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The correspondence of Sir John Frederick William Herschel, from a larger collection of papers at Observatory House Slough.

The collection comprises three main groups of documents.

The first is 19 volumes of manuscript letters sent to Herschel, with drafts of his replies (HS 1-19) This includes letters from Charles Rigobert Marie Bonne (25 June 1771-23 November 1829) in vol 4 (HS/4) and Augustus de Morgan in vol 6 (HS/6).

There follow 16 volumes of copy letters from Herschel (HS 20-24). These are apparently constructed from Herschel's original letters brought together by a son, Col. John Herschel R.E. for a proposed biography and then returned to their original owners. The biography was never produced. There is some duplication between these versions of finished letters and the rough versions of the same in HS 1-19. The letters are arranged in chronological order in a continual sequence across the volumes.

The third group comprises five boxes of unbound manuscript material and 7 previously unbound letter copy books now combined into one volume (HS 25-B28). This material comprises:
HS 25, (1 volume and 2 boxes): further copies of letters from Herschel. The letters in HS 25 do not appear to be duplicated in the volumes of copies 20-24 though they cover overlapping periods. The volume is arranged chronologically and includes letters from 1830-1847 (with two letters from 1870). The boxes contain unbound manuscript material arranged in groups by correspondent.
HS 26, (1 box): groups of original letters on particular topics, such as Herschel's involvement in W H F Talbot's photography patent disputes, The British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Telescope Glass Committee
HS 27, (1 box): groups of original letters on particular topics, such as Herschel and Charles Babbage's disagreements with Humphry Davy and James South after Babbage's unsuccessful nomination for the position as Secretary of the Royal Society, Babbage's calculating machine, the British Museum and publication of 'Fauna antiqua sivalensis'
HS 28, (1 box): information on the copying project including listings of the copies made

Custodial history

Presented to the Royal Society in 1944 by Rev. Sir John Frederick Charles Herschel (1869-1950) from a larger collection of papers at Observatory House, Slough.

Reference number
Earliest possible date
Physical description
35 volumes and 5 boxes
Page extent
10,600 + letters

Creator name

Sir; John Frederick William Herschel

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Sir; John Frederick William Herschel, Correspondence of Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1812-1870, HS, The Royal Society Archives, London,, accessed on 24 July 2024

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Explore the collection

  • Herschel Letters

    Dates: 1807-1875

    This collection of nearly 10,900 letters, drafts, copies and notes is the largest repository of scientific correspondence from and to Sir John Herschel, leading figure of Victorian science.

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