THE SOWERBY COLLECTION (1739-1985)

This record is held by Natural History Museum Library and Archives

Details of L MSS SOWERBY COLL
Reference: L MSS SOWERBY COLL
Title: THE SOWERBY COLLECTION (1739-1985)
Description:

A. The Sowerby family

 

B. James Sowerby

 

C. James de Carle Sowerby

 

D. James de Carle's descendants

 

E. George Brettingham Sowerby I

 

F. Charles Edward Sowerby

 

G. Charlotte Ann Sowerby/Bryant

 

H. Felicia Elizabeth Anne Sowerby/Bryant

 

J. The Royal Botanical Society

 

K. Unidentified drawings, manuscripts and prints

 

L. Copper plates

 

M. Photocopies, lists and secondary sources

 

N. The J W Salter Collection

 

O. Other Sowerby accessions

 

Conventions

 

Women who married into or out of the Sowerby family are referred to by their maiden/married surnames (as 'Charlotte Anne Sowerby/Bryant') irrespective of their marital status at the date of the document.

 

Dates given for papers related to publications are normally those of the publication itself. Thus drawings and manuscript drafts may be older than the date given.

Note:

Prepared by J C Thackray

"
Date: 1641-1986
Arrangement:

Collection Divisions:

 

A. Sowerby family correspondence and papers

 

B. James Sowerby, his wives and infant children

 

C. James de Carle Sowerby and his wife

 

D. James de Carle's children, their wives and descendants

 

E. George Brettingham Sowerby I and his descendants

 

F. Charles Edward Sowerby and his son

 

G. Charlotte Ann Sowerby/Bryant and her daughter

 

H. Felicia Elizabeth Anne Sowerby/Bryant

 

J. The Royal Botanical Society

 

K. Unidentified drawings, manuscripts and prints

 

L. Copper plates

 

M. Photocopies, lists and secondary sources

 

N. The J W Salter Collection

 

O. Other Sowerby accessions

 

Items within divisions A - H are arranged in the order:

 

Biographical materials and portraits

 

Diaries and Notebooks

 

Correspondence

 

Papers relating to publications

 

Other manuscripts and printed papers

Held by: Natural History Museum Library and Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Creator:

Sowerby family of London

Physical description: 14 Series
Custodial history:

The Sowerby Archive developed during the lifetime of James Sowerby (1757-1822), his son James de Carle Sowerby (1787-1871), and his grandson William Sowerby (1827-1906). J de C Sowerby sold botanical and geological specimens to the British Museum in 1859 and 1860 together with the original water colour drawings for English Botany and English Fungi. He sold the drawings for the Supplement to English Botany to the Museum in 1862 and for Dawson Turner's Muscologiae Hibernicae Spicilegium in 1866. These four collections are held in the Botany Library. William's property passed to his son James Bryant Sowerby (1855-1934) and, in 1908, his grandson James Frank Sowerby (1887-1968) organised an exhibition drawn from the archive at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Regents Park (M27).

 

James Frank succeeded to the property on his father's death in 1934. He sold drawings of fungi, a manuscript report on dry rot in the British Navy, a number of botanical books, and a 'collection of Mss and drawings of James Sowerby' to the Museum in 1937 (Botany Library and 01-07), as well as some items to other purchasers. Andrew Templeman, a collector of geological books and manuscripts, acquired material from J F Sowerby, including the collection of correspondence that was subsequently bought by Dr and Mrs Eyles, and partly sold to the Museum between 1975 and 1986 (see his transcripts at M20). The rest of this correspondence remains with the Eyles library at Bristol University.

 

The end of the 1960s saw the death of James Frank Sowerby and the dispersal of the collection. The bulk was sold cheaply to a dealer in Working. Some items were purchased from the dealer by David Battie who sold most of them to Mr Martin in Folkestone, who in turn consigned them to Sotheby's (lots 101-113, 24 May 1965, and 183-187, 2 May 1966). Many of these lots were bought by Bernard Quaritch Ltd, who issued a catalogue entitled Supplementa Sowerbiana in 1969 (M29). The Museum purchased diaries, account books and some letters from this catalogue in October 1970 (C13, C21, D7-D32, F3), and account books in 1981 via S P Dance (C7-C10, C12). The bulk of the archive was sold at Sotheby's on 4 November 1969 when the Museum purchased lots 297 (correspondence), 297a (manuscript notes and drafts), and 298 (prints, drawings and copper plates) (M28). In April 1973 the Museum bought more correspondence direct from John James Sowerby, James Frank's son (A42-A46, A55-A59). Other acquisitions incorporated into the collection are as follows:

 

Drawings of shells (O9); A Matthews; March 1973 11 letters of J C Loudon (A35); J Gloag; February 1975 Album of engraved plates (O12); S P Dance; 1977 Letter of Dawson Turner (O10); Quaritch; May 1978 394 Sowerby letters (incorporated into A); Sotheby; March 1980

 

Papers of J W Salter (N1-N43); Mrs Miller; July 1985

 

The purchases are documented in the Sowerby Collection file in Museum Archives (DF601).

 

The arrangement derives from the work of Mrs Jessie Bell Macdonald, a researcher who was commissioned to work on the collection a few months each year from 1970 to 1981. She was responsible for organisation of most of the correspondence into a single alphabetical sequence, and the identification of many of the prints, drawings and manuscripts. Mr R J Cleevely, of the Palaeontology Department at the Museum, added many identifications to plates and drawings in the course of his extensive researches on the Sowerby family. The present arrangement was the work of Mr J C Thackray, the Museum Archivist, in 1993, and is based as far as possible on provenance rather than authorship. He was assisted in the rearrangement and rehousing by Miss Monica Halpin.

Publication note:

Cleevely, R J, 1974. A provisional bibliography of natural history works by the Sowerby family. Journal of the Society for the History of Natural History 6(6): 482-559

 

Cleevely, R J, 1974. The Sowerbys, the Mineral Conchology and their fossil collection. Journal of the Society for the History of Natural History 6(6): 418-481

 

Cleevely, R J, 1976. The Sowerbys and their publications in the light of the manuscript material in the British Museum (Natural History). Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History) 7(4): 343-368

 

Collins, J, 1973. The Sowerby family. Privately published by the author: (ii), 23pp.

 

MacDonald, J B, 1974. The Sowerby collection in the British Museum (Natural History): a brief description of its holdings and a history of its acquisition from 1821-1971. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 6(6): 380-401

 

Meynell, G, 1980. The Royal Botanic Society's Garden, Regent's Park. London Journal 6:135-146.

 

Simpkins, D M, 1974. Biographical sketch of James Sowerby, written by his son, James de Carle Sowerby, 1825. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 6(6): 402-415

 

Sowerby, A de C et al, 1952. The Sowerby Saga, being a brief account of the origin and genealogy of the Sowerby family... Washington: 180pp

 

Sowerby, J F, 1908. List of exhibits. Sowerby Exhibition. Royal Botanical Society, London: 28pp

Subjects:
  • Sowerby, James, 1757 - 1822, naturalist
  • Natural sciences
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