Engraved and etched copper plates owned by the London-based antiquarian collector Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) came to the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, with his bequest of a large collection of material, in 1755. The majority of these plates were gathered by Rawlinson second-hand from printers or other collectors, and thus date from the seventeenth, and first half of the eighteenth, century. These illustrate scenes and objects of antiquarian and topographical interest and many portraits. The plates include work by seventeenth-century engravers Wenceslaus Hollar [see the catalogue of Hollar’s work by Richard Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677] and David Loggan. Another group of plates within this collection was made for Rawlinson himself, to depict unique objects in his own vast antiquarian collections. These collections included a large number of medieval and early modern manuscripts donated or bequeathed to several institutions including the Bodleian, as well as printed images, antique and exotic cultural objects, inscriptions, and seal matrices.
The copper plates thus sit within a much more extensive collection assembled by an eighteenth-century antiquarian, touching on areas of curatorial interest to libraries, museums, and archives. Surviving papers and notebooks of Richard Rawlinson are held at the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and at St John’s College, Oxford.
The collection is the focus of a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership, beginning in October 2020, between the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, and the Bodleian Libraries. Learn more….
Number of items
The number of plates is approximately 750. Lists made at different times indicate that a few items were moved to another collection after arriving in the Bodleian Library.
Where can I find information about this collection?
The essential guide to information about Richard Rawlinson’s life and his multiple collections is the unpublished DPhil thesis by B.J. Enright, Richard Rawlinson : collector, antiquary, and topographer (University of Oxford, 1957). This is available from the Rare Books office in the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections, by application to staff in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room.
The most comprehensive information currently available about Rawlinson’s copper plates is contained in handwritten lists from the early twentieth century, and one printed resource, all kept in the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections. [See link for information about access.] Prospective researchers must be able to navigate both printed and handwritten resources.
(1) Reference index, bound as ‘Index to the Rawlinson Copperplates.’ This was compiled in 1900 by Edith Guest. It is kept in the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections, in the Reference section at R. 6.236.
Slips of paper are pasted into a large scrapbook. These contain brief descriptions, arranged alphabetically by principal subject, e.g. a geographical or family name, or genre term, e.g. ‘Business card’. The list includes notes of where the prints from these plates were located in the library, either in Rawlinson’s own collection of prints (shelfmarks ‘Rawl. Prints’ etc.) or in published books.
(2) Library handlist of Rawlinson Copperplates (Handlist 327)
A transcription of the Edith Guest’s index, presented as a handwritten list arranged by order of shelfmark (call number), to provide a guide for librarians to the order in which the plates are kept on library shelves.
The shelfmarks are in the format:
Rawlinson copperplates / size indicator letter (a = largest, g=smallest) / running number within each size range
The handlist begins with:
Rawlinson copperplates a.1, Map of Anglo-Saxon Britain according to Bede. Printed in Bede’s Historiae Ecclesiasticae libri quinque, opposite p. 653 (edition of 1722), [giving the shelfmark of a Bodleian copy of this item, when available]
[shelfmark] A 15.3 Th.
and ends with
Rawlinson copperplates g.313, The letter A. Printed on p. iii of a circular announcing the preparation of a complete history of the Mallardians, 1752: Gough Oxon. 60(10)
(3) The Rawlinson Copperplates: an indexed guide (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Department of the Library, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1988)
Also uses the information in Edith Guest’s index. The entries are arranged in several sequences by subject category, title (i.e. ascribed title of the plate), ‘location’ (i.e. geographical subject), date, author (of the book in which a plate was used), engraver, illustrator (i.e. artist of the image engraved on the plate).
The volume is a printout of information in a searchable database. The Bodleian does not have access to the electronic database. The features of this printed index are that it organizes the listing of plates in several different ways, corresponding to the search functions of the database, and that it introduces new subject categories, grouping the plates under 18 headings.
These are: antiquities, Biblical scenes, biology, coats of arms, coins, commerce, decorative, documents, ecclesiastical subjects, maps, medals, objects, portraits, seals, statuary, text, University materials and Views.
Each plate is listed with an indication of whether the publication information (i.e. the published book in which prints from the plate appear) is available in the Guest handlist, and an indication if unpublished prints from the plate are kept in another collection in the Bodleian.
(4) A very few [currently two dozen] Rawlinson copper plates are entered in SOLO, the Library’s online catalogue. The records of these can be found by an Advanced Search of the Shelfmark field containing ‘Rawl. Copperplate’. [See link for example record: http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/89vilt/oxfaleph020714490 ]