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The Sutherland Collection

The history of the collection

George Engleheart, miniature portrait of Alexander Hendras Sutherland

George Engleheart,
Alexander Hendras Sutherland,
watercolour on ivory
Ashmolean Museum

Little is known of Alexander Hendras Sutherland. He was born in 1753, and amassed a fortune as a merchant. According to Poole, he served as Captain in the St Giles Volunteer Infantry, and as a Justice of the Peace.[1] He was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. At some time around 1795-7, when he was in his early or mid forties, he seems to have begun to collect prints with which to extra-illustrate Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, Life and Continuation (Sutherland 69-81, 92-103 & 113-17) and Burnet's History of his Own Time (Sutherland 118-25, 136-48 & 157-61).

George Engleheart, miniature portrait of Frances Sutherland

George Engleheart,
Frances Sutherland,
watercolour on ivory
Ashmolean Museum

Sutherland was married, first, to Frances Beckwith, who died c.1809.[2] Three years after her death, in May 1812, he married Charlotte Hussey, the daughter of the Rev. William Hussey of Sandhurst, Kent, and his wife Charlotte Twopeny; his new wife, born in 1782, was almost 30 years his junior.[3]

It is to Charlotte Sutherland that we owe much of our knowledge of her husband's work on his collection. She states that 'Mr. Sutherland devoted to it twenty-three years, and in the prosecution of it spared neither labour nor expense'.[4] His aim was to obtain the finest impressions, and he would change even the rarest of plates up to three times in search of a better impression.[5] Works of this quality did not come cheap: according to Charlotte's brother William, Sutherland spent almost £10,000 on the collection.[6] The vital work of inlaying the prints and text pages, and binding the volumes, was carried out by the firm of W. Scott.[7]

Sutherland and his collection seem to have been well-regarded amongst collectors. In 1812, Sir Henry Dampier was consulting him about the disposal of the print collection amassed by his brother, the Bishop of Ely.[8] By 1819, the collection had secured an entry in the Repertorium Bibliographicum.[9] And in 1822 the Clarendon was described as 'matchless' by Thomas Frognall Dibdin, who used it as the touchstone by which to measure the copy of the same work extra-illustrated by his employer, the Earl Spencer.[10]

William Hussey described Sutherland as 'a man of great method',[11] an opinion justified by the working documents which have been preserved with the collection. Sutherland drew up detailed lists of the subjects in Clarendon and Burnet which would need to be illustrated, crossing them off as prints were obtained (Sutherland 133* & 134*). Once the collection had been arranged, he drew up a set of rough indices (Sutherland 132), before creating a fair copy (later supplemented by his wife; Sutherland 133 & 134). Sutherland seems to have attended auctions regularly: the collection contains a series of catalogues (Sutherland 54-60), some apparently marked up with prints he wished to buy, how much he was willing to pay, and the price for which the print in question was sold. Others, presumably provided by the auctioneers, are carefully annotated with full lists of purchasers, prices fetched, and totals for the sales.

Anonymous, Portrait of Alexander Hendras Sutherland, c.1815

Anonymous, Alexander Hendras Sutherland,
oil on canvas, c.1815
Ashmolean Museum

Sutherland's care in assembling his collection was matched by his concern for its integrity following his death. His intentions are recorded in a facsimile of his autograph note, reproduced in the published catalogue of the collection: 'I decidedly forbid that they should ever be broken up, or separated - but that they should be improved as occasion may offer, my ambition having been to make a complete rational [?] work of it'.[12] However, in a further passage, not reproduced but copied by Charlotte Sutherland into a copy of the Catalogue,[13] he made it clear that this was not to be regarded as a codicil to his will, but simply as a statement of his intentions, to which he hoped his wife would conform as much as possible.[14] He also stated that he would be happy for the collection to be sold to a public institution or a nobleman's library, as long as it was not broken up. Proceeds from the sale were to be invested, with his wife receiving the income.

Alexander Hendras Sutherland died aged 67 on 21 May 1820, by which time his collection contained some 10,160 works.[15] He had continued working upon it until only a few weeks before his death.[16]

However, Sutherland's death did not bring the collection's development to a halt. Wishing to fulfil his request that the extra-illustrated books 'should be improved as occasion may offer', his widow continued work on the collection - despite being 'not distinguished by any former taste for such a work, & totally wanting in the experience necessary to protect her from imposition & fraud'.[17] She seems to have been buying at auctions within a year of her husband's death - although it appears that she relied more on print-sellers than auctions for her acquisitions.[18] In fact, Charlotte Sutherland's contribution to the collection is rather better documented than her husband's as, in the catalogue of the collection which she eventually produced, she left some indications of the principles she followed.

