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Hakluyt, Richard

1. Dates
Born: probably London, probably early in 1552
Died: London, 23 Nov. 1616
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 64
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
Also Richard Hakluyt, a member of the Skinners' Company, which dealt in skins and furs. He was from a long established Herefordshire family, possibly of Dutch origin. The father died in 1557 when our Richard Hakluyt was about five, and the mother soon after. Hakluyt's cousin, yet another Richard Hakluyt, became his guardian.
I do not see how to avoid the conclusion that the family was at least prosperous. Four sons all received university education, and there was property in Hereford that Hakluyt eventually inherited after the death of his older brother.
3. Nationality
Birth: English
Career: English. Hakluyt spent five years in Paris. Since he was in the English embassy, I am not counting this as French residence.
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Oxford, M.A.
Westminster School.
Oxford University, Christ Church, 1570-7; B.A., 1574; M.A., 1577.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican
Hakluyt was ordained in 1578, held a number of benefices, and served two parishes.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Geography
Hakluyt became active already in his student days in encouraging English overseas colonization, and in collecting information about the voyages of discovery. His major work, The Principal Navigations . . . of the English Nation, 3 vols. was published in 1598-1600. An earlier version had come out in one volume in 1589. He published (often after translating) a number of separate accounts of voyages of discoveries. He also participated in projects of overseas expansion. Thus he was one of the patentees of the Virginia Company.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life, Patronage
Secondary: Academia, Personal Means, Miscellaneous
Hakluyt stayed on in Oxford after his M.A., still holding his studentship (in effect, fellowship) at Christ Church, 1577-83. He continued to hold the studentship, now no longer resident in Oxford, until about 1586.
While an undergraduate he received some support from the Skinners' Company. He obtained a "pension" of £6/13/4 from the Clothworkers' Company in 1578 in order to study divinity. It would have lapsed in 1583, but Lord Burghley intervened to have the pension continued to aid his geographical research. The pension continued until 1586.
Chaplain asnd secretary to the English Ambassadar in Paris, Sir Edward Stafford, 1583-8. Parks and Taylor are both convinced that he was really the client and agent of Walsingham to gather geographical information.
A prebendal stall at Bristol, 1586.
Rectory of Wetheringsett, Suffolk, 1590. He held this living until his death, and here he resided through the 90s and frequently thereafter.
Hakluyt became a consultant to the East India Company in 1599. The company records show his participation and also payments to him. Already in 1594, according to a letter which survives, he was consulted by a Dutch venture, and he demanded a fee of £20 for his services--although it is not clear that he was in fact paid on that occasion. I cannot quite call this patronage, and I am listing the consulting income under miscellaneous.
Prebendary of Westminster, 1602, with annual stipend of £32/5.
Archdeacon of Westminster, 1603-5. (He received an extra £4 each year for this office.)
Chaplain of the Hospital the the Savoy, 1604.
Hakluyt was a director of the Virginia Company in 1589, and later, in 1606, a patentee of a new Virginia Company. In 1612 he became a charter member of the North-west Passage Company. I did not see any suggestion of a salary with these positions.
His brother Oliver presented him to a benefice in Gedney, Lincolnshire, 1612.
Family property fell to him upon the death of his elder brother in 1591. A year later, upon the death of his younger brother Edmond, he inherited another property, which derived from his uncle.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Government Official, Aristrocrat, Gentry, Merchant
The whole of Hakluyt's career hinged on patronage motivated by interest in his geographical research.
Already in 1580 he dedicated his first publication, a translation of Cartier's Short and Briefe Narration, to Edmond Bray, Esq., the High Sheriff of Oxford.
He dedicated his second publication, Divers Voyages, to Sir Philip Sidney, who happened to be Walsingham's son-in-law.
Hakluyt composed the Discourse on the Western Planting, 1584, as Raleigh's client. He presented the document, dedicated to Elizabeth of course, to the Queen to gain her support for Raleigh's expedition. At the same time he presented to her his analysis of Aristotle's Politics, also dedicated to her. She bestowed the prebendal stall at Bristol upon him in return. All of the accounts link the presentations/dedications and the prebend in precisely this way.
