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Astle Manuscript

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0103 MS OGDEN 50
Held at: University College London
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Full title: Astle Manuscript
Date(s): [1796]
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume containing 49 leaves
Name of creator(s): Astle | Thomas | 1735-1803 | antiquary, archivist and palaeographer


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born at Yoxall on the borders of Needwood Forest, Staffordshire, 1735; son of Daniel Astle, keeper of the forest; articled to an attorney, but having more taste for antiquarian pursuits did not follow this profession; went to London, where he was employed to make an index to the catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts; elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, 1763; gained the notice of the Rt Hon George Grenville, then first lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, who employed him in the arrangement of papers and other matters requiring palaeographical knowledge, c1763; nominated by Grenville a member of a commission to superintend the regulation of the public records at Westminster; removed from that position under Pitt's administration; appointed by Royal Commission to superintend the administration of records preserved in the State Paper Office at Whitehall, 1764; made receiver-general of sixpence in the pound on the civil list, 1765; married the only daughter and heiress of the Revd Philip Morant, the historian of Essex, 1765; admitted a fellow of the Royal Society, 1766; consulted by a committee of the House of Lords on the subject of printing the ancient records of parliament, 1766; suggested the employment of his father-in-law in this work, and succeeded him upon his death, 1770; on the death of Morant, came into possession of his father-in-law's books and manuscripts and a considerable fortune, 1770; succeeded Henry Rooke, chief clerk of the Record Office in the Tower, on his death in 1775; succeeded Sir John Shelley, keeper of the records, on his death in 1783; an efficient and zealous keeper, adding to the collections under his charge and causing indexes to be made; published his chief work, on palaeography, 1784; a royal commission appointed in 1800 to carry out the recommendations of a select committee of the House of Commons regarding the state of the records consulted Astle, who presented a report on the documents at the Tower; a member of sundry foreign academies and a trustee of the British Museum; travelled on several occasions on the Continent for literary purposes; brought together a collection of manuscripts; corresponded on subjects relating to his collection and assisted other scholars; a conductor of The Antiquarian Repertory; contributed to the Archaeologia and Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of Antiquaries, the latter including a valuable contribution on unpublished Scottish seals, a committee of the society having been directed to investigate the subject; died of dropsy at his house at Battersea Rise, near London, 1803; his printed books, chiefly collected by Morant and particularly rich in history and biography, including annotations of former owners, were purchased from his executors in 1804 for 1,000 by the founders of the Royal Institution, where they were preserved; the collection of manuscripts was bequeathed to the Marquis of Buckingham on payment of the nominal sum of 500; the Marquis housed the manuscripts in a Gothic room constructed for the purpose by (Sir) John Soane at Stowe; the entire collection was privately purchased by the Earl of Ashburnham, whose son offered his father's collections to the British Museum which, after prolonged negotiation, purchased the Stowe manuscripts, including those which had belonged to Astle, 1883; they included a volume of Anglo-Saxon charters, King Alfred's Psalter, Edward II's wardrobe book, the register of Hyde Abbey near Winchester and other documents relating to the history of the abbeys and monasteries of Great Britain, inventories of Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe, plate, and jewels, the Hanoverian state papers, accounts of Wolsey, papers connected with the navy and ordnance of Henry VIII, the collections of Anstis, Garter king-at-arms, and correspondence of Lord Chancellor Macclesfield and Bishop Lyttelton. Publications include: index to Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts (2 volumes, 1759); with John Topham, text and notes for the period after 2 Henry VI for the edition of the Rotuli Parliamentorum ... 1278-1503 (6 volumes, London, 1767-1777); The Will of King Henry VII (London, 1775); The Origin and Progress of Writing (London, 1784); An Account of the Seals of the Kings, Royal Boroughs, and Magnates of Scotland (London, 1792); many contributions to the Archaeologia, 1763-1802.


Scope and content/abstract:

Manuscript volume of Thomas Astle, comprising specimens of ancient writing and musical notes; engravings of ancient seals, coins, etc; book of mounted copies of writing, engravings of coins, etc, with comments in Astle's hand.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and Latin

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Finding aids:

Handlist at University College London Special Collections.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The volume bears the pressmark 84588. It was formerly part of the library of Charles Kay Ogden (1889-1957), linguistic psychologist, founder of the Orthological Institute and originator of the language system Basic English, whose interests in language systems are reflected in the subject matter of his collection, which comprised individual manuscripts and manuscript collections dating from the 14th to the 20th century.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Part of the C K Ogden Library purchased by University College London in 1953 with a grant from the Nuffield Foundation.

Allied Materials

Related material:

British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds historical and antiquarian collections (Ref: Stowe MSS passim, Add MSS 34668, 34711-13); letters to Lord Grenville, 1788-1799 (Ref: Add MS 59000); letters to the 2nd Lord Hardwicke, 1767-1786 (Ref: Add MSS 35608-36269 passim). Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, holds letters from George Cressener and others, 1763-1800 (Ref: MSS Eng lett c 130 ff162-70, c 196 ff83-87, c 291 ff116-26, d 76); notes relating to Thetford and list of manuscripts relating to Norfolk and Suffolk, c1760-1780 (Ref: MS Top Norfolk e 1). Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department, holds a volume relating to Anglo-Saxon charters (Ref: 1956/iv/11). Cambridge University, Fitzwilliam Museum, holds 16 letters from Richard Greene and other antiquaries. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, holds an account of searches of public records in the Tower record office, 1775-1803 (Ref: MS 380). Essex Record Office holds letters to him relating to the printing of the Rolls of Parliament, 1768-1772 (Ref: D/DQs 35). Centre for Kentish Studies holds 14 letters from J A Hammond, 1769-1780 (Ref: U998). Yale University, Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, Connecticut, USA, holds 13 letters from Astle. Yale University Libraries, Beinecke Library, holds correspondence, 1757-1803 (Ref: Astle). Huntington Library, San Marino, California, USA, holds 30 letters to the Grenville family.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; National Register of Archives. Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jul 2001

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