Dr William Poole

I was educated at New College and Linacre College from 1995-2000, before taking up a Research Fellowship at Downing College, Cambridge, from 2000-2004, after which I returned in 2004 to New College as a Tutorial Fellow in English. I am also the Fellow Librarian of my college, and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. 

My research lies in early-modern literary, intellectual, and scientific history. I also have strong interests in bibliography, palaeography, and the history of libraries, especially Oxford libraries. My two most recent books are Milton and the Making of 'Paradise Lost' (Harvard, 2017), and John Fell’s New Year Books, 1666–1686 (Oxford Bibliographical Society, 2018). 

My current projects are: 1) a critical history of Oxford books and book economy from c. 1580 to c. 1720, my long-term project; 2) aspects of the scholarly reception of Chinese language and history in the early-modern period; 3) the Scottish Neo-Latin poet Peter Goldman of Dundee (1587/8-1628) and his times; 4) the shelf-lists and benefactors register of Oxford's Anatomy School Museum, c. 1630-1780; 5) the early seventeenth-century Oxford academic play The Sophister/Fallacy, in its parallel, variant texts. I have recently completed editions of John Milton's selected prose (Penguin), and his manuscript writings, including his commonplace book (OUP). I am also editing, separately, the complete correspondences of two important figures of seventeenth-century natural philosophy, Robert Hooke (OUP), and John Aubrey (this latter with Rhodri Lewis). Other long-term projects are concentrated on the libraries and learning of the theologian John Hales; the orientalist and pioneering sinologist Thomas Hyde; and the naturalist Francis Willughby. 

With James Willoughby, I co-edit the Bibliographical Society’s quarterly journal, The Library, and for the college I produce the biennial New College Notes. Willoughby and I also co-ordinate the ongoing New College manuscript cataloguing project. A list of publications is available under the 'Other Information' tab.

All aspects of English literature c. 1500-c. 1830.


John Fell’s New Year Books, 1666–1686. Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, 2018. 

Milton and the Making of Paradise Lost. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2017.

John Aubrey and the Advancement of Learning. Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2010. 

The World-Makers: Scientists of the Restoration and the Search for the Origins of the Earth. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010, pbk 2017.    

Milton and the Idea of the Fall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, pbk 2009. Also published in electronic format. Winner of the Milton Society's James Holly Hanford Award for distinguished monograph on John Milton (2006).



New College Library Through Time. Oxford: New College, 2017.

Wadham College Books in the Age of John Wilkins (1614–1672). Oxford: Wadham College, 2014.



John Milton, Manuscript Writings (The Commonplace Book and other manuscript texts) for The Oxford Milton, 12 vols. (vol. 11), 2019 forthcoming.

New College Library Benefactors’ Book, an ongoing edition (1601-1610 completed so far). http://www.new.ox.ac.uk/ncnotes

‘The Letters of Shen Fuzong to Thomas Hyde, 1687-88’, electronic British Library Journal (2015), article 9.

John Milton, Areopagitica and Other Writings. London: Penguin, 2014.

The Captives: Three Fragments of an Early Seventeenth-Century Theatrical Adaptation of Plautus’ Captivi’, Malone Society Collections XVI. Manchester: MUP for the Malone Society, 2011.

Francis Lodwick, Writings on Language, Theology, and Utopia, ed. with Felicity Henderson. Oxford: OUP, 2011. Also published in Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO), 2013.

‘An Edition of Jacobus Colius, ‘Tractatus de fictis characteribus’ or ‘Tractate on Ciphers’ (1584-6), with an English Translation’, Oxford University Research Archive (2010).

Francis Godwin, The Man in the Moone (1638). An edition with ancillary texts. Ontario: Broadview Press, 2009. Broadview Editions, 176pp, pbk.

Francis Lodwick, A Description of a Country Not Named (Sloane MS 931, fols. 1r-33r). An edition with an annotated primary bibliography and an introductory essay on Lodwick and his intellectual context. Tempe, Arizona: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2007.


Edited Books:

John Wilkins (1614–1672): New Essays, edited by William Poole. Leiden: Brill, 2017. 

Thinking with Shakespeare: Comparative and Interdisciplinary Essays, edited with an introduction by William Poole and Richard Scholar. Oxford: Legenda, 2007.


