Canon Jackson's Copy of Aubrey's Wiltshire Collections

Scope and Content

John Edward Jackson's own copy of his The Topographical Collections of John Aubrey, F.R.S.,... corrected and enlarged by John Edward Jackson, M.A., F.S.A. (London: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, 1862). It includes Jackson's manuscript additions, drawings, watercolours, engravings, etc. It also contains some original documents relating to Aubrey including an indenture dated 1656 relating to his co-patronage of Eaton Keynell and a letter from Aubrey to Mary Mill, December 1680. Hollaender describes the volume as perhaps the truest image of his personality as well as of his activities as a collector. The additions appear to have been systematically collected over many years, perhaps with the intention of producing a revised edition.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Edward Jackson (1805-1891) was a Wiltshire antiquary. He was born on 12 November 1805 in Doncaster, Yorkshire. Charles Jackson (1809-1882), also an antiquary, was a younger brother. John Jackson was educated at Charterhouse School and Brasenose College Oxford, receiving his MA in 1830. In 1834 he became curate at Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset, and in 1845 he was appointed rector of Leigh Delamere with Sevington, Wiltshire. In 1846 he became vicar of Norton Coleparle in the same county. He was also rural dean and honorary canon of Bristol (1855). Jackson, who was elected FSA in 1857, was an advisory archivist to the Marquess of Bath, and arranged and indexed the bulk of the manuscripts at Longleat, where his pioneering activities did much to ensure their preservation. Jackson published several works on antiquarian topics, and was always ready to aid fellow students. Most of his works are histories of north Wiltshire parishes. In 1862 he edited for the Wiltshire Topographical Society (later the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society) the Wiltshire Topographical Collection of John Aubrey. He made few alterations to the original text, but provided extensive commentaries, providing substantial details gained from his own research. Jackson died at the rectory at Leigh Delamere, on 6 March 1891.

Source: Gordon Goodwin, 'Jackson, John Edward (1805-1891)', rev. Penelope Rundle, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

John Aubrey (1626-1697), antiquary and biographer, was born in Wiltshire on 12 March 1626. He was elected to the Royal Society on 21 January 1663; his Natural History of Wiltshire was submitted to the Society in 1675 and copied in 1691. Aubrey may with justice be said to be the founding father of three academic disciplines in Britain, being the author of the first English books entirely devoted to archaeology, place names, and folklore. At the same time he pioneered a new kind of fieldwork in the study of natural phenomena and anticipated many of the interests of modern historical scholarship. Aubrey's interest in antiquities was kindled and nurtured amid the Wiltshire landscape before the civil wars. He developed a fascination with past ways of life and an obsession to record and conserve as much of it as he could. In its descriptions and surveys of ancient sites across Britain, the Monumenta Britannica remains the foundation text of modern archaeology. The mass of interspersed comment on the way in which prices, weights and measures, technology, dress, popular customs and beliefs, language, handwriting, and many other features of everyday life had changed over the centuries marks him out as not merely an antiquarian collector of miscellaneous information but an important figure in the development of modern historical scholarship.

Aubrey pursued a similar approach to natural history, with equally precursive results. From 1656 onwards much of this research was being undertaken for The naturall historie of Wiltshire which he seems to have continued until 1691 when a rough draft in two volumes was left in the Ashmolean. In it he made a list of the county's trees and plants with their medicinal and practical uses; he noted its different stones and minerals, clays and soil types with their particular properties; and he catalogued its fauna and medicinal springs, as well as its winds, mists, and storms. One of the Ashmolean volumes was subsequently lost, however parts of the collection were published by Sir Thomas Phillipps in 1821 and 1838.

Aubrey also played an instrumental part in the scientific movement of the period more broadly. He maintained a keen amateur interest in astronomy, navigation, and applied mathematics and made a significant contribution to the milieu in which new ideas in these and other areas were being debated and disseminated. Aubrey suffered a fit of apoplexy in January 1694 and it may have been a repeat attack of this which eventually caused his death on a journey from London to Wiltshire. He was buried in the parish church of St Mary Magdalene at Oxford on 7 June 1697. It was only in the second half of the twentieth century that the significance of Aubrey's contribution to so many branches of scholarship began to be appreciated.

Source: Adam Fox, 'Aubrey, John (1626-1697)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the Manchester booksellers Sherratt & Hughes in March 1906.


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

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles on John Aubrey and John Edward Jackson.
  • Albert Edwin Johannes Hollaender, 'Canon Jackson's copy of Aubrey's Wiltshire collections', Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, vol. 49 (Devizes, 1942), pp. 544-56.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 205).

Custodial History

Jackson's library was left by will to his nephew, J.H. Jackson and was sold at auction by Messrs Hodgson in May 1895. A substantial part of the collection, including this item, was purchased by the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch on behalf of Lord Houghton.


A detailed description of the additional material, including transcripts of the Aubrey documents, is given in Albert Edwin Johannes Hollaender, 'Canon Jackson's copy of Aubrey's Wiltshire collections', Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, vol. 49 (Devizes, 1942), pp. 544-56.

Geographical Names