Robert Willis: Papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 12 MSS.Add.5022-5045, 5127-5139, 5141-5144
  • Dates of Creation
      c. 1830-1880
  • Name of Creator
  • Physical Description
      32 volumes, 10 box-files, 10 files, 2 folders, 1 bundle and 1 envelope

Scope and Content

Papers of Robert Willis, mainly concerning architecture, and often made in preparation for his printed works. Many of the papers are accompanied by related correspondence. The writer or compiler is Willis unless otherwise indicated.

MS.Add.5022: Architectural drawings, many on tracing paper, most with descriptions in Willis' hand, 19th century, 83 folios.

MS.Add.5023: Notes regarding the history of church architecture, c. 1848-1852, 286 folios. There are pen-and-ink drawings and a few printed extracts. The last 15 folios are devoted to Ely Cathedral.

MS.Add.5024: Notes regarding the architecture of English monasteries and cathedrals, with sketches and a few printed extracts, c. 1855, 90 folios.

MS.Add.5025: Notes made for Robert Willis' Architectural nomenclature of the middle ages (Cambridge Antiquarian Society, 1844), with a copy of the printed version bound in at the end, c. 1843-1844, 109 folios. There are further adversaria and notes in the margins of the printed version and interleaved within it.

MS.Add.5026: Notes made for the Architectural nomenclature of the middle ages, c. 1840-1874, 56 folios.

MS.Add.5027: Notes on tracery, with pen-and-ink sketches, 19th century, 171 folios.

MS.Add.5028: Notes regarding the history and architecture of monastic collegiate foundations in Oxford, c. 1861-1865, 160 folios. There are some sketches and (fo. 91) a printed extract, as well as occasional additions in other hands. At fos 4-5 are brief notes on Cambridge colleges and at fos 39-43 are notes on Oxford churches. At fo. 142 is a list of fellows of Merton College, Oxford, in the hand of J.W. Clark, 7 February 1887.

MS.Add.5029: Notes on English architecture arranged alphabetically, county by county, Bedfordshire-Kent, c. 1842-1866, 642 folios. At the beginning of the volume is a general section which includes a report on the screen in Attleborough church, Norfolk.

MS.Add.5030: Notes on English, Scottish and Welsh architecture arranged alphabetically, county by county, Lancashire-Yorkshire, with entries in sequence for Scotland and Wales, c. 1853-1866, 360 folios.

MS.Add.5031: Notes on ancient monuments, chronology in architecture, church furniture and classical architecture, c. 1838-1850, 573 folios. At fo. 497 is a list of casts presented by John Kirkpatrick to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 25 May 1850.

MS.Add.5032: Notes and sketches regarding church architecture, c. 1840-1871, 556 folios. There are notes on: (fos 1-149) early and medieval churches; (fos 150-232) Egyptian temples; (fos 233-346) French cathedrals and monastic churches; (fos 347-485) Italian and Roman churches; (fos 486-511) Greek churches; (fos 512-534) mosques; (fos 535-542) Trondheim cathedral, Norway; (fos 543-556) miscellaneous buildings.

MS.Add.5033: Notes and sketches regarding monuments, piers and other architectural subjects, c. 1862, 583 folios.

MS.Add.5034: Notes and sketches regarding the lives of saints, structure and vaultings, and miscellaneous architectural subjects, c. 1865, 555 folios.

MS.Add.5035: Architectural drawings and drafts, c. 1844-1875, 630 folios: (fo. 1) cymagraph tracings of molds; (fo. 89) D.J. Stewart's cymagraphs of Ely cathedral canopies, with descriptions in Willis' hand; (fo. 110) further cymagraph tracings of molds; (fo. 205) drafts of Willis's Architectural history of the University of Cambridge.

MS.Add.5036: Notes and drafts, in Willis's and three further hands, 1830-1857, 371 folios: (fo. 1) architectural notes on Salisbury; (fo. 44) 'Lecture on the Architecture of Salisbury Cathedral', 26 July 1849; (fo. 89) engravings and notes in preparation for Remarks on the architecture of the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1835); (fo. 265) engravings and notes on the architecture of Jesus College, Cambridge; (fo. 330) miscellaneous sketches; (fo. 340) draft of a paper 'On the mechanism of the larynx', printed in Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 1828-1829; (fo. 362) notes on Mayo's case; (fo. 366) miscellaneous notes.