Mrs Sutherland considered her work on the collection to be 'an endeavour, ardently persisted in during sixteen years, to justify the great confidence reposed in the compiler, when the Collection described was placed at her uncontrolled disposal'.[19] Her aim was to make her husband's achievement better understood:

From the time she became capable of duly appreciating the Collection, it has been a subject of regret to her, that, although Mr. Sutherland held a high rank among Collectors, and his books were well known as the depositories of many rare and curious prints, still very few persons, even among those whom the subject would most peculiarly interest, could be at all aware, what, as a whole, was the real amount and value of the Collection; the very magnitude of which precludes examination, and which may be said to be, in a manner buried beneath its own grandeur.[20]

To that end, she seems to have spent another £10,000 on the collection,[21] nearly doubling its size: by the time of its arrival in the Bodleian, it contained 19,223 items.[22]

As well as adding to the collection, Charlotte Sutherland removed or replaced items deemed unsatisfactory, presumably following the criteria she listed in the supplement to her catalogue of the collection:[23]

In short, she seems to have tried to collect a set of the best possible impressions, whilst removing duplicate prints (that is, duplicate states: many works are represented in multiple states).

At the same time as adding to the collection, Mrs Sutherland catalogued it, publishing her Catalogue of the Sutherland Collection in 1837 - the 'concluding act' of her attempt to justify the faith her husband had placed in her.[24] The catalogue was published in a small-paper edition of 250 copies, and a large-paper edition of 10 copies, the latter intended for presentation. (Further details of the catalogue are given in a separate note on the printed catalogue.)

As the catalogue was in the press, Charlotte Sutherland offered the collection to the Bodleian Library, writing to its curators via Bodley's Librarian, Bulkeley Bandinel, on 3 May 1837.[25] The reasons for her choice of the Bodleian are unclear: her brother William states that her husband had disapproved of the British Museum,[26] but her brother Robert's position as a tutor at Christ Church (he was to become the University's Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History some 5 years later) may also have played a part in her decision.[27]

In writing to the Bodleian's curators, Charlotte Sutherland laid down several conditions:

The gift was accepted by the Curators the day after Mrs Sutherland wrote her letter, upon which ownership of the collection transferred to the Bodleian. However, as she had explained when offering the collection, further work was required before it was in a fit state to be delivered to the library. Although she hoped to deliver the collection to the Bodleian by Christmas 1837, it was not until February 1839 that Charlotte Sutherland felt able to place it there.[28] In the intervening 21 months, she had added about 700 items to the collection, and removed some 200, as well as reordering it.[29] She updated the catalogue with a supplement (dated April 1838), a set of 'final additions' (dated September 1838, reflecting the sudden acquisition of a group of objects from William Esdaile's sale in March 1838[30]), and final manuscript annotations to the large-paper copy which accompanied the collection, dated 1840 (Sutherland 1-3).[31] She also supervised the preparation, by her brother Arthur, of a copy of the catalogue marked up with the locations of all the extra-illustrations (kept in Duke Humfrey's Library, shelfmark R. 6. 113/1-2).[32] Thus, when it eventually arrived in the Bodleian, the collection comprised 19,274 items, consisting of 17,750 prints (pulled from 14,136 different plates), 1,460 drawings and 64 broadsides and pages of letterpress; 2,659 of the prints were described as proofs.[33]

In May 1837, Charlotte Sutherland had offered the Bodleian her husband's extra-illustrated Clarendon and Burnet, together with four volumes of prints too big to be included with the extra-illustrations and, it seems, the Wyngaerde Panorama; Mr Sutherland's rough and fair manuscript indices to the collection; an additional copy each of Clarendon and Burnet, used by Mr Sutherland to compile his notes; and the large-paper copy of the printed catalogue which accompanied the collection.[34] However, when the collection was finally placed in the Bodleian, Mrs Sutherland added several more works: Dalrymple's Preservation of Charles II, Heath's Chronicle, and a reprint of the Memoirs of the Life of Sir Stephen Fox, all extra-illustrated; Ricraft's Survey of England's Champions; an anonymous review of Burnet's History; Peck's Memoirs of the Life and Works of Milton and Memoirs of the Life and Actions of Cromwell; Bromley's Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits; the Cabinet de M. Paignon Dijonval; A Catalogue Raisonné of the Select Collection of Engravings of an Amateur; Lelong's Liste des Portraits gravés des françois et françoises; a parcel of catalogues of print sales; Faber's mezzotints of Kneller's Kit-Cat Club; and Steevens' edition of Shakespeare and Boydell's 'Shakespeare Gallery'.[35]

