William Somner, 1606-1669
Next year is the 350th death anniversary of William Somner, one of the great 17th century scholarly antiquaries. He spent his whole life in Canterbury as a notary public, and cathedral registrar and auditor, counting Archbishop William Laud, his sometime employer, as one of his close friends. His family home may still be seen in Castle St in Canterbury. Typically, Somner enjoyed a wide scholarly circle including such luminaries as Meric Casaubon and William Dugdale. Aside from his professional employments, he was a diligent and indefatigable researcher and writer, protecting many of the cathedral's records during the Civil War and the sacking of the building in 1642. At the restoration in 1660 he was instrumental in restoring good order to these records as well as helping the Dean and Chapter in recovering land and assets stripped of them during the Commonwealth. In 1640 at the young age of 34 he produced his first masterpiece, 'The Antiquities of Canterbury', one of the earliest borough histories which has long stood the test of time. In 1659 he published one of the great monuments of English scholarship, his 'Anglo-Saxon-Latin-English Dictionary', the culmination of years of the most diligent pioneering scholarship and rigorous research, and a work which set the study of Anglo-Saxon on a firm footing for the first time.
One Day Colloquium, Saturday 23 March 2019
Just one week in advance of the exact death anniversary, an exhibition of Somner's books and manuscripts will be held in Canterbury Cathedral Archives, followed by a programme of expert speakers on various aspects of Somner's life and work at the nearby Christ Church University. Fuller details are available from Dr David Wright who is currently writing a life of William Somner for publication in Archaeologia Cantiana.