Illustrated notebooks of William Gilpin

Scope and Content

Four notebooks containing a fair copy in an unidentified hand of 'Remarks on Forests; and other Woodland Scenery, (relative chiefly to picturesq [sic] beauty) illustrated by the scenes of New Forest in Hampshire, in three books', 1781, with many additions and corrections in Gilpin's own hand. They include 45 watercolours by Gilpin and three drawings by his brother, Sawrey Gilpin.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Gilpin (1724-1804) was the headmaster of a school at Cheam from 1755 to 1785 and vicar of Boldre in Hampshire from 1777 to 1804. He was the author of various educational and religious works and acquired a considerable reputation as an educationalist, but he is best known now as a forerunner of the Romantic movement. His accounts of his summer journeys through various part of Britain, published at intervals from 1782, were enormously influential in popularising appreciation of the natural beauty of the landscape. His ideas of the picturesque provided the foundation on which men like Humphry Repton and John Nash built in the early years of the 19th century. Details are given 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

The notebooks were bought at Christies on 4 June 2001, lot 24, with the aid of grants from Resource/V & A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, and Bodley's American Friends.


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

Armorial bookplates, 'William Gilpin', inside upper covers of all notebooks. Presentation inscription from William Gilpin to his nephew, William Gilpin of the Strand, London (MS. Eng. e. 3326, fol. 2). Inscribed, 'Kenneth McDow, Chicago, Ill. 1940' (MS. Eng. e. 3327, fol. 2). Inscribed, 'These two volumes were purchased from the William Randolph Hearst Collection' (MS. Eng. e. 3326, fol.2).

Related Material

See also Papers of William Gilpin (MSS. Eng. lett. b. 36, c. 534; Eng. misc. d. 1204-7, e. 1318-26; Eng. poet. c. 71, d. 221-4, e. 175-8; Lat. misc. c. 94) and Gilpin Papers (MSS. Eng. misc. b. 73, c. 387-93, d. 556-88, e. 486-539, f. 178-378).

Geographical Names