Collection Gell MSS - William Gell Collection

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Gell MSS


William Gell Collection


  • c. 1815-1820s (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

3 notebooks

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

British classical archaeologist and traveller; he was born in Hopton, Derbyshire, 1 April 1777, son of Philip G. and Dorothy Milnes; he studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, BA, 1798; MA, 1804; Fellow of Emmanuel College; he studied art at the Royal Academy Schools; he visited the Troad, 1801, and published Topography of Troy, 1804; from 1804 he travelled for some years in Greece, publishing a number of works on the topography and antiquities of the area; he was sent on an archaeological mission to Ionia by the Society of Diletttanti, 1811-3; he was knighted in 1814; he accompanied Princess (later Queen) Caroline to Italy, 1814, and was at the centre of the scandals involving the queen at this time; from 1820 until his death he lived in Rome and Naples; he was very interested in the progress of hieroglyphic decipherment and corresponded with Young, Salt, and Champollion on the subject and encouraged Wilkinson to take up the study of Egyptian antiquities; FRS; FSA; he died in Naples, 4 Feb. 1836; three of his note-books on hieroglyphs are in the Griffith Institute.

Archival history

Gell's notebooks and sketchbooks relating to his travels were bequeathed to his friend, the Hon. Richard Keppel Craven, who received them after his death at Naples in 1836. When Keppel Craven's died in 1851, his papers, including those of Gell, were presented to his Italian secretary, Pasquini, who later disposed of them apart from those notebooks bequeathed by Gell to the British Museum (see below, Related units of description). The ancient Egypt-related notebooks were acquired by Sir Alan H. Gardiner (1879–1963) sometime before 1951.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Presented by Sir Alan H. Gardiner (1879–1963) between 1951 and 1952.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Three notebooks containing Gell's copies of hieroglyphic inscriptions from objects and publications, also drawings (some coloured) of objects seen by Gell in museums and private collections.

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Conditions governing access

Property of the Griffith Institute.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright Griffith Institute, Oxford

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Finding aids

  • Typewritten catalogue listing material relevant to the TopBib.
  • R. Moss notebook B.16.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Gell's papers are widely dispersed, with many listed on the National Archives web pages. Some of the items in other repositories include:

  • Six notebooks, twenty-four loose topographical drawings and three topographical maps relating to Gell's travels are in the British School at Rome Collection. See
  • Travel notebooks and sketchbooks for Greece, the Peloponnese, Elis and Arcadia, archaeological notes on the Etruscans, and an account of Gell's dreams, in Special Collections, Bodleian, University of Oxford [MSS. Eng. misc. d. 186, e. 152-154, f. 53; Drawings gen. d. 12]. See
    • Gell's dream journal, recording that he dreamt of visiting Egypt, is in the Bodleian [Bodleian MS Eng. Misc. d. 186: Account of Gell’s dreams, 1823, and (fols 49v-52) 1832–3, with a few other notes, 1823, 1832–3]. Gell's dream no. 94: 'I was already arrived in Egypt…' (notes travel, including seeing catacombs, caverns, etc.). Sketch of a grotto. Subterraneous tomb. 'in this case, the thoughts of the day had great influence upon the dream.’ [Bodleian fos 48–48v] [info. Dr Richard Ansell, email 18-05-2023].
  • Travel diaries for Greece and Germany, in Special Collections, University of Bristol Archives, see
  • Notebook, c. 1830, in McGill University Archives.
  • Travel journal for Germany, Switzerland and Italy, Beinecke Library, Yale University. See
  • Sketchbook and an account of a tour of the lakes, 1797, Barrow Archives, Cumbria, Z/293, Z/293.1.
  • Notes on Rhodes, 1832, Manuscript Collections, National Library of Scotland, MS.913.
  • Travel journal for Scotland, c. 1800, Bury St Edmunds branch, Suffolk Archives
  • Gell's correspondence, British Library, Add MS 50135, see

Related descriptions

Notes area


  • The portrait of Sir William Gell, illustrated here, is in the British Museum [2019,5003.1]. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

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  • Shelf: 0703A