MS.Add.5037: Architectural drawings, 1848-1850, 37 folios: (fo. 4) 'notes of churches in Cambridgeshire still required for Mr. Parker's Ecclesiastical&Architectural Topography'; (fo. 5) notes and drawings of Bottisham church, Cambridgeshire; (fo. 13) architectural drawings; (fo. 18) drawings of Soham church, Cambridgeshire; (fo. 24) plan of Bottisham church; (fo. 33v) drawing of Bottisham church; (fo. 36v) ground plan of Bottisham church. Many leaves have been torn away.

MS.Add.5038: Pencil drawings of Chester cathedral, 1848-1850, 14 folios. Inside the front cover is a coloured plan of the monastic remains at Worcester made by Willis, 1862.

MS.Add.5039: Pencil drawings of Ely cathedral, 19th century, 34 folios.

MS.Add.5040: Notes on Exeter cathedral, 1869, 41 folios.

MS.Add.5041: Architectural drawings and notes, 1849-1863, 101 folios: (fo. iv) drawings and notes of architectural features of Gloucester cathedral; (fo. vii) extracts from the 'Chronicle of Gloucester' attributed to Walter Froucester; (fo. xxi) architectural drawings; (fo. xxx) notes, extracts and drawings on Gloucester cathedral; (fo. liv) extracts on Winchcomb church, Gloucestershire; (fo. lv) notes and extracts on Tewkesbury Abbey; (fo. lxvi) drawings of Gloucester cathedral.

MS.Add.5042: Architectural drawings and notes of Lichfield cathedral, 1861-1864, 67 folios.

MS.Add.5043: Architectural drawings and notes of Peterborough cathedral, 1848-1861, 63 folios.

MS.Add.5044: Architectural drawings, 19th century, 28 folios.

MS.Add.5045: Architectural drawings, 1841-1849, 70 folios.

MS.Add.5058: List of people prepared to subscribe to Robert Willis's Architectural history of the University of Cambridge, 1869, 15 folios.

MS.Add.5059: Draft of the commencement to vol. I of the Architectural history, late 19th century, 202 folios.

MS.Add.5060: Draft of parts of vol. I of the Architectural history, with further notes made in preparation for the work, and an extract from Giles Fletcher, De literis antiquae Britannicae (Cambridge, 1633), 19th century, 234 folios. Inside the back cover are notes in the hand of H. Bradshaw.

MS.Add.5061: Notes, extracts and drawings in connection with Peterhouse, Clare, Pembroke and Caius Colleges, Trinity Hall and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, made in preparation for the Architectural history, 19th century, 237 folios. Some of the leaves are in the hands of J.W. Clark and H. Bradshaw.

MS.Add.5062: Draft of vol. I of the Architectural history, followed by J.W. Clark, 'Materials for the History of the Old Site of King's College' (fo. 172) and 'Extracts from Conclusion Books of the same' (fo. 213), 1857-1880, 225 folios.

MS.Add.5064: Draft of the section on Eton College in the Architectural history, which was rewritten by J.W. Clark, with notes on fos 149-183, xxi-lxxxix, in the hand of J.W. Clark, and occasional additions in other hands, 19th century, 272 folios. On fos xiii-xvi are 'Memoranda relating to the small towers outside the quadrangle at Eton College'.

MS.Add.5071: Materials for the section on Trinity College, Cambridge, in vol. II of the Architectural history, in the hand of A. Rogers, 19th century, 354 folios.

MS.Add.5074: Draft of vol. II of the Architectural history, dealing with Michaelhouse (fos 1-53), King's Hall (fos 54-115) and Trinity College (fos 117-197), Cambridge, 19th century, 198 folios.

MS.Add.5075: Materials for vol. II of the Architectural history, in the hands of Willis and J.W. Clark, 19th century, 218 folios: (fo. 1) Magdalene College, (fo. 66) Emmanuel College and (fo. 176) Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. There are also letters, which include pedigrees of the Stafford and Howard families, extracts from Charles Dalton, the History of the Wrays of Glentworth, and plans of Emmanuel College Library, 1637.

MS.Add.5078: Draft of vol. III of the Architectural history, with notes in the hand of J.W. Clark (fos 54-59), 19th century, 78 folios. At fos 77 are extracts from the Inventories of St John's College, Cambridge, in the hand of H. Bradshaw, 1546 and 1595.

