Blagrave, John

, an eminent mathematician, who flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, was the son of John Blagrave, of Bulmarsh, esq. and was born at Reading, but in what year is not known. He acquired the rudiments of his education at Reading, whence he removed to St. John’s college, Oxford, but soon quitted the university, and retired to Southcote Lodge at Reading, where he devoted his time to study and contemplation. His genius seemed to be turned most to mathematics; and that he might study this science without interruption, he devoted himself to a retired life. He employed himself chiefly in compiling such works as might render speculative mathematics accurate, and the practical parts easy. He accordingly finished some learned and useful works, in all which he proposed to render those sciences more universally understood. He endeavoured to shew the usefulness of such studies, that they were not mere amusements for scholars and speculative persons, but of general advantage, and absolutely indispensable in many of the necessaries and conveniences of life with this view he published the four following works: 1. “A Mathematical Jewel, shewing the making and most excellent use of an instrument so called: the use of which jewel is so abundant, that it leadeth the direct path-way through the whole art of astronomy, cosmography, geography,” &c. 1582, folio. 2. “Of the making and use of the Familiar Staff, so called for that it may be made useful and familiarly to walk with, as for that it performeth the geometrical mensuration of all altitudes,1590, 4to. 3. “Astrolabium uranicum generale a necessary and pleasant solace and recreation for navigators in their long journeying containing the use of an instrument, or astrolabe,” &c. 1596, 4to. 4. “The art of Dialling, in two parts.1609, 4to.

Blagrave was a man of great beneficence in private life. As he was born in the town of Reading, and had spent most of his time there, he was therefore desirous of leaving in that place some monuments of his beneficent disposition and such too as might have reference to each of the three parishes of Reading. He accordingly bequeathed a legacy for this purpose, of which we have an account by | Ashmole, in the following words: “You are to note, that he doth devise that each church-warden should send on Good-Friday one virtuous maid that has lived five years with her master: all three maids appear at the town-hall before the mayor and aldermen, and cast dice. She that throws most has 10l. put in a purse, and she is to be attended with the other two that lost the throw. The next year come again the two maids, and one more added to them. He orders in his will that each maid should have three throws before she loses it; and if she has no luck in the three years, he orders that still new faces may come and be presented. On the same Good-Friday he gives eighty widows money to attend, and orders 10s. for a good sermon, and so he wishes well to all his countrymen. It is lucky money, for I never heard but the maid that had the lOl. suddenly had a good husband.” Blagrave died at his own house near Reading, August 9, 1611, and lies interred near his mother in the church of St. Lawrence; with a fine monument to his memory, and an inscription; the following account of which is given by Mr. Ashmole, and remains still nearly correct. On the north against the wall is a noble monument, representing a man under an arch to the middle, holding one hand on a globe, the other on a quadrant. He is habited in a short cloak,- a cassock, and a ruff, surrounded with books on each side of him. On one side is the figure of a woman to the breasts, naked, holding an instrument in her hand, as offering it to him, and under her feet the word Cubus. On the other side is another woman, somewhat naked, though with a scarf thrown closely round her, and offering in like manner; under her feet, Τετραεδρον. On the top are two women leaning on their arms, inscribed Οκταεδρον, Αδοδεκαεδρον. In the middle, a person armed, cap-a-pee, but now almost defaced, entitled Εικοσεδρον. And under the first figure mentioned, an inscription, in an oval: celebrating his virtues in homely rhimes. 1


Biog. Brit.—Coates’s Hist, of Reading, where are many particulars of Blagrave’s charities.—Ath. Ox. vol. I.—Martin’s Lives of the Philosophers.— Strutt’s Dict. of Engravers.