Edited Journals:

The Library, from 2013, with James Willoughby of New College.

New College Notes: An electronic journal focused on the history and collections of New College, Oxford. As Fellow Librarian I founded this journal and write many of its articles, 39 to date.

Guest-editor, with A. R. Linn, of an issue of Language and History (2013), in memory of Vivian Salmon; Linn and I co-authored an introduction for this too.


Web Resources:

Robert Hooke’s Books (http://www.hookesbooks.com/). With Yelda Nasifoglu and Felicity Henderson. Database of library, with extensive introduction and ancillary materials.


Chapters in Books:

‘The Savilian Library’, in Reading Mathematics in the Early Modern Period, ed. Benjamin Wardhaugh (Ashgate, 2019 forthcoming).

‘Collection by Donation: The Benefactors’ Registers of Oxford College Libraries in the Seventeenth Century’, in Book Collecting in Ireland and Britain, ed. Elizabethanne Boran (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2019).

‘Richard Hakluyt: From Oxford to the Moon’, in Richard Hakluyt: The World in a Book (Oxford: Christ Church, 2018), pp. 53-66.

‘Wadham College Library: The First Century’, in John Wilkins (1614–1672): New Essays above, a revision of part two of Wadham College Books in the Age of John Wilkins (1614–1672).

‘Early English Sinology 1577-1688’, in Ann Coiro, ed., Emergent Nation: Early Modern British Literature in Transition. 1660-1714 (Cambridge: CUP, 2018).

‘Early Oxford Hebraism and the King James Translators (1586-1617): The View from New College’, The King James Bible: Scholarly Contexts, ed. Mordechai Feingold (Leiden: Brill, 2018), pp. 59-81.

‘Peter Goldman: A Dundee Poet and Physician in the Republic of Letters’, in Latin Literature and the Classical World in Early Modern Scotland, ed. Steven Reid (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 100-25.

‘The Willughby Library in the time of Francis Willughby the Naturalist’, in Virtuoso by Nature: The Scientific Worlds of Francis Willughby, ed. Tim Birkhead (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 227-43.

‘Lucretius and Some Seventeenth-century Heterodox Theories of Human Origin’, Lucretius and the Early Modern, ed. Stephen Harrison, Philip Hardie, and David Norbrook (Oxford: OUP, 2015), pp. 191-99.

‘Analysing a Private Library, with a Shelf-List attributable to John Hales of Eton, c. 1624’, for A Concise Companion to the Study of Manuscripts, Printed Books, and the Production  of Early Modern Texts (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2015).

‘Printing in Divinity, c. 1580-c. 1780’, History of Oxford University Press, vol. 1, ed. Ian Gadd (Oxford: OUP, 2013), pp. 359-76.

‘“The Armes of Studious Retirement”?’: Milton’s Scholarship, 1632-1641’, in Young Milton, ed. Edward Jones (Oxford: OUP, 2013). (The volume was awarded the Irene Samuel Memorial Award from the Milton Society for 2013.)

‘Vossius, Hooke, and the early Royal Society’s Use of Sinology’, in The Intellectual Consequences of Religious Heterodoxy 1600-1750, ed. John Robertson and Sarah Mortimer (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 35-53.

‘Johannes Kepler’s Somnium and Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moone: Births of Science-Fiction 1593-1638’, in New Worlds Reflected, ed. Chloë Houston (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010), pp. 57-69. A variant text also published in French in La figure du philosophe, ed. Alexis Tadie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de Paris Ouest, 2010), pp. 73-86.

‘Milton’s Theology’, in John Milton in Context, ed. Stephen B. Dobranski (Cambridge: CUP, 2010; paperback 2015), pp. 475-86. (The volume was awarded the Irene Samuel Memorial Award from the Milton Society for 2011.)

‘The Genres of Milton’s Commonplace Book’, in The Oxford Handbook of Milton, eds. Nicholas McDowell and Nigel Smith (Oxford: OUP, 2009), pp. 367-81.

‘The Vices of Style’, in Renaissance Figures of Speech, ed. Sylvia Adamson, Gavin Alexander, Katrin Ettenhuber (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), pp. 353-77.

