Scientific and Antiquarian Papers of Christopher and Richard Towneley

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Eng. c. 7031-2, Eng. d. 3537-40, Eng. e. 3387-93, French e. 41, Lat. misc. d. 100, Lat. misc. e. 133-4
  • Dates of Creation
      17th-18th century
  • Language of Material
      English, Latin, and French.
  • Physical Description
      17 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

The collection reflects the wide ranging interests of Christopher and Richard Towneley. There are scientific papers, which include Richard Towneley's records of experiments in air pressure and volume and his mathematical notes; correspondence and working papers relating to astronomy collected by Christopher Towneley, and notes and extracts from scientific reference works. There are also antiquarian papers, which include notes and extracts from philosophical works, transcriptions of records relating to English Roman Catholics and some family papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Christopher Towneley (1604-74) and his nephew Richard Towneley (1629-1707) were members of a Catholic gentry family from Towneley in Lancashire. Christopher Towneley is known as an antiquary but these papers also reflect his interest in scientific research, particularly astronomy. He befriended a number of the northern astronomers, Jeremiah Horrocks, William Crabtree, William Gascoigne and John Stephenson, and collected their papers. His nephew, Richard Towneley, working with other local collaborators, conducted experiments into the relationship between air pressure and volume which became known as Boyle's Law. He also perfected the micrometer and was a pioneer of meteorology. For further details of Christopher Towneley see Dictionary of National Biography and for further details of Richard Towneley see Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York, 1970-80). See also C. Webster, 'Richard Towneley, 1629-1707, and the Towneley Group', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, vol. 118, 1966.

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 papers were bought at Sotheby's on 23 July 1985, lot 546, with the aid of grants from the V & A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries and the Royal Society.


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