Society of Antiquaries of London Catalogue of Drawings and Museum Objects

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Society of Antiquaries of London (2005) Society of Antiquaries of London Catalogue of Drawings and Museum Objects [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

SoA Catalogue of Drawings & Museum Objects: Overview


The collections

Photograph of Cannon of Muhammed II
British Archaeological Association Collection

The BAA Collection of drawings consists of about 270 drawings, from the Institute of Archaeology (formerly belonging to the British Archaeological Association), in several portfolios of miscellaneous prints and drawings. Some of these drawings were published in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association.

Gwentia Collection

The Gwentia Collection is contained in four bound volumes (460 x 340 mm each), entitled on the spine 'Gwentia Eccles. Antiq.', and containing, mostly affixed one item to a folio, 174 watercolours, 23 printed illuminations, and three other items. Most of the pictures are of church exteriors, though there are some fonts and monuments, as well as a few cromlechs and miscellaneous subjects. All the watercolours are or were inscribed, variously in pen or pencil, and sometimes in both. Many of the inscriptions have been erased, and are now hardly legible.

It is not possible to say by whom the drawings were mounted in the volumes or when. Whoever it was gave each watercolour a title label in pen and arranged the watercolours in approximately alphabetical order by place-name. The title label of Gwentia II/25 perhaps suggests that the drawings were mounted in the volumes sometime after 1853.

Not one of the watercolours is dated, nor has it been possible to see whether there are any inscriptions or dates on the verso or dates in a watermark. But internal evidence suggests that the drawings must be of c1845-6, which accords nicely with an announcement in Archæologia Cambrensis 1 (1846): 467, that the drawings which 'one of the most enlightened antiquaries and encouragers of archaeology in Monmouthshire'had commissioned of every church and chapel in the county had been 'finished in May last'.

As to the watercolours themselves, they might at first perhaps be thought to be the work of two different artists. Some are markedly harsher and darker than others. But a general similarity in the overall colour tones and in the techniques used suggests that, if indeed there is more than a single artist at work, they at any rate had a common painting instructor.

The painter of the watercolours is unknown. The name of Mrs Elizabeth Harcourt Mitchell has been suggested, but that is not possible. Certainly the unknown artist is an amateur in painting, and evidently, in archaeology also. Comprehension of perspective is so slight that it is sometimes all but impossible to interpret a drawing, and where it is possible to compare drawings one with another, there are differences to be seen in the archaeological details.

Most of the items in the collection are in pencil and watercolour. The inscriptions, and more specifically, the various differences in the spelling of the names of places (whether on drawing or on label) are given only when they are thought to be significant either in assisting the identification of the subject, or in what they tell that the watercolour does not.

Provenance is unknown, though it might be that the four volumes formed part of the Wakeman collection, which passed to Octavius Morgan, and then was presented to the Society by his nephew, Henry S Milman, in 1891.

Museum Collection

The Society's collection is very diverse, having grown since meetings first took place in the early eighteenth century. The miscellaneous collections, consisting of over three thousand objects, reflect the diverse interests of the Society's primary benefactors, the Fellowship. Items were acquired by gift, bequest, or sometimes purchase, occasionally after exhibition at a meeting, or because they could by used in the Society's ceremonies. Minutes of presentations illuminate Fellows' theories, and sometimes hint at later changes in archaeological methodology.

Society Albums

The Society Albums are a collection of eleven albums, with the following titles:

  • Primeval Antiquities
  • Classical Antiquities
  • Britannia Romana
  • Non-Classical Antiquities
  • Early Medieval Antiquities
  • Architectural Remains
  • Arms and Armour
  • Coins
  • Instrumenta Ecclesiastica
  • Personal Ornaments
  • Utensils and Furniture

The albums contain drawings, prints, and a few photographs, organized approximately into the categories listed above. The drawings are mainly those used to illustrate articles in Archaeologia from the earliest volume in 1770, to the mid-19th century. There are also some of the original drawings for Vetusta Monumenta. Some of the drawings, however, are unpublished, the most notable example being the Witham bowl (Early Medieval Antiquities 60 and Early Medieval Antiquities 61.1). Many of the finest drawings are by the Society's draughtsmen T R Underwood and James Basire, and were made into wood or copper engravings by Basire.

Evidence suggests that the compiler of the albums was William Long, who may have been the man engaged to catalogue and arrange drawings and prints in 1840. Many of the drawings are mounted on grey card, with details such as provenance, bibliographic reference, and name of the artist written neatly at the bottom. One of these grey cards has been reused, and the initials WL 1842 are visible behind the drawing (Personal Ornaments 8.1). The title page of the Primeval Antiquities album is signed WL 1846. He was still annotating drawings for Archaeologia 33 in 1849. The period of compilation was therefore during the ten years from 1840 to 1850.