‘The Genesis Narrative in the Circle of Robert Hooke and Francis Lodwick’, in Scripture and Scholarship in Early Modern England, ed. A. Hessayon and N. Keene (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 41-57.




‘New Light on a Forgotten Astronomer of Queen’s College’, Insight (http://www.queens.ox.ac.uk/library/publications) (2018).

‘Three Versions of a Restoration Ghost Story’, Notes & Queries 65 (2018), pp. 213-19.

‘Barton’s Coins: Eighteenth-Century Numismatics in New College, Oxford’, Journal of the History of Collections (2018), with coin catalogue.

‘The Literary Remains of Alexander Gil the Elder (1565-1635) and Younger (1596/7-1642?)’, Milton Quarterly 51 (2018), pp. 163-91. 

‘Seventeenth-century ‘Double Writing’ schemes, and a 1676 Letter in the Phonetic Script and Real Character of John Wilkins’, Notes & Records of the Royal Society of London 71 (2018).

‘A Royalist Mathematical Practitioner in Interregnum Oxford: The Exploits of Richard Rawlinson (1616–1668)’, The Seventeenth Century 32 (2018).

‘“All Mr Boyl’s pieces”: Robert Boyle and the Bodleian Library’, The Boyle Project  (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/boyle/media/pdf/Boyle_and_the_Bodleian_Final.pdf), 2018, pp. 1-25. 

‘Skeletons, crocodiles, human skin: The first British Museum – origins and oddities’, The Times Literary Supplement (9 June 2017), pp. 14-15.

‘Robert Hooke’s copy of John Aubrey’s Miscellanies (London, 1696)’, Bodleian Library Record (2017), pp. 94-101.

‘Barlow’s Books: Prolegomena for the study of the library of Thomas Barlow (1608/9-91)’, Bodleian Library Record (2017), pp. 13-46.

‘Milton and the Beard-Hater: Encounters with Julian the Apostate’, The Seventeenth Century 31 (2016), pp. 161-89, republished in Tania Demetriou and Tanya Pollard, eds., Milton, Drama, and Greek Texts (Routledge, 2017).

‘An Unnoticed Seventeenth-Century Commonplace Book: Exeter University Library MS 40’, Notes & Queries 63 (2016), pp. 550-56. 

‘“All Mr Boyl’s pieces”: Robert Boyle and the Bodleian Library’, The Boyle Project  (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/boyle/media/pdf/Boyle_and_the_Bodleian_Final.pdf), 2018, pp. 1-25. 

‘Reading Chaucer in New College, Oxford, in the 1630s’, co-authored with Philip Knox and Mark Griffith, Medium Ævum 85 (2016), pp. 33-58.

‘Robert Hooke’s Books’, introduction (c. 25,000 words) to web resource Robert Hooke’s Books (http://www.hookesbooks.com/), with Felicity Henderson and Yelda Nasifoglu.

‘John Aubrey, the two George Ents, and the “Paduan” Laureae Apollinari’, Bodleian Library Record 27 (2014), pp. 88-104.

‘John Milton and Giovanni Boccaccio’s Vita di Dante’, Milton Quarterly 48 (2014), pp. 139-70.

‘A Burning Issue: Boccaccio’s Life of Dante in the Bodleian, and its original owner’, The Times Literary Supplement (23 May 2014), pp. 14-15.

‘Two-Handed Milton’, introduction to Milton, Areopagitica and Other Writings (Penguin, 2014), pp. vii-xxvi.

‘Thomas Barlow’s Books at The Queen’s College’, Insight, 2013.

‘Praise and Plagiarism: Charleton/Posthius on Milton/Falconetus’, Milton Quarterly 47 (2013), pp. 230-34.

‘Milton, Dinah, and Theodotus’, Milton Quarterly 47 (2013), pp. 65-71.

‘Down and Out in Leiden and London: The Later Careers of Venceslaus Clemens (1589-1637), and Jan Sictor (1593-1652), Bohemian Exiles and Failing Poets’, The Seventeenth  Century 28 (2013), pp. 163-85.

‘Loans from the Library of Sir Edward Sherburne and the 1685 English Translation of Xenophon’, The Library 7th Series, 14 (2013), pp. 80-87.

