Adam Winthrop's Library
draft: 30 January 96; Not to be quoted or cited
Adam Winthrop (1548-1623) was the father of John Winthrop (1588-1649), the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was the youngest son of Adam Winthrop (1498-1562), Master of the Clothworkers. Born in London in 1548, he probably spent some of his youth at Groton, in Suffolk, his father having purchased the former monastic manor in 1544 and taken up residence there in around 1552 . The elder Adam Winthrop died in 1562 and his widow, young Adam's mother, married William Mildmay. Young Adam inherited little land from his father. At the time he was enrolled in a private grammar school run by John Dawes in Ipswich. In 1567 he matriculated fellow commoner at Magdalene, Cambridge where he stayed for a few years, making friendships with John Still, John Knewstub, and Henry Sandes among others.
In 1574 Adam married Alice Still and around then presumably began legal studies at the Inns of Court. In 1575 the fellows of St John's College, where John Still was Master, appointed Adam steward of the college's Kentish manors. In 1577 his wife Alice died and two years later he married Anne Browne, son of Henry Browne, former clergyman of Groton. In 1584 Adam was called to the outer bar of the Inner Temple following a recommendation to the benchers from Robert Dudley, the earl of Leicester. He was one of the signatories of a declaration of loyalty to the Queen signed by the barristers of the Inner Temple in 1585. He was already active in the Groton area as a minor landowner and estate manager for his brother John, who had inherited Groton Manor. He also performed legal services for local landowners, including presiding over manor courts. Adam was one of the supporters of a lectureship at Boxford held by his friend Henry Sandes and was in contact with other members of the Dedham classis and also with John Knewstub, now at Cockfield and leader of a Suffolk classis. In 1592 he was appointed auditor of Trinity college and began annual journeys to Cambridge to check the college accounts. This appointment was undoubtedly due to the influence of John Still, who was Master of Trinity. Still was also archdeacon of Sudbury, presiding over the ecclesiastical jurisdiction that included Groton and Boxford.
Following his brother John's migration to the Munster Plantation in 1595, Adam assumed a larger role in local affairs. He would hold local offices such as overseer of the poor, coroner, and searcher for cloth, and served on commissions. Over time he had contacts with many of the leading families of the Stour Valley region and his son, John (born in 1588) would marry into the Clopton, Forth, and Tyndal families. Adam was also in contact with his nephew, William Alabaster, during the period of that individual's flirtations with the Church of Rome. Adam's own religious views were those of a reformer, in sympathy with the views of local clergymen like Knewstub, Sandes, and Richard Rogers. In this he followed the lead of his older brother William (1529 - 1582 ), a Londoner who was a friend of John Foxe, a churchwarden of St Michael's Cornhill, and who had extensive involvements with the stranger churches in London. Adam acquired numerous volumes of theology and practical divinity and shared them with clerical kin and friends. He continued to correspond with John Still after the latter became Bishop of Bath and Wells. Indeed, Adam briefly held an appointment as receiver for that diocese but does not appear to have taken up the responsibilities of the post. In 1610 his brother John sold Groton Manor to Adam's son John with Adam handling much of the detail and subsequently assisting his son in management of the estate. In 1616 both Adam and his son John were included on a patent roll listing of the Suffolk Commission of the Peace. This is the only such listing that includes Adam Winthrop. He died at Groton on 28 March 1623.
The Library of Adam Winthrop has been reconstructed from references to books that he made in his diary and from an examination of collections that passed down in the family. Of these collections the largest are those in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the New York Society, and Allegheny College. Examination of the actual volumes has made it possible to identify by signature, annotation and other means books that belonged to Adam Winthrop. The books and the annotation provide an insight into the reading and ideas of a gentleman and country barrister who was a supporter of Puritan reform in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods and well connected with lay and clerical leaders of the movement in East Anglia. This compilation does not include the various almanacs that Adam Winthrop owned and annotated, many of which are in the Winthrop Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
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