In 1587 he dedicated his translation of Laudonnière's account of Florida and later that year an edition of Peter Martyr's Decades to Raleigh.
There are differing accounts of the post in the embassy in Paris. One is that he was already the client of Walsingham, who arranged it. He did dedicate the initial edition of Principal Navigations, 1589, to Walsingham, who apparently bore at least part of the expense of publication. The other account is that he owed the position in English Embassy to Lord Howard of Effingham (the Earl of Nottingham) and Sir Edward Stafford (the ambassador, who was also Lord Howard's brother-in-law). He dedicated the first volume (1598) of the definitive three volume edition to Lord Howard, the Lord High Admiral, and Stafford's wife (the Countess of Sheffield in her own right) presented him to the living of Wetheringsett in 1590.
Walsingham died before he had time to reward Hakluyt much. But in the late 90s he became the client of Sir Robert Cecil, Burghley's son, who was to be Hakluyt's most fruitful patron. He dedicated the second and third volumes (1599, 1600) of the Principal Navigations to Cecil and also his edition of Galvano's Discoveries, 1601. (The last dedication refers to Cecil's patronage and support.) Cecil, who was the principal Secretary of State, rewarded him with a prebendary of Westminster and the chaplaincy in the Savoy. Until the Savoy position opened, Hakluyt was Cecil's personal chaplain.
He was acquainted with many eminent merchants and his research obtained their support. I have indicated above that his paid consultancies for mercantile ventures do not appear as patronage to me. Haluyt did dedicate his translation of de Soto's narrative to the Virginia Company.
The Taylor volumes print all of his dedications.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Navigation, Cartography
This heading gives me trouble. All of Hakluyt's geographical research was directed toward practical use, and I cannot list him here under the category, None. He did not contribute to the science of navigation itself, but he was constantly concerned to propagate knowledge of navigation in England. In the 80s and 90s he lobbied for the establishment of formal instruction in navigation. Similarly Hakluyt never drew a map himself. Skelton argues that he did not think in a cartographic idiom. The Principal Navigations are in prose, with only one world map in the three volumes. However, already in Oxford he lectured on what he called the new cartography (i.e., the revised understanding of the world). He was important in printing and thus disseminating the best maps he could find. The experts think that he aided Molyneux with the location of details on his globe on 1592, and that possibly he also aided Wright in the same way with his Mercator projection of the Molyneux globe. This map, the highest product of 16th century English cartography, he published in the Principal Navigations.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Informal Connections: Correspondence with Abraham Ortelius, a Spanish (better, Flemish) Cosmographer, and Gerard Mercator. All of his correspondence is in the Taylor volumes.
  1. Edward Lynam, ed, Richard Hakluyt and his successors (Hakluyt Society, 2nd ser., 93), (London, 1946). Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-50), 8, 895-6. Biographia Britannica, 1st ed. (London, 1747-66), 4, 2461-74.
  2. Anthony à Wood, Athenae oxonienses (Fasti oxonienses is attached, with separate pagination, to the Athenae), 4 vols. (London, 1813-20), 2, 186-9.
  3. G.B. Parks, Richard Hakluyt and the English Voyages, (New York, 1928). E.G.R. Taylor, "Introduction," in The Original Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts (Hakluyt Society, 2nd ser., 76-7), (London, 1935). D.B. Quinn and R.A. Skelton, "Introduction," in Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, (Cambridge, 1965), pp. ix-lx.
  4. D.B. Quinn, ed., The Hakluyt Handbook, 2 vols. (Hakluyt Society, 2nd ser., 144-5), (London, 1974). D.B. and A.M. Quinn, "A Hakluyt Chronology," in Quinn, ed., The Hakluyt Handbook, 1, 263-331. This is the best source of information about Hakluyt's life, presented in tabular form rather than as a prose biography, that I have found.
  5. R.A. Skelton, "Hakluyt's Maps," in Quinn, ed., The Hakluyt Handbook, 1, 48-73.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Foster Watson, Richard Hakluyt, (London, 1924).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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