Towneley Arms and Seals

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 416
  • Dates of Creation
      n.d. [1665x1702]
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English  and Latin
  • Physical Description
      167 x 101 mm. 1 volume (43 folios); Binding: late 18th- or early 19th-century full calf binding. Condition: front board detached.

Scope and Content

The volume contains drawings of the arms and seals of gentry families, arranged in alphabetical order of family name, with brief genealogical and antiquarian notes. Most of the families have connections with Lancashire and surrounding counties. The manuscript contains a substantial entry for the Towneley family, which suggests that it was created either by or for them. There is a bookplate of Richard Towneley, 1702.

Administrative / Biographical History

Richard Towneley (1629-1707) was the son of Charles Towneley (1600-1644) of Towneley near Burnley, Lancashire, and the nephew of the antiquarian Christopher Towneley (1604-1674). He made a number of important contributions to science. He collaborated with fellow scientist Henry Power to demonstrate empirically the inverse relationship between gas pressure and volume. He was also the first person to keep regular rainfall records in England, using a gauge of his own design that he described in great detail in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. On the succession of King James II in 1685, Catholics were again allowed to take part in public life, and Richard Towneley became a justice of the peace. This public role, however, was to be shortlived, as Richard and his son Charles were implicated in plots to secure the return of King James II in 1690. From this time on the family were noted for their Jacobite sympathies.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library, through the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, at the auction held at Sotheby's on 14 February 1927 of the library of the late William Alexander Lindsay (1846-1926), Clarenceux King of Arms. The Library also purchased lot 64, deeds predominantly relating to Lancashire (some relating to the Towneley family), now catalogued as Rylands Charters 701-755.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Elizabeth Gow with reference to:

  • C. Webster, 'Richard Towneley (1629-1707), the Towneley group and seventeenth-century science', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, vol. 118 (1966), pp. 51-76;
  • 'Tracing the Towneleys' article on the history of the Towneley family at

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 416).

Custodial History

The manuscript was owned by Richard Towneley of Towneley, Lancashire in 1702. It later formed part of the library of the English bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872); Phillipps MS 4459. The manuscript was probably purchased by W.A. Lindsay from one of the sales of the Bibliotheca Phillippica. Inventory numbers 553 (struck out) and 771 are written on small circular labels attached to the front cover.

Related Material

See also the Towneley Manuscript Collection held by the JRUL (ref.: GB 133 English MSS 735-739), and Rylands Charters 701-755.

Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, holds scientific and antiquarian papers of Christopher and Richard Towneley (refs: GB 161 MSS. Eng. c. 7031-2, Eng. d. 3537-40, Eng. e. 3387-93, French e. 41, Lat. misc. d. 100, Lat. misc. e. 133-4): see