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Pettigrew papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 113

Scope and Contents

The Pettigrew Papers consist almost entirely of letters received by Thomas Pettigrew. The papers span the dates 1791-1865 and are organized into two series: General Correspondence Files and Additional Correspondence.

Series I, General Correspondence Files , is housed in Boxes 1-13 and is arranged alphabetically by author. Detailed folder notes in the box and folder list highlight the main topics of most correspondents' letters. In general, the bulk of the correspondences deals with routine business matters of the British Archaeological Association, and includes responses to requests for donations and support; nominations to various offices; meeting and tour arrangements; papers and publications by members; and the general antiquarian interests of the correspondents. There is also considerable discussion of the competition between the B.A.A. and other antiquarian organizations, particularly the Archaeological Institute and the Society of Antiquaries, as well as commentary on the internal politics of all of the associations.

Pettigrew's tireless promotion of the British Archaeological Association is perhaps best illustrated by his extensive correspondence with members of the nobility and gentry whose patronage he solicited. His results were mixed. For example, the Marquess of Camden declined the Presidency, but accepted a largely ceremonial Vice-Presidency; several nobles, including the Dukes of Devonshire and Grafton and the Earl of Ferrers, declined the Vice-Presidencies as well. Baron Berwick agreed to be listed as a patron provided that he would not be asked to "perform any active part in matters which I do not at all understand," while Baron Stanley accepted a Vice-Presidency on the condition that he would not be required to attend meetings. Many correspondents declined altogether. On the other hand, Baron Londesborough's letters discuss his work for the organization in great detail (Box 7, folders 346-347)

Nevertheless, several noble correspondents became active members of the BAA: the letters of the Earl of Darnley (Box 4, folder 162) and of the Earl of Arundell (Box 1, folder 21) document visits by the society to their estates, while those of the Earl of Harrowby describe an antiquarian article intended for the BAA's quarterly periodical. Baron Londesborough's many letters discuss his work for the organization in great detail (Box 7, folders 346-347).

Box 21 contains a few personal papers, including a photograph of Pettigrew and a prospectus for the restoration of Shakespeare's tomb.


  • 1797-1865


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Pettigrew Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased in 1971 from Winifred A. Myers, Ltd. on the James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Fund.


7.09 Linear Feet (21 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of letters to Pettigrew from a variety of correspondents, including scholars and antiquarians, members of the nobility and gentry, and professional colleagues. The letters concern scientific matters, including Egyptology and medicine, and the affairs of the various learned societies of which Pettigrew was a member, such as the British Archaeological Association, the Medical Society of London, the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquarians, and the Archaeologcal Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. A few letters concern the Duke of Sussex.


Thomas Joseph Pettigrew, second son of the surgeon-apothecary William Pettigrew, was born in London on October 28th, 1791. After serving his apprenticeship under the surgeon John Taunton, he was elected secretary of the Medical Society of London in 1812, became secretary to the Royal Humane Society in the following year, and was subsequently appointed surgeon to the Duke of Kent

Pettigrew was appointed surgeon and librarian to the Duke of Sussex in 1819, and in the following two decades successfully pursued a dual career as surgeon and as antiquary. He became surgeon to the Asylum for Female Orphans and to the Charing Cross Hospital, and he was elected fellow of the Royal Society. In his role as librarian, Pettigrew planned an ambitious catalogue of the Duke of Sussex's collection, the first volume of which was published in 1827 as Bibliotheca Sussexiana.

During the 1830s, however, Pettigrew faced difficulties in both of his chosen fields. The Duke of Sussex, embarrassed by Pettigrew's tendencies to gossip and by his mismanagement of the Duke's 1830 election as President of the Royal Society, dismissed him from his posts. In 1835, Pettigrew resigned from Charing Cross Hospital in the wake of accusations that he had accepted fees from candidates for assistant surgeons' appointments.

Although he published a spirited defense of his conduct, Pettigrew withdrew to private medical practice and devoted increasing time to his antiquarian interests. He published A History of Egyptian Mummies in 1834 and the first part of his planned Encyclopaedia Aegyptiana (never completed) in 1842. While Sussex refused to reinstate him as his librarian, he did allow Pettigrew to complete and publish the second volume of of his planned Bibliotheca Sussexiana in 1834. Pettigrew's four volume Medical Portrait Gallery, which included his own biographical sketch, appeared in 1839.

In 1843 Pettgrew was elected as fellow to the Royal College of Surgeons, and in the same year became one of the founding members of the British Archaeological Association, serving as its treasurer for the rest of his life. He was also active in the Percy Society, the Historical Society of Science, and the Society of Antiquaries, and authored many antiquarian articles for the Journal of the British Archaeological Association and Archaeologica.

During the early 1850s Pettigrew again engaged in controversies, publishing an attack on the management of the Society of Antiquaries in 1852 (Letter to the Lord Viscount Mahon) and defending his own management of the British Archaelogical Association from an attack by Richard Hugo in 1854. In that year his wife died, and Pettigrew retired from medical practice entirely. He published Chronicles of the Tombs in 1857. Thomas Pettigrew died at home in Brompton on November 23, 1865. His library was sold at Sotheby's seven months later.

Processing Information

This finding aid was partly produced from a previously existing card set in the Manuscripts Catalog, or from another inventory. All pertinent bibliographical information has been retained.
Guide to the Pettigrew Papers
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
March 2006
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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