The Correspondence of Edward Bernard

Primary Contributors:

Cultures of Knowledge

Detail from Edward Bernard, Orbis eruditi literarum (1689). (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Edward Bernard (1638–1697)

Born at Paulerspury, near Towcester, 2 May 1638, Edward Bernard was the son of Joseph Bernard, a clergyman, and Elizabeth Linche. His father died just six years later and, following a move with his mother to London, Bernard attended Merchant Taylors’ School from 1647. He matriculated at St John’s College, Oxford in 1655 and was made fellow in 1658, graduating BA in 1659. At this time he took instruction in Arabic from Edward Pococke and in mathematics from John Wallis. Bernard proceeded MA in 1662 and was appointed college reader in mathematics the following year. After graduating BD, Bernard travelled—together with John Wallis the younger—in December 1668 to Leiden to work on a transcription of Apollonius’s Conics. Following his return to Oxford, he was commissioned by John Fell to edit Josephus’s Jewish War, one of a number of projects he was to complete only partially.

From 1669, Bernard deputized for Christopher Wren as Savilian professor of astronomy and in 1672 he was presented by St John’s with the rectory of Cheam, Surrey. On 9 April 1673, Bernard was appointed successor to Wren and elected fellow of the Royal Society on the same day. Shortly afterwards, Bernard resigned the rectorship. Becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his Oxford position, he took on the task of instructing two illegitimate sons of Charles II in Paris and resided there from 1676 to 1677. In 1683 his burgeoning scholarly interests took him back to Leiden to attend the auction of Daniel Heinsius’s library. Unsuccessfully, he sought election to the Arabic professorship at Leiden, which had been vacant since the death of Jacobus Golius. Back in Oxford, Bernard proceeded DD in October 1684 and eventually resigned his Savilian professorship in 1691, after being presented with the lucrative parish of Brightwell, Berkshire. In August 1693, Bernard married Eleanor Howell and, in September 1696, the couple travelled to Leiden to attend auction of Golius’s manuscripts, two-thirds of which he purchased for archbishop Marsh. Bernard died in January 1697, and was buried in St John’s College chapel.

Partners and Additional Contributors

The metadata in this ‘work-in-progress’ catalogue at present has been drawn together from letter records listed within the Bodleian card catalogue (digitized and published in EMLO with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries); the John Aubrey catalogue (compiled and contributed by Rhodri Lewis, William Poole, and Kelsey Jackson Williams with funding from the Cultures of Knowledge project); the Hadriaan Beverland catalogue (compiled and contributed by Karen Hollewand); the Robert Boyle catalogue (compiled from Michael Hunter, Antonio Clericuzio, and Lawrence M. Principe’s edition of Boyle’s correspondence, based on metadata supplied to EMLO by the Electronic Enlightenment Project, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford and prepared for upload to the union catalogue with funding from the Cultures of Knowledge project); the Early Letters of the Royal Society catalogue (with metadata supplied by The Royal Society, London, and prepared for upload with funding from the John Fell Fund); the Henry Oldenburg catalogue (compiled by Cultures of Knowledge from the A. R. Hall and M. B. Hall edition); the Isaac Vossius catalogue (compiled and contributed by Robin Buning); and the John Wallis catalogue (compiled and contributed by Philip Beeley with funding from the Cultures of Knowledge project).

EMLO would like to extend thanks to Philip Beeley for his help with the biographical section of this introductory text.



Currently this catalogue contains basic descriptions of Edward Bernard’s correspondence to be found in Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. A total of 800 letters of which he was author or recipient (and an additional 31 in which he has been tagged as a person mentioned), these letters range in date between 1664 and 1697, the year of Bernard’s death, and among the correspondents may be found a wide range of early modern individuals, including Isaac Abendana, Theodoor Almeloveen, Isaac Barrow, Richard Bentley, Ismaël Boulliau, Isaac Barrow, Robert Boyle, Arthur Charlett, John Collins, Henry Dodwell, John Flamsteed, Thomas Gale, David Gregory, Jacobus Gronovius, Pierre Daniel Huet, Henri Justel, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Job Ludolf, Jean Mabillon, Narcissus Marsh, Otto Mencke, Henry Oldenburg, Edward Pococke Pasquier Quensel, Thomas Smith, Ezekiel Spanheim, Melchisédech Thévenot Isaac Vossius, and John Wallis.

Scope of Catalogue

At present, EMLO contains records for 800 letters from or to Edward Bernard. The majority of the manuscripts of these letters reside in the care of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and, within the Bodleian card catalogue, metadata have been taken from the following collections: Ashmole 1136; MS Add. D. 105; MS Ballard 26, 28, and 49; MS D’Orville 470; MS Rawl. letters 40 and 107; MS Savile 6; MS Smith 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 14, 21, 45, 47, 57, 59, 60, 66, 72, and 130; MS Tanner 23; and MS Locke c. 4.

Metadata have been collected also from letters in the following institutions: British Library; Kongelige Bibliotek; Oxford University Archives; Queen’s College Library, University of Oxford; Royal Society Library; Universitätsbibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität; Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden; and Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Work is in progress to establish whether any of Bernard’s correspondence has been overlooked. It is hoped also to check and enhance the existing metadata in EMLO by identifying and tagging the people, publications, and events mentioned, by recording where available details of the letters’ destination, and by capturing the date as marked in the letters. Metadata from the correspondence catalogues of John Flamsteed and John Locke will be added to EMLO in the spring of 2020 and a number of additional letters exchanged with Bernard will be found within these datasets.

Should you be interested in the life, the work, and the letters of Edward Bernard, and should you wish to be involved in forthcoming efforts to enhance this listing of his correspondence, please contact EMLO’s editor, Miranda Lewis (

Further resources


Edward Bernard, Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et Hibernae in unum collecti (Oxford, 1697).

Thomas Smith, Vita clarissimi et doctissimi viri, Edwardi Bernardi (London, 1704).

Hugh de Quehen, ‘Bernard, Edward (1638–1697)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009) [accessed 11 March 2020].

Thomas Roebuck, ‘Great Expectation among the Learned: Edward Bernard’s Josephus in Restoration Oxford’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 23 (2016), pp. 307–25.

Colin Wakefield, ‘Arabic Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library: the seventeenth-century collections’ in The ‘Arabick’ Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England, ed. G. A. Russell (Leiden, 1994), pp. 128–46.


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