Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts were collected actively and enthusiastically in nineteenth-century Britain. This project examines the careers of two major nineteenth-century British collectors, with the aim of understanding the nature of this collecting, in both private and institutional settings.
Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) spent more than fifty years putting together what was probably the largest private manuscript collection ever assembled, estimated at more than 40,000 items. His contemporary Frederic Madden (1801-1873) worked as Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum for 35 years, managing and extending the largest institutional collection in Britain.
I am interested in the broader social context in which collectors like Phillipps and Madden were embedded. How was their social status related to this kind of collecting? What was the relationship between their collecting and their historical and textual scholarship? What can they tell us about the survival of contrasting traditions of connoisseurship and antiquarianism?