Who was Thomas Bray? (1656 – 1730)

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Thomas Bray (1656 – 1730), English Anglican clergyman, born in Marton, and educated at All Souls College, University of Oxford. After being ordained into the Church of England, he served in several rectories in England. In 1695 he was chosen to organize the church in the English colony of Maryland. Bray put off his journey to America, however, until he could accumulate enough material to equip parochial libraries in Maryland.

In 1698 he founded the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge for this purpose. In 1699 he left England with enough books to establish 39 libraries in Maryland and the other colonies. After organizing the colonial church, Bray returned to England in 1701. In the same year he received a royal charter for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts to expand his library work.

In 1706 he became rector of Saint Botolph’s Without, Aldgate, London, a position he held until his death. Bray maintained his interest in libraries, and in 1723 he organized a group of friends as the Associates of Dr. Bray to continue his religious and charitable work. One of the associates was James Edward Oglethorpe, who later founded the colony of Georgia. The libraries established by Bray in America were of significant cultural value to the colonists.

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