But the story of the Sutherland Collection does not end with the arrival of these volumes in the Bodleian. At the same time as working on her husband's collection, Charlotte Sutherland had also amassed a collection of her own, comprising 'about 8000 prints and drawings; which (being chiefly modern) are less curious, though highly interesting on account of the large proportion and various states of proof prints among them'.[36] Like her husband's collection, Mrs Sutherland's was preserved in the form of extra-illustrated books, the prints inlaid in between the text pages. Although never the subject of a printed catalogue, the collection was indexed in manuscript (Sutherland 135). Charlotte Sutherland's collection comprised Dibdin's Bibliographical Decameron, Aedes Althorpianae, and Bibliographical Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour; Horace Walpole's Royal and Noble Authors; the Memoirs of Count Grammont; Letters from Mrs Delany to Mrs Frances Hamilton; The Life and Times of Frederick Reynolds; Coxe's Travels in Switzerland; and 3 volumes of miscellaneous prints and drawings. She presented these to the Bodleian in 1843, together with several illustrated books and oil paintings of her husband and of Frederick, King of Bohemia.[38] By this time, Mrs Sutherland seems to have been on familiar terms with Dr Bandinel, joking with him about the time it had taken for her husband's collection to arrive in the Bodleian, asking for his help in housing unsold copies of her Catalogue, exchanging news of mutual friends and family, and discussing the quality of prints in the 1842 sale of Horace Walpole's collection.[39]

Charlotte Sutherland also seems to have been a patron of architecture. According to her obituary in The Gentleman's Magazine, whilst living at Merrow in Surrey (where she seems to have moved following her husband's death), she made significant alterations to the parish church. These are dated to 1842 in Pevsner, and given to the otherwise unknown architect R.C. Hussey (perhaps a relative). Shortly afterwards, and before 1849, she moved a few miles to Bramley,40 where she restored the parish church and added a new aisle; presented the village with a new burial ground and accompanying chapel (althought the latter is apparently dated to 1881 in Pevsner); and built a set of school buildings.[41]

But as late as December 1849, she was still writing to Dr Bandinel concerning prints in the collection.[42] The following year, she tried to arrange a trip to London to see the Stowe prints at Sotheby's with him, and sent off the fair copy of the index to her extra-illustrated books, before setting off, aged sixty-seven, on a tour of the Rhine and Switzerland.[43] She died in Bramley on 18 March 1852, aged sixty-nine.[44]

The collection continued to be housed in the Bodleian Library into the twentieth century. Craster states that it was shelved to the right of the central (west) window in the Selden End of Duke Humfrey's Library, 'on the deep shelves of a blocked window recess'.[45] In June 1943 the Library's Curators decided to transfer the collection to the Department of Western Art in the Ashmolean Museum, once its new Print Room had been completed. During the War, the new building had been occupied by the Ministry of Food, who only vacated it in 1948; the new Print Room was finally fitted out in 1949. The transfer was approved by Congregation on 2 May 1950, when several items (notably the extra-illustrated Clarendon and Burnet, and the large volumes) were transferred to the Ashmolean.[46] The remaining items are still held by the Bodleian.