MS.Add.5079: Draft of vol. III of the Architectural history, with additions in the hand of J.W. Clark, 19th century, 129 folios.

MS.Add.5080: Draft of vol. III of the Architectural history, with considerable additions in the hand of J.W. Clark, 19th century, 137 folios.

MS.Add.5081: Draft of vol. III of the Architectural history, with a list of contents and additions in the hand of J.W. Clark, 19th century, 197 folios.

MS.Add.5082: India proofs of illustrations to the Architectural history, annotated by J.W. Clark, 19th century.

MS.Add.5127: Architectural drawings of Norwich Cathedral, with notes by D.J. Stewart, c. 1847, 36 folios.

MS.Add.5128: Notes on Rochester Cathedral, with additional contributions by D.J. Stewart, c. 1863, 54 folios.

MS.Add.5129: Notes and architectural drawings regarding Worcester Cathedral, 1862, 168 folios. The papers were made in preparation for Robert Willis's Architectural history of the cathedral and monastery at Worcester and his Crypt and chapter house of Worcester cathedral (both 1863).

MS.Add.5130: Notes and architectural drawings regarding arches, mid-19th century, 76 folios.

MS.Add.5131: Notes on the cymagraph forming the basis of many published papers, 1831-1869, 95 folios.

MS.Add.5132: Notes on the dates of various British churches arranged by English county, including Monmouthshire, with brief sections for Wales and Scotland, c. 1850, 52 folios.

MS.Add.5133: Syllabuses and lecture notes, 1827-1870, 118 folios.

MS.Add.5134: Drawings and letters regarding Willis's patent letter balance, 1840-1841, 91 folios.

MS.Add.5135: Architectural drafts, notes and drawings, 1843-1851, 222 folios.

MS.Add.5136: Correspondence and papers regarding models and applied mechanics, in Willis's and other hands, 1854-1859, 65 folios.

MS.Add.5137: Architectural drawings of Canterbury Cathedral, c. 1850, 23 folios.

MS.Add.5138: Architectural drawings of medieval vaults, c. 1850, 71 folios.

MS.Add.5139: Notes and tracings made in preparation for Robert Willis's Facsimile of the sketch-book of Wilars de Honecort (London, 1859), 1859, 37 folios.

MS.Add.5141: Notes and drafts, 1831-1861, 63 folios.

MS.Add.5142: Architectural drawings, c. 1846, 54 folios.

MS.Add.5143: Mechanical drawings, 'principally copied from the Transactions of the Society of Arts about 1816 to 20', c. 1830, 45 folios.

MS.Add.5144: Drawings, mid-19th century, with copies of epitaphs inside the front cover, 43 folios.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Willis (1800-1875) was born in London on 27 February 1800. He entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1822 (B.A., 1826), and was ordained deacon and priest in 1827. He was Jacksonsian professor of applied mechanics at Cambridge, 1837-1875, and a lecturer in applied mechanics at the government school of mines from 1853. Willis invented the odonotograph (1837) and cymagraph (1841), and in 1841 published his Principles of mechanism. He also published works on architecture in the Middle Ages and on the mechanical construction of English cathedrals. In 1843 he became a member of the Archaeological Institute. He died at Cambridge on 28 February 1875. Willis bequeathed his unfinished manuscript of the 'Architectural History of the University of Cambridge' to his nephew John Willis Clark (1833-1910), man of science and archaeologist, who completed the work on the book, and oversaw its publication (4 volumes; Cambridge, 1886).

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

MSS.Add. 5022-5045, 5058-5062, 5064, 5071 and 5078-5082 were bequeathed by John Willis Clark, 1910; MSS.Add.5074 and 5075 were presented by J.B. Pearce, 1911; MSS.Add.5127-5139 and 5141-5144 were purchased, 1911.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue. A separate catalogue to the papers of Robert Willis is also available.

Custodial History

MSS.5127-5139 and 5141-5144 belonged formerly to John Willis Clark.

Related Material

Cambridge University Library holds a catalogue by Willis of writers on music and sound, MS.Add.4307.

The Library also holds a collection of papers of Willis' collaborator, John Willis Clark, parts of which are either by Willis or concern him and and his work. See MSS.Add.5063, 5065-5070, 5072, 5073, 5076, 5077, 5083, 5091 and 5103.