‘A Feather in his Cap: Edmund Gibson, maker of Scots macaroni [On William Drummond’s Polemo-Middinia], The Times Literary Supplement (9 January 2013), pp. 12-13.

‘The First Intravenous Anaesthetic: How well was it managed and its potential realized?’, British Journal of Anaesthesia 2012, expanded version published as ‘Robert Boyle, the first intravenous anaesthetic, and the site of the Shelley Memorial’, both with Keith Dorrington, University College Record 2012, pp. 128-42.

‘Gloster and Bladud’, Notes & Queries 59 (2012), pp. 536-38.

‘A Swede in Restoration Oxford: Gothic Patriots, Swedish Books, English Scholars’, with Kelsey Jackson Williams, Lias 39 (2012), pp. 1-66.

‘An Account of Fount Composition from 1598’, The Library, 7th Series, 12 (2011), pp. 281-85.

‘A Late Sixteenth-Century Cryptographical Treatise: Jacobus Colius’s ‘Tractatus de fictis characteribus’ (1584-6)’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 64 (2011), pp. 213-39.

‘The Duplicates of Hans Sloane in the Bodleian Library: A detective story, with some comments on library organisation’, Bodleian Library Record (2011), pp. 192-213.

‘Early-Modern Eclecticism’, Critical Quarterly 52, no. 4 (2010), pp. 12-22.

‘The Evolution of George Hakewill’s Apologie or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God, 1627-1637: Academic Contexts, and Some New Angles from Manuscripts’, electronic British Library Journal (2010), article 10 [16,500 words].

‘Book Economy in New College, Oxford, in the Later Seventeenth Century’, History of Universities 25 (2010), pp. 56-137.

‘Theodoricus Gravius (fl. 1600-1661): Some biographical notes on a German chymist and scribe working in seventeenth-century England’, Ambix 56 (2009): 239-52.

‘The Library of Francis Lodwick: The Two Shelf-lists (Sloane MSS 855, 859)’, electronic British Library Journal (2009), article 1. 162 pp. searchable transcript with introduction and appendices. [With Felicity Henderson]

‘Milton’s Two Poems to be Fixed on Objects’, Notes & Queries 56 (2009): 213-15.

‘Sir Robert Southwell’s Dialogue on Thomas Burnet’s Theory of the Earth: “C & S discourse of Mr Burnetts Theory of the Earth” (1684)’, The Seventeenth Century 23 (2008): 72-104.

‘A Fragment of the Library of Theodore Haak (1605-1690)’, electronic British Library Journal (2007), Article 6 [17,500 words].

‘Antoine-François Payen, the 1666 Selenelion, and an unnoticed letter to Robert Hooke’, Notes & Records of the Royal Society of London 61 (2007): 251-63.

‘Francis Lodwick’s annotations to John Webster’s Academiarum Examen (1654) and John Dury’s Considerations concerning the Present Engagement (1649)’, Bodleian Library Record 19 (2006): 129-38.

‘Francis Lodwick, Hans Sloane, and the Bodleian Library’, The Library, 7th Series, 7 (2006): 377-418.

Nuncius Inanimatus: Telegraphy and Paradox in the Seventeenth Century: the Schemes of Francis Godwin and Henry Reynolds’, The Seventeenth Century 21 (2006): 45-71.

‘Seductive Forms: Unanswering Rational Shore [by J. H. Prynne]’, Quid 17 (2006): 76-8.

‘Marvell’s ‘Ganza’s’: an emendation’, Notes and Queries 53 (2006): 49-50.

‘The Origins of Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moone (1638)’, Philological Quarterly 84 (2005): 189-210.

‘Women among the prisoners: New College fragments of a new Jacobean play’, Times Literary Supplement 5356 (25 November 2005): 12-13. [with Jennifer Thorp]

‘Francis Lodwick’s Creation: Theology and Natural Philosophy in the Early Royal Society’, Journal of the History of Ideas 66 (2005): 245-63.

‘New College in 1633’, New College Record (2005): 68-74.

‘The Early Reception of Paradise Lost’, Literature Compass 1 (2004) 17C 111: 1-13.

‘A Rare Early-Modern Utopia: Francis Lodwick’s A Country Not Named (c. 1675)’, Utopian Studies 15 (2004): 115-37.

