PHILLIPPS, THOMAS, SIR. Fragments of English manuscripts, ca. 1300-1800
Sir Thomas Phillipps: Fragments of English Manuscripts, ca. 1300-1800
RLIN ID No.
Phillipps, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1872, collector.
Fragments of English manuscripts, ca. 1300-1800 (bulk 1700-1800).
3 boxes (ca. 5,000) items ; 39 x 31 x 122 cm. each
English antiquary and collector. He began collecting while at Rugby School and Oxford. On inheriting his father's estate at Middle Hill in Worcestershire, Phillipps embarked on a career of collecting manuscripts and books. His collection of manuscripts eventually numbered over 60,000 items. During Continental trips in the 1820s Phillipps bought heavily, and back in England he continued to do so, often buying up entire estate libraries at auction. He collected Eastern, Greek and Latin and Continental manuscripts as well as English ones and printed some of them at his Middle Hill Press. In 1864-1865 he moved his household and his collections to Thirlestaine House, Cheltenham. In addition to manuscripts of entire works, Phillipps also collected thousands of fragments in order to save them from possible destruction.
The manuscript fragments in this collection are housed in the original wooden boxes used by Phillipps to store his books and manuscripts at Middle Hill and Thirlestaine House. Phillipps does not seem to have had the slightest interest in the appearance of his library, his main concern being a fear of fire. These coffin-like boxes were piled one on top of the other, so that in an emergency the books could be carried out in their shelves. (The effect is described by E. Edwards in 1859, Memoirs of Libraries, II, p. 159-60.) The boxes are at least as old as 1854, when Sir Frederic Madden described seeing “in every room piles of huge boxes upto the ceiling, containing the more valuable volumes” (A. N. L. Munby, Phillipps Studies, IV, 1956, p. 88).
It took 160 men and 230 horses to transport the boxes to Thirlestaine House in1863-64. They were still in use when the booksellers the Robinson brothers saw the residue of the library in storage in 1945. As the collection was gradually unpacked, the boxes were discarded. These three remained as the last lot in the final sale of the Phillipps Collection at Sotheby's in 1981, marking the end of a series of auctions which began in 1886 and lasted 95 years.
Scope and Contents Note
Collection includes defective vellum fragments and pieces and scraps of documents: charters, estate rolls, indentures, letters, proclamations, summons, wills, writs and other pieces. The documents are written in Latin and English in a wide variety of English scripts. Some manuscripts are decorated with royal or other seals. A small portion of the collection represents the medieval period; the majority of the documents appear to be from the eighteenth century. Some are printed on vellum; some are housed in cardboard boxes and some are loose in Middle Hill Press boards. The collection is mostly unsorted.
Title devised by cataloger.
Housed in three wooden boxes dating from at least 1854, each separated into two compartments, with a printed label and a branded number “12” at the top.
English and Latin.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchase; Sotheby’s auction no. 3243, Lot 0065, London; 2003/12/02.
Formerly owned by Martin Schoyer of Spikkestad, Norway, who purchased it at the Alan Thomas sale at Sotheby’s (lot 49, 21 and 22 June, 1993). The manuscript fragments were previously owned by W. H. Robinson, Ltd. of London, and bought by Thomas in a 1981 Sotheby’s auction.
Phillipps, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1872.
Letters (Correspondence). England.
Occupation (as reflected in collection)
Book collectors. England. 19th century.
Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022-1098.