Letters of Francis Willughby and Philip Skippon to John Ray; 1660-1671

Scope and Content

The collection contains:

Letter from Francis Willughby to John Ray; n.d. [1662] (MS 747/1)

Letter from Francis Willughby, Ludlow to John Ray; 13 Kal. August; 20 Jul. [c 1660] (MS 746/2)

Letter from Philip Skippon, Wrentham to John Ray; 15 Nov. 1671 (MS 746/3)

Administrative / Biographical History

John Ray, naturalist, was educated and later lectured at Trinity College, Cambridge. He made a botanical tour in July and August 1661, in company with his pupil Philip Skippon, through Northumberland, southern Scotland and Cumberland. Between May and July 1662 he travelled through the Midlands and North Wales with Francis Willughby. The partnership of the two men led to them agreeing in 1662 to attempt a systematic description of the whole organic world, Willughby undertaking the animals and Ray the plants. As part of this project Ray, Willughby, Skippon, and another pupil, Nathaniel Bacon, spent three years (1663-1666) visiting the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France. This correspondence dates from shortly after this period.


No archival arrangement has been necessary.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all readers

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus:

Typescript Catalogue, 4 pp


Catalogue available through the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Custodial History

The letters were purchased in October 2004 with assistance from the V & A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries.

Related Material

Family and Estate papers relating to Francis Willughby form part of the Middleton Collection at The University of Nottingham (reference: Mi)


Letters are published in: W. Derham, 'Philosophical letters betwen the late learned Mr. Ray and several of his ingenious correspondents, natives and foreigners: to which are added those of Francis Willughby Esq; the whole consisting of many curious discoveries and improvements in the history of quadrupeds, birds, fishes, insects, plants, fossiles, fountains, &c. published by W. Derham, chaplain to his Royal Highness George Prince of Wales, and F.R.S.' , (London, 1718)