Miniature Portraits

Scope and Content

Collection of 165 miniatures, primarily watercolour on ivory, with a small number being pencil on paper with some silhouettes and drawings, showing missionaries appointed to the London Missionary Society. Also includes notes on the miniature portraits perepared by Irene Fletcher, former archivist of the London Missionary Society.

Administrative / Biographical History

It appears to have been the Society's policy from the beginning to keep a pictorial record of missionaries, at the Directors' expense. There is also an indication that at least some of these early portraits were exhibited. A cutting from a guide book, 'London as it is to-day', 1851, gives notice of the London Missionary Museum. After detailing the exhibits, there is reference to "several frames about two feet square, containing miniature portraits of many of the missionaries and their no less enterprising and estimable wives."

Many of the portraits have information written on/adhered to the back. These details have been considered in identifying the individuals pictured. The portrait of Henry Calderwood is adhered to the business card of "Miss Newell, Portrait and Miniature Painter". The portrait of John Woolridge is attached to part of a letter indicating that Miss Newell did the work regularly for the Society. Miss Sarah Newell does appear to have been responsible for the greater number of the portraits in the collection, and references to her can be found in letters in the archive. She exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1819 and 1838. Other artists identified on the backs of the miniatures include James Warren Childe (1778-1862), who exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1815 and 1853. His trade card, "J. W. Childe, Prints, 125 or 222 Strand, London", appears with one of the miniatures. A volume detailing the notes found on the backs of the portraits, in addition to how each was identified, is available upon request from the Archivist. This also includes historical notes on Miss Newell and her family, and correspondence with the Scottish National Portrait Library concerning the miniatures.


Portraits were previously made up into concertina books according to the country/region of appointment, as follows: South Seas, Africa, Madagascar, Ultra Ganges, China, Greek Mission, unidentified, North India, West India, South India, Travancore, British Guiana [Guyana] and Jamaica. Miniature portraits are now in the process of being conserved and as part of this work are being removed from the concertina books and individually mounted. Mounted portraits have been boxed by region to retain these original groupings.

Access Information


Other Finding Aids

Unpublished list of Miniature Portraits available for consultation.

Archivist's Note


Custodial History

Prior to their transfer to SOAS in the early 1970s, the miniatures were held at the various headquarters of the London Missionary Society. These early portraits were formerly kept in square white envelopes headed with the Society's Bridge Street address (London Missionary Society, 16 New Bridge Street, London, E.C.). It is thought that this method of housing the miniatures was adopted some time between 1905 and 1920, when all of the books and records went into storage for nearly ten years, until the headquarters were finally settled in a later building [Livingstone House]. It is assumed that they are the survivals of what would originally have been a much larger collection. In the mid-1930s the miniatures appear to have been incorporated into a more general series of missionary portraits, collected through the years, and maintained by the Editorial Department. In 1960, they were removed from this series, sorted, mounted and made up into concertina books according to the country of appointment. This was done primarily for the preservation of the miniatures, which were suffering from damage resulting from continued handling.