre More. With a Biographical Preface, Notes, and other Illustrations,' London, 1828, 8vo. Hunter was able, by his critical faculty, to restore the honours of authorship to the rightful claimant, Cresacre More, to whose elder brother, Thomas, the book had been ascribed by Anthony à Wood and others. 7. 'The Hallamshire Glossary,' London, 1829, 8vo, containing the peculiar words in use in the district of Hallamshire; also Thoresby's 'Catalogue of Words used in the West Riding of Yorkshire' and Watson's 'Uncommon Words used in Halifax.' An enlarged copy, prepared for the press by Hunter in 1851, is in Addit. MS. 24540. 8. 'The Diary of Ralph Thoresby, F.R.S. Now first published from the original MS.,'2 vols., London, 1830, 8vo. A life of Thoresby is prefixed. 9. 'English Monastic Libraries. I. A Catalogue of the Library of the Priory of Bretton in Yorkshire. II. Notices of the Libraries belonging to other Religious Houses,' London, 1831, 4to. 10. 'Magnum Rotulum Scaccarii, vel Magnum Rotulum Pipæ, de anno xxxio Regni Henrici Primi (ut videtur), quem plurimi hactenus laudârunt pro Rotulo vti anni Stephani Regis, nunc primùm edidit J. Hunter,' London, 1833, 8vo, printed under the direction of the commissioners on the public records. 11. 'Rotuli Selecti ad Res Anglicas et Hibernicas spectantes; ex Archivis in Domo Capitulari Westmonasteriensi deprompti. Cura Jos. Hunteri,' London, 1834, 8vo, printed under the direction of the commissioners on the public records. 12. Introduction to the 'Valor Ecclesiasticus,' published in 6 folio volumes, 1810–34. 13. 'The Attorney-General versus Shore. An Historical Defence of the Trustees of Lady Hewley's Foundations, and of the Claims upon them of the Presbyterian Ministry of England,' London, 1834, 8vo [see Hewley, Sarah]. 14. 'Fines, sive Pedes Finium; sive Finales Concordiae in Curia Domini Regis, 7 Richard I-16 John, 1195–1214,'2 vols., London, 1835–44, 8vo, edited under the direction of the Record Commissioners. 15. 'Three Catalogues describing the Contents of the Red Book of the Exchequer, of the Dodsworth Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, and of the Manuscripts in the Library of Lincoln's Inn,' London, 1838, 8vo. 16. 'Disquisition on the Scene, Origin, Date, &c., of Shakespeare's "Tempest," 'London, 1839, 8vo, only one hundred copies printed for private distribution. Hunter's opinion is that the ' Tempest ' was one of the earliest productions of Shakespeare instead of being one of the latest, and that Prospero's island was Lampedusa, not far from the coast of Tunis. 17. 'Ecclesiastical Documents: viz. I. A Brief History of the Bishoprick of Somerset from its Foundation to 1174. II. Charters from the Library of