Samuel Savage Lewis

Samuel Savage Lewis, son of William Jonas Lewis, surgeon, was born at Spital Square, Bishopsgate, London. His studies at St John’s College, Cambridge,  were interrupted by poor eyesight and he moved to Canada, farming from 1857-60. In 1864, with his sight improved through several operations, he re-entered St John’s, moving in 1865 to Corpus Christi College. He was exhibitioner in 1866, then Mawson Scholar, and  was made Fellow of Corpus in 1869, ordained deacon at Ely in 1872 and priest in 1873, and obtained FSA in 1872. From 1870 until his death, Lewis was College Librarian and from 1872-79, secretary of the Church Patronage Society.

Lewis travelled widely through Europe and the Middle East and was proficient in many languages. He was an antiquary and a collector, mainly of classical coins, gems and seals. He had a reputation as a kindly eccentric and was generally known as ‘Satan Lewis’ on account of his straggly black beard and unconventional dress.

Lewis married Agnes Smith on 12 December 1887, and they lived, along with Agnes’s twin sister, first in Harvey Road, then, from March 1890, at ‘Castlebrae’, Chesterton Lane. Lewis died suddenly, apparently of heart failure, on a train near Oxford, in 1891. He and his wife are buried in Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge.

Portrait of Samuel Savage Lewis, by C.H. Brock, given to the College by Lewis's widow

Samuel Savage Lewis presented many printed books to the Library at Corpus during his lifetime, and his collection of personal books after his death. His collection of classical items formed a museum in his college rooms, and is now on permanent loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum, where the items are regularly on public exhibition. Two globes which Lewis presented to the College while Librarian now stand just  inside the door of the Wilkins Room.

The Parker Library, Wilkins Room

Below are example of Lewis  inscriptions in some of the books he donated.  Lewis acquired his books from a range of sources, including Joseph Rix of St Neots, Macmillan & Bowes, the Cambridge bookseller, and a donation from an uncle, Peter Bunnell,  Christmas, 1873. All inscriptions shown are in Lewis’s hand.

4 thoughts on “Samuel Savage Lewis

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  1. Thankyou for putting this up, which adds a lot of extra dimensions to a man whose name meant something to me already; when still in Cambridge, I was responsible for putting his coin collection, which is of course at the Fitzwilliam, online there. It’s especially rich in coins from the Holy Land, and I was at one point struck, when scanning coins of King Herod from 30-32 CE, that if one had been in need of some carpentry in Nazareth around that time, and had hired Joseph & Son, one would have probably paid with that sort of coin, and therefore there was a tiny tiny chance that the coins I was handling had also passed through the hands of Jesus. That was a bit of a moment, but it’s presumably one that the Rev. Lewis had at some point also had…

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