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The Burney collection of manuscripts in the British Library

Life and
character
Collection &
catalogue
Burney's purchases 'Membra
disiecta'
Illuminated
manuscripts
Further reading

Bust figure of Charles Burney (b. 1757, d. 1817),
Plaster, c. 70 x 50 cm,
British Library Manuscripts Reading Room
Scot McKendrick, Head of Western Manuscripts



Introduction

During the month of September in 1818 a large consignment was transported from the London suburb of Deptford to the British Museum. It included 7000 prints; 1800 volumes of newspapers; 1400 books, including 350 volumes of newspaper cuttings and playbills; and 525 manuscript volumes. For the purchase of this large collection the British Parliament had previously voted a special grant of £13,500. Out of this grant £2,500-3,000 covered the cost of the 525 manuscripts.

The person responsible for amassing this large collection continues to look over the labours of those engaged in the study of both his manuscripts and the others that now form part of the collections of the British Library. He does so through a cast of the fine portrait bust that was executed by Francis Nollekens and first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1815. And he is of course Charles Burney, son of the famous historian of music Charles Burney and brother of the novelist Fanny Burney, and in his own right one of the most renowned scholars of classical Latin and Greek language and literature in his time.

Following a brief sketch of the life and character of Charles Burney the younger, the present tour will focus on Burney’s manuscript collection, reappraising its profile, scope, and arrangement, as well as its sources and development. Most of the detailed information that I present on individual manuscripts appears in the descriptions of the Burney manuscripts that form part of the British Library’s online Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. Digital images of the same manuscripts are also available within this catalogue. At the end of the tour is a short list of recommended reading on Burney.

Note: The following text is a revised version of a paper delivered on 5 July 2004 at a seminar organised by the Centre for Manuscript and Print Studies, Institute of English Studies, University of London.


Life and
character
Collection &
catalogue
Burney's purchases 'Membra
disiecta'
Illuminated
manuscripts
Further reading
print Print this page
home Home
site search Search British Library website
back Back
top Back