Reference numberMS/682
TitleSowerby family letters (1)
CreatorSowerby, James (1757-1822) Naturalist
DescriptionCorrespondence of James Sowerby (1757-1822) and his son James De Carle Sowerby (1787-1871). Largely from naturalists and collectors in Britain and abroad. With occasional letter collected by the Sowerbys.
ExtentTwo volumes, MS Medium
ArrangementLetters bound alphabetically by name of correspondent.
Finding aidsArchive card catalogue
Access statusOpen
Administrative historyTrained as an artist and studied at the Royal Academy of Arts. 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 skillful 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.
Related materialSecond part of this collection at the Royal Society at MS/709; Natural History Museum, correspondence and papers 1757-1835; Linnaean Society of London, drawings and papers, and letters to and from Sir James Smith; Geological Society of London, papers, 1808; National Museum of Wales, sketches; University of Briston Special Collections, correspondence, MS 3925; Manuscripts Division, National Library of Scotland, correspondence 1793-1814, 12 letters 1806-1814 from Charles Lyell; Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 14 letters to William Cunningham; Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, letters to James Dalton; Department of Manuscripts and Records, National Library of Wales, 26 letters to Hugh Davies; Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, 25 letters 1813-1819 to Gideon Algernon Mantell; Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, Letters to James Smith Reference MSS Sherard; Ulster Museum, letters form John Templeton.
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