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The John Evelyn archive

The Evelyn Archive adds a new dimension to the study of the man and his time. The collection is enormously rich and varied, consisting of 605 numbered manuscripts and approximately a hundred further volumes, boxes and bundles of letters and papers.

As well as the original manuscript of the Diary, the archive contains Evelyn's extensive correspondence including letters from some of the most notable figures of his day (Samuel Pepys, Sir Thomas Browne, Grinling Gibbons, Robert Boyle and Sir Christopher Wren, to name only a few); also his literary manuscripts including a number of major unpublished works (most notably his great gardening encyclopaedia Elysium Britannicum), and family papers of exceptional range and historical importance from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Pen sketch of garden tools

John Evelyn's pen sketches of garden tools from his unpublished gardening encyclopaedia Elysium Britannicum
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Hitherto John Evelyn has principally been known from his Diary. The Archive allows him to be seen in his true milieu, that of the community of seventeenth century intellectuals who aimed to establish a major programme of scientific and technological development, linked with social and economic progress. He emerges as this community's most long-lived and versatile member: scholar, connoisseur, bibliophile and horticulturalist, as well as a writer and thinker of sometimes startlingly current relevance, on everything from forestry, architecture and the formation of a universal library to fashion and air pollution.

The Archive has continued until now in the ownership of his descendants who have been instrumental in the publication of successive editions of the Diary which have so enriched our historical knowledge. But the preservation of the whole collection now calls for the resources of a national institution so that it can be made available to scholars as fully as it deserves.

Alexander the Great in a glass barrel

Letter from Grinling Gibbons to John Evelyn 23 March 1682
Copyright © The British Library Board

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Discover more:
John Evelyn
The John Evelyn archive
Who was John Evelyn?
Importance of the archive
The wider context

 
 
 
Discover more:
John Evelyn John Evelyn
The John Evelyn archive The John Evelyn archive
Who was John Evelyn? Who was John Evelyn?
Importance of the archive
The wider context The wider context
 
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