Although Long's work in annotating the drawings accurately is extremely valuable, it should be noted that he took the liberty of inscribing the artists' names on the drawings, which makes them look like original signatures. In one or two cases, the original signature can be seen on the back of a drawing that has not been firmly glued down. Personal Ornaments 23.1, for example, has T R Underwood's signature on the back.

Way Collection

The Way Collection consists of nearly 1,700 items collected by Albert Way (1805-74), FSA, Director of the Society of Antiquaries from 1842 to 1846. It includes drawings, watercolours, engravings, and a few letters. They are organized by subject into six volumes, with the following titles:

Volume 1: Romano-British period
Volume 2: Metalwork of the Bronze Age and early Iron Age
Volume 3: Implements of stone, horn, and bone
Volume 4: Pottery
Volume 5: Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods
Volume 6: Fibulæ.

Many of the items in the collection relate to articles published in the Archaeological Journal.

Prattinton Collection

The Prattinton Collection relating to the history of Worcestershire (MS 520) was assembled by Dr. Peter Prattinton (1776-1840) and received by the Society in 1841 under the terms of his will. It consists of notes and extracts, letters, deeds, many original drawings, engravings, and printed material.

Peter Prattinton was born in Bewdley in 1776, the only son of William Prattinton, a member of a family long connected with the flourishing grocery trade which supplied local shops with goods imported through Bristol. He was educated at Oxford and became a Bachelor of Medicine in 1797; he was always known as Dr. Prattinton, but never entered medical practice. He used the wealth which he inherited to devote himself almost entirely to collecting material on Worcestershire history and antiquities especially between 1810 and 1835. Every August he would leave Bewdley to visit churches in the county and transcribe property deeds in private possession. Returning in October, he would work on his notes making fair copies until February or March, when he would go to Worcester, Oxford, or London for long periods of research in public and private collections. He died a bachelor in 1840, and was buried in Ribbesford.

By his will of 1819, Prattinton gave to the Society of Antiquaries of London "all my collections for illustrating 'Mr. Habingdon's Survey of the County of Worcestershire' ". Prattinton was not a Fellow, but had spent much time in 1810 transcribing the collections of Thomas Habington (1560-1647) and other Worcestershire material which had been left to the Society, by a former president, Rev Charles Lyttelton. Prattinton was an avid collector of historical and contemporary items on the county, who never published anything himself.

When Prattinton's collections were sent by cart from Bewdley to London in 1841, they filled one large oak chest and four other boxes. The manuscript material (now MS 520) comprises 75 volumes of notes; 5 large folio volumes of hundreds of pamphlets, printed notices, and plans; 38 boxes of pamphlets, deeds, and letters; 5 boxes of illustrations; and 2 volumes of portraits. He also gave many printed books, museum objects, seal impressions, and brass rubbings.

This extensive collection has been arranged by the Worcestershire historian, E A B Barnard, and listed in his The Prattinton Collection of Worcestershire History (Evesham: The Journal Press, 1931) and two additional typescript catalogues compiled in 1932 and 1951. A summary can be found in Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Society of Antiquaries of London (Woodbridge: Brewer, 2000). Only a selection of the material has, as yet, been catalogued here. It includes several rare preliminary drawings done for the Ordnance Survey. Prattinton acquired these and kept them, whereas in other areas they were thrown away after the finished plans had been drawn.

Fisher (Cambridgeshire) Collection

The Fisher (Cambridgeshire) Collection consists of 33 items, most of which are drawings by Thomas Fisher, many dated 1802. The subjects of these drawings are churches and church monuments from various locations in Cambridgeshire. They were probably purchased in 1837 by John Bowyer Nichols, and bound while in his possession. The volume was purchased by the Society of Antiquaries in 2001, from the collection of Lt Col J C W Francis.

Fisher (Kent) Collection

This collection is contained in three volumes (625 x 470 each) bound in green leather. All three volumes have bookplates of Fiennes Stanley Wykeham Cornwallis (1864-1935) and Francis Fane Lambarde (1868-1948). The latter are inscribed 'TGJ 1908'. Thomas Graham Jackson (1835-1924), the architect, had married a Lambarde in 1880.

Affixed to the fly-leaf of the first volume is a letter of 5 October 1938 from Ralph Hare Griffin (1854-1941) to General Fane Lambarde. It reads:

Dear General
Very glad to get yours of the
3rd. & to find that you had secured
the 3 fine Volumes of the Cornwallis
Library from Linton [Park, Maidstone,
Baron Cornwallis's seat]. I only regret that
M. S. [Mill Stephenson (1857-1937), with
whom Griffin had worked on monumental
brasses] is not at Soc. Antiq. to
welcome them as I shall as soon
as I get there on my return to Town.