‘Seventeenth-century Preadamism, and an Anonymous English Preadamist’ (contexts, edition, and commentary), The Seventeenth Century 19 (2004): 1-35.

‘Two Early Readers of Milton: John Beale and Abraham Hill’, Milton Quarterly 38 (2004): 76-99.

‘Milton and Science: A Caveat’, Milton Quarterly 38 (2004): 18-34.

‘Polonius’ “Effect Defective”’, Notes and Queries 51 (2004): 286-87.

‘False Play: Shakespeare and the Chess Tradition’, Shakespeare Quarterly 55 (2004): 50-70.

‘The Divine and the Grammarian in the 17th-Century Universal Language Movement’, Historiographia Linguistica 30 (2003): 273-300.

‘‘Unpointed Words’: Shakespearean Syntax in Action’, Cambridge Quarterly 32 (2003): 27-48.

‘Francis Godwin, Henry Neville, Margaret Cavendish, H.G. Wells: Some Utopian Debts’, American Notes and Queries 16 (2003): 12-17.

‘Milton and Calamy’, Notes and Queries 50 (2003): 180-83.

‘A Baboon in the Garden of Eden: The Private Heresies of Francis Lodwick’, Times Literary Supplement 5204 (27 December 2002): 10-11.

Julius Caesar and Caesars Revenge Again’, Notes and Queries 49 (2002): 227-8.

‘All at Sea: water, syntax, and character dissolution in Shakespeare’, Shakespeare Survey 54 (2001): 201-12.

‘Milton, Ausonius and Denham: Two Reworkings’, Notes and Queries 48 (2001): 23-5.


Electronic bibliographies:

William Poole, ‘Bodleian Adversaria’, http://www.cems.ox.ac.uk/libraries.shtml, 2008- The details from this list have now been incorporated into the copy-specific notes of the Bodleian Library’s main catalogue, SOLO.


News, Broadcasts:

‘Language-Planning and Free-Thinking in Late Seventeenth-Century England: An AHRC-funded Project 2004-7’, Intellectual History Review 17 (2007): 331-35.

Broadcasting: BBC Radio Ulster, Sunday Sequence, ‘John Milton’, 30 March 2008; BBC Radio 4, ‘Milton’s Music’, 9 February 2010.

Podcast on Hooke’s Micrographia (1665) for the Bodleian Treasures Exhibition, 2011.

Podcast on Francis Lodwick for the Royal Society, 2011 (http://downloads.royalsociety.org/audio/lodwick.mp3).

Podcast on ‘The Bodleian Library and the Scientific Revolution’, 2012 (http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk)

I was a columnist for The Oxford Times from 2012 to 2018.



‘John Wilkins, Wadham College, and the Scientific Revolution’. Oxford, Wadham College, September 2014. Accompanied by booklet above.

‘My wit was always working’: John Aubrey and the Development of Experimental Science. Oxford, The Bodleian Library, 28th May - 31st October 2010. 45,460 visitors. Accompanied by illustrated monograph John Aubrey and the Advancement of Learning above.

Virtual gallery at: http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/about/exhibitions/online/aubrey/


Reference Works:

[Russian Encyclopedia of Shakespeare]. Moscow, 2016. Articles: Grammar Schools, Education, Timon of Athens.

The Milton Encyclopedia, ed. T. N. Corns, Yale University Press, 2012, 35 articles.

The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Renaissance Literature. Oxford: Blackwell, 2011. Articles: Francis Godwin, Francis Lodwick.


Collaborative books and booklets:

New College. London: Third Millennium, 2011. Seven chapters: on Teaching, Learning, Religion, Books, Wardens, Rogues and Eccentrics, Authors.

Instruments of Mystification. Cambridge: The Whipple Museum/Cambridge Latin Therapy Group, 2004. Booklet of Neo-Latin translations and commentaries.

    Nicholas Jardine, Katherine Harloe, William Poole, and Karin Tybjerg, ‘Darkness Visible: Obscurity and Openness in three mysterious instrument texts’, in idem., 5-13.

    William Poole, Nicholas Jardine, and Katherine Harloe, ‘Sending secret messages: Henry Reynolds’ Macrolexis’, in idem., 42-65.


College Website