The Beauties of Wiltshire was the product of a long-lasting friendship and professional collaboration between John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley (1773-1854). Britton, a native of Wiltshire, met Brayley, a Lambeth antiquary, in a Clerkenwell bookshop in 1789. Over the next ten years they compiled the first two volumes of The Beauties of Wiltshire, publishing a third volume in 1825. From 1800, Britton and Brayley started work on a much more ambitious project, into which The Beauties of Wiltshire was integrated. This was their Beauties of England and Wales series, which ran into twenty-seven bound volumes and took twenty years to complete. Brayley was largely responsible for preparing the letterpress whilst Britton travelled to collect historical materials, corresponded with other antiquaries, wrote the historical commentaries, and directed the artists and engravers working on the project.

The title page to the third volume of Beauties of Wiltshire is reproduced here. Britton used an original watercolour by John Sell Cotman for the plate, depicting the Devil’s Den cromlech (a Neolithic burial chamber) on Fyfield Down.