Graphical version

National Maritime Museum

Phillipps collection


Reference code(s): GB 0064 PLA

Held at: National Maritime Museum

Title: Phillipps collection

Date(s): 1603-1672

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 5ft: 152cm

Name of creator(s): Various


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) devoted his life to building up his library at his house, Middle Hill, in Gloucestershire. Although Phillipps never managed to catalogue his collection, it was estimated that he owned 60,000 manuscripts at his death, and it became the most famous private library in Europe. The library was left to his grandson, who had still not completed its dispersal at his death in 1938. In 1946 the residue was finally purchased by Messrs Robinson who sold the naval manuscripts, describer here, to Sir James Caird for the Museum. (See A.N.L. Munby, Phillipps Studies, vols I-V, Cambridge, 1951-60). Because of the importance and diversity of this collection, it has been split into six entries. Those of no obvious provenance are given in this entry. The collections of Robert Cole (entry no.96), George Jackson (97), the Southwells (98), and William Upcott (99) are described separately below. The collection of John Wilson Croker, consisting of the correspondence received by Lord Nelson, has been described in Volume I of this Guide, entry no. 207.


Scope and content/abstract:

General Records: This group contains a large vellum-bound volume of Spanish diplomatic papers, mainly dating between 1603 and 1672, but with a section dealing with the Armada, 1587 to 1588; two English documents relating to the expedition to Cadiz, 1596; an enquiry into the loss of ships in the convoy guarded by Sir George Rooke (1650-1709) and the Streights Squadron, 1693; a gathering of Italian papers relating to the capitulation of Malta, 1799 to 1807. There are also a number of items relating to Lord Nelson and his family, 1805 to 1845. (PHB/: PHB/P: 2 vols: 3 items) Merchant Shipping Records: relating to merchant shipping, including the journal of the Blackham on a voyage to Constantinople, 1696 to 1698; the log of H.E.I.C.S. Ceres, 1743 to 1745; of H.E.I.C.S. Wager, 1745 to 1746; and an account in verse of H.E.I.C.S. Ceres, 1812 to 1814, on a voyage to China. There is also a memorial of 1774 by a Harwich pilot to the Treasury, seeking to establish an excise cutter there. Among the documents are Bills of Sale, 1651, 1695, 1775; Letters of Marque, 1780, 1799. (PHB/: PLA/P: 4 vols: 12 items) Royal Navy: Administration: This group consists of nineteen volumes and four documents relating to the administration of the Navy. It includes the naval accounts from 1422 to 1427 of William Soper (fl.1410-1459), Clerk of the King<sup>1</sup>s ships; a list of ships' stores 'wasted' in the Prymrose after the Rochelle expedition, 1573; a volume of the records collected by Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631), the antiquarian and collector, containing summaries of papers on naval matters and defence from the time of Henry III to Elizabeth I; a copy, dated 1638, of the first 'Discourse of the Navy of England' by John Hollond (fl 1624-1659); regulations for the Ordnance Office, 1683; an account, written by a clerk, of the dispute between Samuel Pepys and Colonel Middleton (d 1672) about the importation of cottons and kerseys, 1667 to 1668; two lists of official documents transferred by Pepys to his successor on leaving the Admiralty, 1689; two volumes of Navy Board orders to Deptford and Woolwich dockyards, 1644 to 1722; and eleven volumes of papers, bound by Phillipps in no particular order, relating to general administrative matters, including sea-men's pay, 1711 to 1790; however, among these papers are three letters from Vice-Admiral Benbow (1653-1702) written from Jamaica, 1699. Finally, there are a number of lists; of Admiralty Commissioners, 1673 to 1782; of ships, 1625 to 1636, 1705, 1706 to 1745, and of foreign navies, 1755 to 1778 (PLA/: PLA/P: 2 1/2ft: 76cm) Royal Navy: Law and Prize Money: This group consists of a volume, 1658 to 1673, containing a collection of sentences and decrees made at the Court of Admiralty; a volume of 1685 chiefly concerning the powers and rights of the Lord High Admiral, with an abstract of the judgements of Oleron, translated from the French; a further seventeenth-century volume concerning maritime customs and law from the time of Henry III; a French treatise of maritime law, 1690; a volume containing bound letters from senior naval officers expressing their opinion on the prize money dispute between Lord Nelson (q.v.) and Lord St Vincent (q.v.), 1801 to 1802; vindication of the conduct of Surgeon D.T. McCarthy, court-martialled 2 lines 1 field in 1804.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:



Archivist's note: Edited by Sarah Drewery, Sep 2011.

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: 2010-08-26

Armada (1588) | Military incursions
Defence | State security
Dockyards | Shipbuilding industry | Manufacturing industry | Industry
International trade | Trade
Merchant companies | Companies | Enterprises
Merchant shipping | Maritime transport | Transport
Merchants | Mercantile personnel | Personnel | People by occupation | People
Naval affairs | Military affairs | Military science | Social sciences
Naval prizes | War seizures | War (concept) | International conflicts
Ships | Vehicles | Transport
Administration of justice
International relations
Trade (practice)
Water transport

Personal names
Benbow | John | 1653-1702 | Vice Admiral
Cotton | Sir | Robert Bruce | 1571-1631 | Knight | antiquary
Jervis | John | 1735-1823 | Earl of St Vincent | Admiral of the Fleet
Nelson | Horatio | 1758-1805 | 1st Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe | Vice-Admiral
Pepys | Samuel | 1633-1703 | naval official and diarist
Rooke | Sir | George | 1650-1709 | Knight | Admiral

Corporate names
Navy Board
Royal Navy

China | East Asia
Jamaica | Caribbean
Malta | Western Europe | Europe
Spain | Western Europe | Europe
Turkey | Middle East