Papers of Sir John Gardner Wilkinson (1797-1875)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Wilkinson dep. a. 1-35, b. 1-16, c. 1-32, d. 1-163, e. 1-95
  • Dates of Creation
      9th century-1921 (predominantly 1815-1921)
  • Language of Material
      English, Arabic, Ancient Greek (to 1453), Latin, Turkish, Coptic, Spanish or Castilian, Italian, Persian, French, Welsh, and German.
  • Physical Description
      341 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Wilkinson's papers include: sketchbooks, 1815-c.1875; foreign travel papers, 1819-c.1872; papers relating to academic and literary projects,c.1821-1921; general academic and antiquarian papers, ca. 9th cent.-1876; personal papers, c.1816-76; and papers of Lady Wilkinson and others c.1850-1890. Wilkinson's Egyptological work contributed to the foundation of that discipline in Britain, but his research and publications ranged beyond Egypt into architecture, aesthetics, international relations and the classics, as well as travel and the study of ancient Britain. Moreover, in his detailed water-colours and drawings, as in his extensive notes and 'journals', he recorded his impressions of the architecture, costume and contemporary society of all the countries he visited.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir John Gardner Wilkinson (1797-1875) was an Egyptologist. In 1856 he married Caroline Catherine Lucas (1822-81), a keen botanist and antiquarian. Further details can be found in the introduction to the online catalogue ( and in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

In 1984 the National Trust became the owner of Calke Abbey and its contents, including all Wilkinson's manuscripts, which were soon afterwards placed on deposit at the Bodleian and which this catalogue describes.


Collection level description created by Emily Tarrant, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the collection is available online at

Custodial History

On his death in 1875 Wilkinson's library and papers were bequeathed to Sir John Crewe and his family, and were sent to Calke Abbey. It was known that his publications represented only a small proportion of his work, and interest in his papers continued. In 1925 many of the manuscripts relating to Wilkinson's Egyptological research were lent to Francis Llewellyn Griffith, professor of Egyptology at Oxford; after Griffith's death in 1934, these items passed with his library to the Griffith Institute in Oxford. They were used by Bertha Porter and Rosalind Moss in the preparation of their Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings (Oxford, 1927-51; revised and reissued, 1960-95), and were given reference numbers used in that work.

Related Material

Wilkinson's library remains at Calke Abbey.

The following Wilkinson papers exist elsewhere among the Department's holdings. Letters of 1842-50 to the Earl and Countess of Lovelace are at Dep. Lovelace Byron 175, fols. 12-90. An undated letter, c.1835, is at MS. Phillipps-Robinson c. 626, fol. 247, and a letter of 1850 (referring to Wilkinson's time at Harrow School) is held at MS. Autogr. d. 43, fol. 47.

Various manuscripts by or concerning Wilkinson are held elsewhere. Two remain at the Griffith Institute: a journal for the period 1841-2 (cf. MS. Wilkinson dep. e. 41, catalogued here) and nine miscellaneous letters, c.1841-1870 (Wilkinson MSS. 1-2). Among the British Library's manuscript collections are 10 letters to Charles Babbage, 1825-66 (Add. MSS. 37183-201 passim), letters to Robert Hay, c.1826-62 (Add. MS. 38094), letters to Wilkinson from Reginald Stuart Poole, 1851-7 (Add. MS. 50952), and correspondence with Francesco Carrara, 1845-9 (Add. MS. 38650). At the time of writing, the National Register of Archives also lists 14 letters to the Johnes family held at the National Library of Wales (NRA 28612 Johnes), and letters to Thomas Joseph Pettigrew held at the Beinecke Library, Yale University (NRA 18661 Osborn coll.).

Papers not listed on the NRA database are as follows. Seventy-two boxes of Wilkinson's Egyptological squeezes are held by the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum; a list of these is available at the Griffith Institute. Papers of or concerning Wilkinson held at Harrow School include two letters to successive Head Masters written in 1856 and 1865, and an unfinished map of Cairo, in the school archives; a two-volume catalogue of his collection of antiquities, 1864, in the Old Speech Room Gallery (1864.900, 1864.901: cf. MS. Wilkinson dep. d. 149, catalogued here); and water-colours of Islamic buildings, in the Vaughan Library. A volume of about 140 leaves of drawings by Wilkinson is in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, shelfmark Vh 176 res. Fol.


Bertha Porter and Rosalind Moss, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings (Oxford, 1927-51; revised and reissued, 1960-95).

Professor Jason Thompson, Sir Gardner Wilkinson and his Circle (Austin, Texas, 1992).