Pages with additional information


  1. Lane Poole, no. 281. [back to text] [bibliography]
  2. Lane Poole, no. 279; Hussey, pp. 2-3. Her miniature hangs alongside her husband's in the Ashmolean's Print Room; on the accompanying label, however, she is named Elizabeth. [back to text] [bibliography]
  3. Hussey, pp. 2-3; 'Obituary' (1852). [back to text] [bibliography]
  4. Sutherland, p. xi. [back to text] [bibliography]
  5. Sutherland, p. xii. [back to text] [bibliography]
  6. Hussey, p. 6. [back to text] [bibliography]
  7. Sutherland, p. xii; see also Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 4 October 1837, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 3; 16 September 1837, fol. 13; 14 February 1838, fol. 15; 27 February 1841, fol. 22; 13 May 1841 (fol. 23); 24 January 1849, fol. 25; and Arthur Hussey to Bulkeley Bandinel, 9 January 1839, loc. cit., fol. 14. Scott and his son also travelled to Oxford in 1839 to see the collection safely installed in the Bodleian: Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 13 February 1839, loc. cit., fol. 18; and 20 February 1839, fol. 20. Mrs Sutherland presented Scott with a copy of the small-paper edition of her Catalogue: Sutherland 4, MS. note after the title page. [back to text] [bibliography]
  8. Dibdin, Bibliogaphical Decameron, vol. III, p. 360. [back to text] [bibliography]
  9. Repertorium Bibliographicum, pp. 577-8. [back to text] [bibliography]
  10. Dibdin, Aedes Althorpianae, vol. II, pp. 233-4. [back to text] [bibliography]
  11. Hussey, p. 6. [back to text] [bibliography]
  12. Sutherland, p. xv. [back to text] [bibliography]
  13. Sutherland 1, following p. xvi. [back to text] [bibliography]
  14. Cf. Hussey, pp. 3-5. [back to text] [bibliography]
  15. 'Obituary' (1820); Sutherland, p. xii. [back to text] [bibliography]
  16. Hussey, p. 3. [back to text] [bibliography]
  17. Hussey, p. 5. [back to text] [bibliography]
  18. Whiteley, p. 7. [back to text] [bibliography]
  19. Sutherland, p. iii. [back to text] [bibliography]
  20. Sutherland, pp. iii-iv. [back to text] [bibliography]
  21. Hussey, p. 6. [back to text] [bibliography]
  22. Sutherland, p. 651 (annotated in MS in Ashmolean copies). [back to text] [bibliography]
  23. Sutherland, Supplement pp. i-iii. [back to text] [bibliography]
  24. Sutherland, p. iii. [back to text] [bibliography]
  25. Curators; there is a brief description of the gift in Craster, p. 113. [back to text] [bibliography]
  26. Hussey, p. 5; for a description of Mrs Sutherland's frustration when seeking items in the British Museum library, see Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, April 1838, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 16. [back to text] [bibliography]
  27. For Robert Hussey, see Barker & Stenning, s.v.; Foster, s.v.; and Matthew. [back to text] [bibliography]
  28. For the delays, and Mrs Sutherland's apologies for them, see Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 17 June 1837, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 7; 16 September 1837, fol. 13; 14 February 1838, fol. 15; April 1838, fol. 16; and 13 February 1839, fol. 18. For the collection's delivery to Oxford, see the latter letter, and that of 20 February 1839, fol. 20. [back to text] [bibliography]
  29. Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 17 June 1837, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 7; 15 March 1838, fol. 15; 24 April 1838, fol. 16; 2 September 1838, fol. 17; 4 July 1840, fol. 22; and Arthur Hussey to Bulkeley Bandinel, 9 January 1838, loc. cit., fol. 14. [back to text] [bibliography]
  30. Whiteley, p. 8, identifies the collection as Esdaile's. [back to text] [bibliography]
  31. Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 17 June 1837, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 7; 14 February 1838, fol. 15; 15 March 1838, fol. 15; April 1838, fol. 16; 24 April 1838, fol. 16; 2 September 1838, fol. 17; and 13 February 1839, fol. 18. [back to text] [bibliography]
  32. Sutherland, Supplement pp. i-iii; Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 17 June 1837, in 'Letters &c'., fol. 7; 24 April 1838, fol. 16; 13 February 1839, fol. 18; 20 February 1839, fol. 20; and Arthur Hussey to Bulkeley Bandinel, 14 November 1837, loc. cit., fol. 14; and 14 February 1838, fol. 15. [back to text] [bibliography]
  33. Sutherland, p. 651; see also the separate note on the growth of the collection. [back to text] [bibliography]
  34. Curators, record; Madan, no. 28464. [back to text] [bibliography]
  35. MS. notes bound into Sutherland 1, following p. xiv and Sutherland 4, following p. x; Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 14 February 1838, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 15; 15 March 1838, fol. 15; 13 February 1839, fol. 18; 20 February 1839, fol. 20; Bulkeley Bandinel, note, after 15 March 1838, loc. cit., fol. 12; Curators, Catalogue ... 1843, pp. 61-2; Macray, p. 258. [back to text] [bibliography]
  36. Sutherland, p. viii, note a. [back to text] [bibliography]
  37. Mrs Sutherland's desire to see the work done properly meant that the catalogue was only completed in 1849: Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 16 August 1849, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 27; Madan, no. 28468. [back to text] [bibliography]
  38. Curators, Catalogue ... 1843, pp. 61-2; Macray, p. 258; the Walpole is described as presented in 1843 by Madan, no. 28463, and Craster, p. 113. [back to text] [bibliography]
  39. Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 13 February 1839, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 18; 27 February 1841, fol. 22; 12 May 1842, fol. 23; 27 May 1841, fol. 23; 1 April 1842, fol. 24; and 3 May 1842, fol. 24; see also later letters such as that of 24 January 1849, fol. 21. [back to text] [bibliography]
  40. Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 2 May 1842, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 24, was written at Merrow; the next surviving letter in the correspondence, 7 December 1848, fol. 25, was written in Bramley. [back to text] [bibliography]
  41. 'Obituary' (1852); Nairn & Pevsner, s.vv. Bramley and Merrow. [back to text] [bibliography]
  42. Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 7 December 1848, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 25. [back to text] [bibliography]
  43. Charlotte Sutherland to Bulkeley Bandinel, 24 January 1849, in 'Letters &c.', fol. 25; 13 February 1849, fol. 26; 31 March 1849, fol. 26; and 16 August 1849, fol. 27. [back to text] [bibliography]
  44. 'Obituary' (1852). [back to text] [bibliography]
  45. Craster, p. 8. [back to text] [bibliography]
  46. 'Transfer'; Craster, p. 314; Taylor, p. 34 and, for the new Print Room, pp. 22, 28, 30 & 32. [back to text] [bibliography]

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