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.
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.
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.