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Isaac Casaubon

On the wall of the south transept of Westminster Abbey is a monument to scholar and historian Dr Isaac Casaubon. The black and white marble monument is by sculptor Nicholas Stone and consists of an inscription tablet and various decorations of palm, laurel and olive branches. The Latin inscription can be translated:

Isaac Casaubon. Ye men of learning rise with respect to this venerable name whom Gallia produced for the good of the learned world: and Henri IV the powerful King of France called from his studies and made Keeper of the Royal Library at Paris, and while he lived ever esteemed him. After his murder King James, monarch of Great Britain, the most learned of kings and most indulgent of learned men, invited him to England and munificently encouraged and whom posterity will ever admire for learning. Here he lies, superior to envy, breathing out his soul in Christ, he entered into eternity on the Kal. of July 1614 aged 55 years. To this most excellent man, well worthy immortal, Thomas Moreton, Bishop of Durham, pleased with the memory of his conversation erected this monument 1634. He that would know Casaubon, let him not read monuments but books, superior to marble and more useful to posterity

He was born in Geneva on 18th February 1559, a son of Huguenot parents Arnaud and Jeanne. He was educated at the university in his home town and taught Greek there. His first wife was Marie Prolyst but she and their daughter died. In 1586 in Geneva he married Florence, daughter of Henry Estienne [or Stephanus, the famous printer] and they had seventeen children, of whom about half did not survive infancy. His first major published work was on the Greek geographer Strabo and many other works followed. The invitation to come to England seems to have come from Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury. Isaac was later made a prebendary of Canterbury but died in London on 1st July 1614. He was buried at the entrance to St Benedict's chapel in the Abbey, just across the transept from his monument. His wife was buried in the Abbey on 11th March 1636. Their son Meric also became a classical scholar and married Frances and had children John and Anne.

There are some initials carved on the monument, of which IW 1658 is traditionally said to be those of Isaak Walton but are more likely to be those of a Westminster schoolboy.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Isaac Casaubon by Mark Pattison, 1892 (with translation of his will and list of works)

Born

18th February 1559

Died

1st July 1614

Field

Historian

Location

South Transept

Memorial Type

Tablet

Isaac Casaubon
Isaac Casaubon monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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It’s very hard not to be enthusiastic working at the Abbey. If this place doesn’t make you smile I don’t know what will.

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