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Grant number like: FA-50016-04

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Nicolas K. Kiessling
Washington State University (Pullman, WA 99164-0001)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$24,000 (approved)
$24,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2004 – 2/28/2005

The Autobiography of Anthony Wood

I am editing the autobiography of Anthony Wood (1632-1695), the Oxford historian whose publications and notes for posthumous publications remain our major source of information about Oxford University and daily life in Oxford before 1695. Wood's commitment to writing clear unadorned prose and to present the truth as he saw it, along with his introduction of a genre new to England, the bio-bibliography, set him apart from his contemporaries and looked forward to practices which are standard today. His need to write the "truth" led to problems: a formal trial, expulsion from the University, and the public burning of the second volume of his Athenae Oxonienses. Manuscripts of the autobiography survive in two versions, and none of the previous four editions, the last of which was published in 1891-94, has taken into account the changes from the first to the second versions. I will present an edition with a clean text of Wood's narrative followed by textual notes and commentary in appendices. In the introduction I will discuss how he presented himself, what he thought were challenges and achievements, why he chose his details, and what he rejected or overlooked. Wood was not an elitist and regarded himself as an outsider in Oxford. He graduated from Merton College, but he was not invited to be an active member of the college. Yet he numbered among his acquaintances a host of Oxford persons as well as others such as Elias Ashmole, John Aubrey, William Dugdale, and Increase Mather. He is a marvelous example of a person who discovered a purpose, dedicated himself to that purpose, and accomplished far more than any of the university scholars who marginalized him because he was neither of their class nor a full member of the university. His autobiography ends in the year 1672, and I will reconstruct the latter years, to 1695, from his own words as he recorded them in his diaries, in his annotations in his personal collection of printed books, and in his manuscripts.