Record

Reference numberL&P
LevelSeries
TitleLetters and Papers of a scientific nature submitted for publication by the Royal Society
Date1741-1806
DescriptionScientific papers sent to the Royal Society, many of which were published in the 'Philosophical Transactions'. As the name implies, the series is a combination and continuation of Early Letters and Classified Papers into the 19th century. Later, the sequence divided into the Philosophical Transactions series for those papers that were published and Archived Papers for those that were not published at the time. From the time that the Letters and Papers (or New Guard Books as they were originally known) were created, none of these original papers were copied into Letter or Register Books. Scientists represented include William Herschel (66 papers) William Watson (36 papers) Henry Baker (32 papers) Everard Home (31 papers), William Stukeley (30 papers), and John Smeaton (23 papers). As the series progresses, the character of the documents alters - the earlier decades contain larger numbers of short letters, but by the 19th century most of the manuscripts are in the form of long monographs. The texts are supported by a large quantity of original illustrations throughout the series. This collection provides a virtually unbroken run of presentations by leading 18th century scientists; the few gaps include 1746-1749, when no papers were collected. Occasionally such missing items may be located in the archives of other institutions.
Extent3,668 items in 119 volumes and 2 boxes
Physical description119 bound volumes in quarter vellum with cloth sides, with leather labels, and 2 boxes
ArrangementThe series is arranged into 'Decades', these are groups that originally consisted of 10 volumes rather than 10 years, with supplementary volumes interspersed with these sets. 12 such decades form the whole series, originally 126 volumes, are now bound as 119. There is also a supplementary box of loose papers. The item numbers run consequtively for the entirety of each decade, rather than each volume. The items are arranged broadly chronologically by the date of the Royal Society meeting at which they were read but there are significant inconsistencies in the chronology within certain volumes - it is advised that researchers consult the list of contents at the begining of each volume to check for any papers that are out of sequence.
Finding aidsEach volume contains a list of contents providing a reference number, author, title, extent, date of reading to the Society and place of publication in the 'Philosophical Transactions' for each paper. Each paper is listed in the Archive Card Catalogue, where the information is expanded to include the number of pages of illustrations in the papers. There is a printed guide by A H Church 'The Royal Society; some account of the Letters and Papers of the period 1741-1806' (Oxford, 1908), the manuscript of which is also held in the archive and includes an insert listing the figures and drawings present in decades 1 and 2 (excluding smaller items and mathematical drawings).
NotesDates falling between 1 January and 24 March before the 1750 Calendar Act, which established the first day of the new year as 1 January instead of 25 March, have been recorded indicating the year according to both dating systems, for example 10 March 1742/43.
Access statusOpen
Access conditionsNo photocopying
Related materialThe Letters and Papers have been filmed with funding from the Mellon Foundation. The microfilm is available to researchers in the Library. Printed Guide by AH Church 'The Royal Society: some account of the Letters and Papers of the period 1741-1806' (Oxford, 1908) discusses the series, sets out the arrangement of the decades in tabular form, and provides an author index referring to decade and page numbers. The publication was based on a manuscript listing of the papers by Church where each decade is described volume-by-volume, the papers in each decade are indexed by author, and then listed in numerical order. Details given are the same as the contents list in each volume.
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    Collection highlights

    Browse the records of some of our collections, which cover all branches of science and date from the 12th century onwards. These include the published works of Fellows of the Royal Society, personal papers of eminent scientists, letters and manuscripts sent to the Society or presented at meetings, and administrative records documenting the Society's activities since our foundation in 1660.

    The Royal Society

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