Plot, Robert

, eminent for being the first who formed a plan for a natural history of England, the son of Robert Plot, esq. captain of the militia, in the hundred of Milton, in Kent, was born in 1640, at Sutton Baron, in the parish of Borden, in that county, and educated at the free -school of Wye, in the same county. In March 1658, he went to Magdalen-hall, in Oxford, where Josiah Pullen was his tutor took a bachelor of arts degree in 1661, a master’s in 1664, and both the degrees in law in 1671. He removed afterwards to University-college, where he was at the expence of placing the statue of king Alfred over the hall-door. His general knowledge and acuteness, and particularly his attachment to natural history, procured his being chosen, in 1677, a fellow of the royal society and in 1682, elected one of the secretaries of that learned body. He published their “Philosophical Transactions,” from No. 143, to No. 166, inclusive. In 1683, Elias | Ashmole, esq. appointed him the first keeper of his museum and about the same time he was nominated by the vicechancellor the first reader in chemistry in that university. In 1687, he was made secretary to the earl-marshal, or court of chivalry, which was then renewed, after it had lain dormant from the year 1641. In 1690, he resigned his professorship of chemistry, and also his place of keeper of the museum; which he then augmented by a very large collection of natural curiosities, being such as he had figured and described in his Histories of Oxfordshire and Staffordshire, and there distinguished by the names of “Scrinium Plotianum Oxoniense,” and “Scrinium Plotianum Staffordiense.” In 1688 he received the title of Historiographer to James II. which he could not long retain, as this was just before the abdication of that sovereign. In 1694-5, Henry Howard, earl-marshal, nominated him Mowbray herald extraordinary; and two days after, he was constituted registrar of the court of honour. He died of the stone, April 30, 1696, at his house in Borden, and was buried in the church there, where a monument was afterwards erected to his memory. He left two sons by his wife Rebecca, widow of Henry Burman, to whom he was married in August 1690.

Natural history was his delight; and he gave very agreeable specimens of it, in his “Natural Histories of Oxfordshire and Staffordshire.” The former was published at Oxford, in 1677, folio, and reprinted 1705, with additions and corrections, by John Burman, M. A. fellow of University-college, his step-son, and afterwards vicar of Newington, in Kent; the latter was printed also at Oxford, 1686, in the same size .*


In each of these volumes be records the rare plants of the county, describes the dubious ones, and such as he took for non-descripts, and figures several of them. To these works the English botanist owes the first knowledge of some English plants.” —Pulteney’s Sketches. Dr. —Pulteney adds, “It is amusing to remark the price of literature a century ago. The sub­ scription for Plot’s Staffordshire was, a penny a sheet, a penny a plate, and six-pence the map.” “Dr. Plot was the first author of a separate volume on Provincial Natural History; in which, it is but justice to add, that, with due allowance for the time he wrote, he has not been excelled by any subsequent writer.” Ibid,

These were intended as essays towards “A Natural History of England” for, in order to discover antiquities and other curiosities, and to promote learning and trade, he formed a design of travelling through England and Wales. By such researches, he was persuaded that many additions might be made to | Camden’s Britannia, and other works, concerning the history and antiquities of England. He drew up a plan of his scheme in a letter to bishop Fell, which may be seen at the end of the second volume of Leland’s Itinerary, of the edition of 1744. In these Histories, whatever is visible in the heavens, earth, and waters; whatever is dug out of the ground, whatever is natural or unnatural; and whatever is observable in art and science, were the objects of his speculation and inquiry; and various and dissimilar as his matter is, it is in general well connected; and his transitions are easy. His books indeed deserve to be called the “natural and artificial histories” of these counties. In the eagerness and rapidity of his various pursuits, he took upon trust, and committed to writing, some things which, upon mature consideration, he must have rejected. He did not, perhaps, know enough of experimental philosophy to exert a proper degree of scepticism in the information given to him. Besides these works, he was the author of several other productions. In 1685, he published “De Origine Fontium, Tentamen Philosophicum,” 8vo and the nine following papers of his are inserted in the “Philosophical Transactions:” 1. “An Account of Elden Hole, in Derbyshire,” No. 2. 2. “The Formation of Salt and Sand from Brine,” No. 145. 3. “Discourse concerning the Effects of the great Frost on Trees and other Plants, in 1683,” No. 165. 4. “A Discourse of perpetual Lamps,” No. 166. 5. “The History of the Weather at Oxford, in 1684 or the Observations of a full Year, made by Order of the Philosophical Society at Oxford,” No. 169. 6. “A large and curious Account of the Amianthos or Asbestine Linen,” No. 1708. 7. “Discourse concerning the most seasonable Time of felling Timber, written at the request of Samuel Pepys,esq. secretary of the admiralty,” No. 192. 8. “Of an Irishman of an extraordinary size, viz. Edward Mallone, nineteen years old, seven feet six inches high,” No. 240. 9. “A Catalogue of Electrical Bodies,” No. 245. In 1680, he published “The Clog, or Staffordshire Almanack,” engraven on a copper-plate, and inserted afterwards in his “History of Staffordshire.

Since his decease, there have been published two letters of his one “giving an Account of some Antiquities in the County of Kent,” in 1714, 8vo, and preserved in the “Bibliotheca Topographica,” No. VI. | another to the earl of Arlington, “concerning Thetford,” printed at the end of “The History and Antiquities of Glastonbury,” published by Hearne, 1722, 8vo.

He left several manuscripts behind him among which were large materials for “The Natural History of Kent, of Middlesex, and of the City of London,” which he designed to have written in the same manner as he had written the Histories of Oxfordshire and Staffordshire. His friend Dr. Charlett, master of University-college, much wished him to undertake an edition of Pliny’s “Natural History,” and a select volume of Mss. from the Ashmoiean Museum, which he says would be agreeable enough to him, but too expensive, as requiring his residence in Oxford, where he could not maintain his family so cheap as at Button Baron. 1


Biog. Brit. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. Shaw’s Staffordshire, and Hasted’s Kent. —Gent. Mag. LXV. where is a view of his house, and many particulars of his family. Granger. Letters of Eminent Persons, 3 vols. 8vo. Noble’s College of Arms. Gough’s Topography.