Happy 400th birthday Elias Ashmole

Elias Ashmole, founder of the Ashmolean Museum, was born on this day in 1617.

Ashmole donated most of his collection, his antiquarian library and priceless manuscripts to the University of Oxford in 1677. Much of the collection had originally been assembled by the noted gardeners and collectors John Tradescant and his son.

When the Ashmolean was opened in 1683 it was not just a repository and place for research and teaching but also a public museum. Ashmole’s vision ultimately laid the foundations for museums as we know them today.

Born in Staffordshire, Elias Ashmole trained as a lawyer but he was better known for his wide-ranging interests. He was a collector and antiquary, an alchemist, an astrologer and a botanist. 

A staunch Royalist, Ashmole left London at the outbreak of the Civil War and moved, in 1644, to Oxford, the new Royalist capital. The following year he was admitted to Oxford’s Brasenose College to study natural philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and astrology.