PURCHAS, SAMUEL, was born atThaxted in Essex, in 1577. He was educated at Cambridge, and though Wood says that he could uot ascertain at what college or hall, it appears from his own testimony that he was a member of St. John's College; for in speaking of this college he says, ' Where also the author first conceived with this travelling genius, whereof without travelling he hath travelled ever since.' (Pilgrimmes, part iii.; Dedication tu Lord Keeper Williams.)
In 1604 Purchas was instituted to the vicarage of Eastwood in Essex, but he soon left this cure to a brother, and went to live in London for the sake of greater advantages iu preparing and printing the collection of travels which he had begun to make. In July, 1615, he was incorporated bachelor of divinity at Oxford, as he stood at Cambridge, having previously been collated by the favour of Dr. John King, bishop of London, to the rectory of St. Martin's Ludgate, in London. He also became chaplain to archbishop Abbot, but he never obtained higher preferment. By the publication of his books he brought himself into debt, and it was reported that he died in prison; but Wood affirms that he died in his own house a little while after the king (Charles I.) had promised him a deanery, about 1628, aged fiftyone.
The works of this author are the following:—1,' Purchas his Pilgrimage, or Relations of the World, and the Religions observed in all Ages, and Places discovered, from thi Creation unto this, present,' 1 vol. fob, 1813, 161-1, 1617, 1626. The materials of this work he borrowed, as he sais, of above thirteen hundred authors of one or other kind,'in he knew not how many hundredths of their epistles, treatises, and relations. (Dedication to Archbishop AbbuL. prefixed to fourth edition.) 2,' Purchas his Pilgrimmes.' in four parts or vols., fob, 1625, each volume containing Ave books. The difference between these volumes and tho former publication maybe best shown in his own words: 'These brethren holding much resemblance in name, nature, and feature, yet differ in both the object and subject. This (the'Pilgrimage') being mine own in matter, though borrowed, and in form of words and method; whereas my Pilgrims are the authors themselves, acting their own parts in llieir own words, only furnished by me with such necessaries as that sta^e further required, and ordered according to my rules.' (Dedication, as above.) 3, * Microcosmu*. or the History of Man,' 8vo.. 1619; 4, ' The King's Tower, and triumphant Arch of London,' 8vo., 1623; 5, * A Funeral Sermon on Psalm xxxix. 5," 8vo., 1619.
Of these five publications, the first two'are best known, though they are now very scarce. They are curious, and in some respects valuable, and are probably the first works of the kind in our language. The dedications and prefaces particularly show that Purchas was an honest, a benevolent, and a pious man, and that he was of unwearied industry in performing his clerical duties, as well as in preparing his books for publication. He is described by a foreign writer, quoted by Wood, as 'an Englishman admirably skilled in languages, and human and divine arts, a very great philosopher, historian, and theologian, a faithful priest of his own church, very widely known for his many excellent writings, and especially for his large volumes pertaining to the East and West Indies.' (Wood's Fasti Oxonienses; Biog. Brit.; the latter contains a good description of Purehas's two principal works.)
Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)