Papers of William Beckford (1760-1844), author

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Beckford a. 1-4, b. 1-8, c. 1-89, d. 1-29, e. 1-5, f. 1-5, g. 1-2
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Spanish or Castilian, and Turkish.
  • Physical Description
      142 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

Beckford's papers consist of: correspondence; journals and travels; literary papers; translations; reading-notes; catalogues and inventories; music; newspaper cuttings; miscellaneous papers; and deeds.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Beckford (1760-1844) was the author of the oriental tale Vathek and of several volumes of travel writings, the builder of Fonthill Abbey, and an important collector of paintings, objets d'art and books. Details are given in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Acquisition Information

In July 1984, Blackwell's gave the entire collection to the Bodleian 'in memory of the late Sir Basil Blackwell, his father Benjamin, and his elder son Richard, the first three chairmen of the firm'.


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

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue is available in the Library.

Custodial History

On Beckford's death in 1844, the papers passed to his daughter, the Duchess of Hamilton. They remained in the possession of the Dukes of Hamilton until 1977, although most of them had been for many years in the custody of Boyd Alexander. In 1977 the Duke of Hamilton sold the papers at Sotheby's (6 July 1977, lot 272), where they were bought by B.H. Blackwell Ltd. Blackwell's deposited the papers in the Bodleian from October 1977 until December 1979, when they took them back into their own custody.

Related Material

See also:

  • Papers of William Beckford, 1787-1811 (MSS. Eng. lett. c. 499-501; Eng. misc. e. 1236; Portuguese c. 1)
  • Papers of Boyd Alexander relating to William Beckford (MSS. Eng. lett. c. 687-95; Eng. misc. c. 888-93, d. 1288-98, e. 1446-58, f. 857-8; Facs. d. 291; Film 1766; Photogr. c. 5, d. 2; Top. gen. a. 23, fols. 1-2).
  • Papers of John Hodgkin (MSS. Eng. misc. c. 146-8, d. 218-25, e. 198,f. 59-61; Lat. misc. d. 55-62, e. 84; Eng. lett. c. 11, d. 36)
  • See catalogue for further details of Beckford papers held by the Library.