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John Ruskin collection

Call Number: GEN MSS 1168

Scope and Contents

The John Ruskin Collection contains correspondence, writings, artwork, and other material relating to the life and career of the Victorian author and art critic John Ruskin. Major correspondents include his parents, John James Ruskin and Margaret Cox Ruskin; George Allen; Edward Clayton; William Graham; Henry Jowett; Robert C. Leslie; Frederic Maynard; Susanna Miller; Sir John Naesmyth and Lady Naesmyth; Edward B. Nicholson; William Roscoe Osler; Harriette Rigbye; and Mrs. Arthur Stannard (who published as John Strange Winter). Writings include notebooks of Ruskin's juvenilia and other poems by Ruskin; autograph manuscripts of "The Mysteries of Life and its Arts" and several of his lectures; the manuscript of his autobiography, "Praeterita;" and corrected page proofs of chapters from Modern Painters and page and galley proofs of Sesame and Lilies. Artwork includes fourteen watercolors and pen and ink sketches by Ruskin. The collection also contains photographs of Ruskin; notes taken by Alexander H. M. Wedderburn at Ruskin's 1874 lectures in Oxford; and a leather postbag stamped with Ruskin's name and address.


  • 1826 - 1949
  • Majority of material found within 1840 - 1885


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The John Ruskln Collection is 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

Acquired by gift and purchase from various sources. Acquisition information about specific items has been included in this finding aid after the description of the item as available. For additional information, see the appropriate curator.


Organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 1829-1949; II. Manuscripts, 1826-1897; III. Artwork, 1846-1874; IV. Other Material, 1847-1874.


19.94 Linear Feet (40 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

John Ruskin (1819-1900)

John Ruskin (1819-1900), author, art critic, educator and social theorist of the Victorian period. Ruskin was educated primarily by his parents, John James Ruskin and Margaret Cox Ruskin, and then at Oxford University, where he received his degree in 1842. His multivolume Modern Painters (1843-1860) championed the work of J. M. W. Turner and the use of symbolism in art and was a major influence on the Pre-Raphaelite movement. The Stones of Venice (1851-1853) was an influential appreciation of Gothic art and architecture and a work of implicit social criticism. Other important writings included Unto this Last (1862); the lectures pubished as Sesame and Lilies (1865); and the pamphlet series published as Fors Clavigera (1871-1884).

Ruskin was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University and founded the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art (1871) in Oxford. In the same year, he established the Guild of St. George (1871). He spent his last years in retirement, suffering several mental breakdowns, at Brantwood, a small estate in the Lake District, and died there of influenza on January 20, 1900. Ruskin's only marriage, in 1848, was to Effie Gray Ruskin Millais (1828-1897); it was annulled in July of 1854.

Processing Information

Many items in the John Ruskin Collection were cataloged individually at the time of acquisition or later. The collection as a whole was assembled and received a basic level of processing, including rehousing and minimal organization, in 2014.

Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from from individual catalog cards. Other folder titles appearing in the contents list below were supplied by staff during basic processing.

Former call numbers: MS Vault.Shelves.Ruskin; MS Vault 14:1-2; Uncat.MS Vault.316; Uncat.MS Vault.538; Uncat.MSS.780, MS Vault.Ruskin; Uncat.MS Vault.Ruskin

Guide to the John Ruskin Collection
In Progress
by Beinecke Staff
June 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.