Wilkin, Simon (DNB00)

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WILKIN, SIMON (1790–1862), editor of the ‘Works of Sir Thomas Browne,’ born at Costessey (Cossey), Norfolk, in 1790, was son of William Wilkin and his wife Cecilia Lucy, daughter of William Jacomb of London. Losing his father in 1799, he went to reside at Norwich with his guardian, Joseph Kinghorn [q. v.], who superintended his education. He became proficient both in ancient and modern languages and in general literature. When of age he came into an ample fortune, and devoted himself largely to natural history, especially entomology, and his fine collection of insects ultimately came into the possession of the Zoological Society. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society, and a member of the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh. Through the disastrous failure of large paper mills with which he was connected he lost his property, and soon after established himself in Norwich as a printer and publisher, greatly raising the character of the Norwich press, and issuing some very erudite works. In 1825 he published a ‘Catalogue of the Public Library and City Library of Norwich,’ Norwich, 8vo. His edition of Sir Thomas Browne's works occupied the leisure of thirteen years, and he spared no pains in the collation of manuscripts and early editions so as to produce the best possible text; also in the examination and utilisation of Browne's vast correspondence in the libraries of the British Museum and the Bodleian. The work, which was published in 1836 in four volumes (London, 8vo), and was reissued in Bohn's ‘Library’ in 1852 (3 vols.), was pronounced by Robert Southey to be ‘the best reprint in the English language.’

Wilkin was the means of establishing the Norfolk and Norwich Literary Institution, as well as the museum which now holds a foremost rank among provincial collections. He also wrote the catechisms on the use of the globes for Pinnock's series of ‘Catechisms’ (2 parts, Norwich, 1823–6, 12mo), and contributed the introductory chapter and illustrative notes to the life of his guardian, entitled ‘Joseph Kinghorn of Norwich: a Memoir, by Martin Hood Wilkin,’ Norwich, 1855, 8vo.

In 1825 Wilkin married Emma, daughter of John Culley of Cossey, and in the latter part of his life he removed to London, residing at Hampstead until his death on 28 July 1862. He was buried at his native village of Cossey.

[Wilkin's Works in Brit. Mus. Library; Athenæum, 1862, ii. 182; private information.]

M. H. W.