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Sowerby family letters

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 MS 709
Held at: Royal Society
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Full title: Sowerby family letters
Date(s): 1798-1856
Level of description: Sub-fonds
Extent: 64 items
Name of creator(s): Sowerby | family | naturalists and artists
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

James Sowerby trained as an artist and studied at the Royal Academy of Arts. He was best known for his illustrations to English Botany: or Coloured Figures of British Plants, With Their Essential Characters, Synonyms, and Places of Growth (1790-1814). This subsequently became known as 'Sowerby's Botany', although the text was supplied by James Edward Smith, whose name was at first withheld at his own request. His accurate descriptions and Sowerby's skilful drawings, beautifully coloured, made it a highly esteemed work which was frequently re-issued. Sowerby then published British Mineralogy in parts beginning in 1802, and his more important Mineral Conchology of Great Britain, again issued in parts from 1812. Sowerby also provided illustrations for other natural history works, such as that of Strata Identified by Organized Fossils by William Smith. His major contribution to natural history was his vast correspondence with naturalists in Britain and abroad, illustrating the advice he gave and his encouragement to collectors of plants, birds, insects, fossils and minerals. Many specimens were sent to him for identification. He too sent others in return, together with copies of parts of his publications, stimulating further research. He had his own museum at 2 Mead Place Lambeth, which was regularly visited by other naturalists. He married Anne de Carle of Norwich. His eldest son James de Carle Sowerby (1787-1871) and second son George Brettingham Sowerby (1788-1854) assisted him in his work. Their children too were artists and naturalists.


Scope and content/abstract:

Correspondence of the Sowerby family, chiefly letters to James Sowerby. Correspondents include: George Arnott Walker Arnott; Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward; Etheldred Bennett; William Bingley; James Clealand; Richard Cotton; Francis Crow; James Dalton; George Don; Richard Duppa; William Henry Fitton; Leonard Horne; John Harris; Adrian Hardy Haworth; Henry Heuland; George Hibbert; John Coakley Lettsom; John Lewis; Gideon Mantell; Thomas John Newbold; George Henry Noehden; Charles Panse; Thomas Joseph Pettigrew; Joseph Ellison Portlock; Thomas Purton; Philip Rashleigh; Joseph Sabine; Henry Sheppard; William Travis; Patrick Walker; Henry Warburton; William Wedderburn and Thomas Stamford Raffles.

Access & Use

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System of arrangement:

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Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to Archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Royal Society catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
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:
Feb 2009.

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