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St John's College U.30

John Lee, diaries and sketchbooks detailing travels in Ireland and Scandinavia. 1806-9.

 

The antiquary and astronomer John Lee (1783-1866) was born John Fiott and assumed the name Lee in 1815 under the terms of the will of his uncle. Lee studied at St John's, graduating BA as fifth wrangler in 1806, and the following year travelled to Denmark and Sweden as Worts travelling bachelor. In 1808, Lee was elected to a fellowship at St John's and subsequently returned to Stockholm and Uppsala, where he stayed until June 1809. From 1810 to 1815, he travelled extensively, taking in Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands, collecting manuscripts and artefacts along the way. Upon his return to England, Lee took the degree of LLD and was admitted to the College of Advocates (1816). Lee inherited a number of estates, including that of Hartwell in Buckinghamshire in 1827. He was a founder member of the Astronomical Society, later serving as its president, and erected an observatory at Hartwell House. Lee was a member of numerous other learned societies and built up a renowned library and museum at Hartwell. See ODNB.

The first five notebooks comprise a diary of Lee's tour from London to Ireland undertaken between July 1806 and March 1807. With these belong three sketchbooks containing pencil and pen sketches from the tour. The final two sketchbooks date from Lee's tours of Denmark and Sweden, 1807-9. Lee's writing is small and occasionally difficult to read.

  1. 'Tour from London to Holywell in Wales.' From 31 July to Aug. 1806. Notes in pen and pencil, with occasional sketches. 190 x 120 mm. 67 folios. Leather-bound notebook with unruled pages.
  2. 'Tour from Holywell to Dublin and Fermoy.' From 22 Aug. to Sep. 1806. Notes in pen and pencil, with occasional sketches. 190 x 120 mm. 147 folios. Notebook bound in leather and marbled paper, with unruled pages.
  3. 'Mallow to Bantry.' From 1-9 Oct. 1806. Notes in pen and pencil. 155 x 110 mm. 17 folios. Leather-bound notebook with unruled pages.
  4. 'Bantry to Castlemain.' From 10 Oct. to 10 Nov. 1806. Notes in pen and pencil. 160 x 105 mm. 56 folios. Notebook bound in leather and marbled paper, with unruled pages.
  5. 'Killarney to Dublin.' From 13 Nov. 1806 to 6 March 1807. Notes in pen, with occasional sketches. Notebook bound in rough paper, with unruled pages.
  6. Sketchbook containing pen and pencil sketches taken on the above tour, 1806. 115 x 190 mm. 64 folios. Bound in leather.
  7. Sketchbook containing pen, pencil and wash sketches taken on the above tour, Oct. 1806 to Jan. 1807. 110 x 190 mm. 66 folios. Bound in leather and marbled paper.
  8. Sketchbook containing pen and pencil sketches taken on the above tour, Jan. to Feb. 1807. 115 x 195 mm. 75 folios + blanks. Bound in leather and marbled paper.
  9. Sketchbook containing pen and pencil sketches, with notes in English, Swedish and French, from Lee's tour of Sweden, Aug. to Nov. 1807. Includes sketches taken at Gothenburg, Helsingborg, Grena, Vadstena, Gripsholm, and Uppsala. Folios 47v-48r and 49v-50r contain verse in English and German, not in Lee's hand. 120 x 240 mm. 50 folios + blanks. Leather-bound. Formerly B.R.A. 242.
  10. Sketchbook containing pen and pencil sketches, with notes in English and French, from Lee's tour of Denmark and Sweden, 1808-9. Includes sketches taken at Copenhagen, Rosenberg, Finhamn, Elf-Carleby, Lappo, and Aland, and a self-portrait of Lee in horse-drawn carriage 'quitting the Swedish army' (f.32r). 135 x 255 mm. 44 folios. Bound in leather and marbled paper. Formerly B.R.A. 242.
Supplementary information 

Items 1-8 were originally in the Phillipps Collection and were purchased by the College in 1941 from David Low (Booksellers) Ltd of Charing Cross Road, London for £2 2s. The bookseller's description is kept with the volumes. Items 9 and 10 were given by Mr and Mrs Benedict Eyre through the British Records Association in Sep. 1941.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
W.R. Mead, 'The Finnish journey of Dr John Lee in 1808', Publ. Inst. Geogr. Univ. Turkuensis 164 (2001), 145-152.
Id., 'Dr John Lee of Hartwell and his Swedish journey 1807-1809', Records of Buckinghamshire 43 (2003), 9-26.
Id., 'A British visitor to Skane in 1807', Geografiska Notiser 3 (2004), 161-164.

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