I hope you will have a
very nice time in Cyprus but don't
let them induce you to become Governor
General or take up any troublesome
political function out there.
Kent [Archaeological Society]
seems to be in a very good
way now we have Tower [Sir
Reginald Tower, President
1937-1939] as a
president who pushes things gently
along. The way in which they have
arranged about the Twisden pictures
[the Kent Archaeological Society had
in 1937 received the family portraits
and pictures under the will of Sir John
Ramskill Twisden, 12th and last
Baronet, of Bradbourne Hall, Kent]
is a very excellent example of
how to do it… Besides this various
useful digs have been carried
on without any fuss. Stokes as
Treasurer [Charles Stokes, Hon
Treasurer and Financial Secretary,
1925-1947] seems to have
arranged a lot of little matters
in a way that he was disinclined to
do some years back. So everybody
is "purring". I wish you were more of
Always yours
Ralph Griffin

The three volumes contain between them, mostly affixed one item to each folio, 322 drawings. They include watercolours and engravings and other printed items, as well as numerous drawings in pen and washes of various colours. Taken as a whole, the collection is perhaps of more ecclesiological than topographical interest. The printed items derive from a relatively few sources, which are identified wherever possible. As to the drawings, there are some interesting watercolour views of Broadstairs, Gravesend, Malling Abbey, and Rochester. But the real strength and beauty of the collection lies in the wonderful series of exquisitely executed drawings by Thomas Fisher (1772-1836) ranging in date from 1878 to 1807. There are watercolour views of churches and various interior details including stained glass, inscriptions, fonts, tombs, and especially monumental brasses. These are recorded complete with their ledger stones and often to scale.

Fisher (Shropshire) Collection

The Fisher (Shropshire) collection consists of twenty-eight drawings made by Thomas Fisher (1772-1836) at Moreton Corbet, Shropshire. They were commissioned by Richard Gough (see Fisher's letter to him, Bodleian Library MS 17790, ff. 323-6).

All twenty-eight drawings are contained in an album which was found in the Society of Antiquaries' General Secretary's office in 1959. It is thought to have been presented by Ralph Griffin.

The sale of Fisher's collections on 15 March 1837 included drawings of Shropshire.

Inscriptions on several of the drawings (see numbers 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, and 28) refer to 'the Book of Drawings which is in the possession of Mr Corbet of Acton Reynold', from which Fisher apparently copied. In the library of Shrewsbury School are a number of early eighteenth-century drawings, given to the school in 1945 by Robert Rutson James, who had acquired them (along with two others), on 24 November 1933. All eight drawings are now in a vellum-bound volume bearing the bookplate of Andrew Vincent Corbet, 1835, the year he succeeded his father as 2nd Baronet. The binding of the volume seen by Fisher in 1807 was different and perhaps contained several more drawings; for in F Stackhouse Acton, The Castles & Old Mansions of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Leake and Evans, 1868) are plates that are said to have been 'copied from drawings of the original design, in the possession of Sir Vincent R[owland] Corbet' (1821-91) which survive among neither the Society's nor the school's drawings.

The school's volume contains, besides the six early eighteenth-century drawings, two plans dated 10 September 1796, one each for the ground and chamber floors, by the local architect J H Haycock (1759-1830) towards a rebuilding of the castle for Andrew Corbet (1766-1835), who was created a baronet in 1808. When the drawings left Acton Reynold is unknown; there are other items from the Moreton Corbet library at Shrewsbury School, but when they were acquired is likewise unknown.

Fisher (Miscellaneous) Collection

This collection consists of 108 items, mainly drawings by Thomas Fisher of churches and brasses in various parts of England. A few of them are duplicates, or near duplicates, of drawings in the Fisher (Kent) Collection. Unlike that collection, however, these drawings are not bound.

Contents of the Society of Antiquaries of London Drawings & Museum Objects Catalogue

Architectural Remains185188
Arms and Armour6970
Britannia Romana315328
Classical Antiquities140144
Early Medieval Antiquities140153
Eastern Antiquities135139
Instrumenta Ecclesiastica7176
Personal Ornaments8191
Primeval Antiquities360372
Utensils and Furniture175186
Fisher (Cambridgeshire)3333
Fisher (Kent)322331
Fisher (Miscellaneous)10877
Fisher (Shropshire)2828
Museum Objects675711
*The number of images is sometimes slightly greater than the corresponding number of items because, in some cases, close-up photographs of details were made, as well as an overall view of the entire object.

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