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Lewis Walpole Library Topographical Prints Collection

Call Number: LWL MSS 34

Scope and Contents

The Lewis Walpole Library Topographical Prints Collection contains more than 1,400 views of locations mostly in the British Isles, but also in Continental Europe and very few in North Africa and North America. Mainly published in England from the early eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century, the prints in this collection include both distant prospects (landscapes, cityscapes, views of towns, coastlines, and harbors) as well as more detailed depictions of individual structures (houses, antiquities, government buildings, castles, palaces, schools, and bridges). Also present are a small number of prints showing European battles, both on land and at sea.

Generally small in format (octavo or quarto in size), the prints were mostly issued as illustrations to over 220 different publications, both books and periodicals, and represent the work of some of the more prolific topographic artists and printmakers working in Britain at the time.


  • 1688 - 1900
  • Majority of material found within 1706 - 1880


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Lewis Walpole Library Topographical Prints Collection is the physical property of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the W. S. Lewis Librarian/Executive Director.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequest of Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis (Yale 1918), 1979.


Organized into five series: I. England, 1688-1900. II. Ireland, 1785-1880. III. Scotland, 1706-1880. IV. Wales, 1774-1880. V. Foreign, 1706-1900.


3.13 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Dutch; Flemish



Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


A collection of 18th- and 19th-century prints, mostly extracted from publications, arranged geographically.

Custodial History

Most of the prints in this collection came to the Yale University Library in 1958, as part of a large gift from Joseph Verner Reed (1902-1973, Yale 1926). The gift contained over 500,000 engravings from the stock of New York gallery owner Robert Fridenberg, and more than 17,000 of these were transferred in 1960 to the Lewis Walpole Collection in Farmington, Connecticut. The prints deposited in Farmington were those that supported the research interests of Wilmarth S. Lewis (1895-1979, Yale 1918), mainly portraits of Britons and British topographical views but also some satirical prints. The bulk of Reed’s gift to Yale comprises the Robert Fridenberg Collection of Portrait and Topographical Prints (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, GEN MSS 1000).

At some point after their arrival in Farmington, Reed’s British topographical prints were combined with approximately 250 engraved views already present in W. S. Lewis’s collection. In contrast to the mainly smaller-format book illustrations in the Reed gift, Lewis’s prints were typically larger and issued separately; most had been acquired in lots from print dealers, the largest groups being purchased from Suckling & Co. of London (in 1937, 1938, 1941, and 1956) and the Old Print Shop in New York (in 1958). This combined collection of small and large topographical views was eventually organized by country and then by the British county. In the decade following the transfer of the Reed gift to Farmington, approximately 40 additional views were acquired by Lewis either by way of gift or individual purchase from dealers, and over 30 prints were purchased at Christie’s auction house in July 1966, from the collection of Sir Jonathan Wathen Waller. After Lewis’s death in 1979 and the bequest of the Lewis Walpole Library to Yale, the topographical prints collection was added to sparingly, the last acquisition being six engraved views in the late 1990s.

Processing Information

Processing of the Topographical Prints Collection began in 2012 and the historical arrangement, by country in the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales) and secondarily by county (for England and Wales only), was preserved; the loose alphabetization of the individual prints within the folders for country or county was also maintained. The prints in a folder labeled “Foreign,” mostly views of locations in Continental Europe, were kept in their historical arrangement by foreign country. Sixteen folders at the end, containing prints arranged by topical subjects mostly unrelated to topography, were left in the collection and processed as found. At this point, the decision was made to create individual records in Orbis (Yale’s online catalog) for over 200 of the largest prints in the collection, those 16” x 12” and larger. These prints were removed, housed separately, and classified with call numbers beginning with “Topos” and Cutter numbers to maintain the country/county arrangement (e.g., “Ox98” for Oxfordshire; “It88” for Italy). These larger topographical views, and links to their digital images, can be found in Orbis using a local call number search on “Topos.” The remaining smaller-format prints were described in a preliminary finding aid that was available to researchers beginning in 2014.

Between 2018 and 2022, the prints arranged by topical subject at the end of the Topographical Prints Collection were assessed, and the decision made to move them elsewhere. Approximately 200 of these prints with topographical relevance, from the folders labeled “Battles,” “Naval Battles,” “Maps,” and “Schools,” were relocated within the collection and interfiled by country and county in the main sequence. The prints with more relevance to individuals, from the folders labeled “Arms,” “George III Regalia,” and “Monuments,” were moved to The Lewis Walpole Library Collection of Portraits (LWL MSS 35) and interfiled by personal or family name. The prints from the folders labeled “Theaters” and “Theatrical Costume” were integrated into British Theatrical and Literary Prints (LWL MSS 33), while the prints from seven other folders (“Crimes and Criminals,” “Gilpin Prints,” “Le Seur Prints,” “Sartini Prints,” “Street Signs,” “Title Pages,” and “Travel”) were moved to various locations within the Lewis Walpole collection and cataloged in Orbis.

The current collection retains, for the most part, the historical arrangement by country and county, with the prints pertaining to each country in the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) now filed in their own series (Series I-IV) and foreign views filed in a series at the end (Series V). The prints within Series I (England) and Series IV (Wales) are further organized into subseries by county, arranged alphabetically by county name. Also retained was the use of the boundaries and names of the historic counties of Great Britain, as opposed to those of the more recently created ceremonial or metropolitan counties. The city of London was identified at the same level as counties in the prior arrangement and remains so in the current arrangement. Foreign views in Series V are separated into subseries by country, arranged alphabetically by country name.

Prints are grouped within the folders alphabetically by the name of the town, structure, etc., that is depicted in the print, and then ordered chronologically within these groupings by publication date. The entry for each print includes a transcription of the title, the artist/printmaker statement, and the imprint (if present); other text, such as series titles and plate numbering, is included if deemed significant. Imperfections, such as sheet trimming with loss of text or image, is noted, as well as the presence of multiple impressions. In the few cases where multiple states of a print are present, a description of the changes to the plate between states is provided. Text has been supplied by the cataloger in square brackets to facilitate keyword searching for untitled prints, correction of misspellings or archaic spellings of personal or place names.

A brief citation for the published work from which the print was extracted is also included (if known). In cases where no date is present on the print itself, the print date is inferred from the publication date of the larger work (the book, magazine, etc.) and supplied in square brackets. In the absence of any clues as to publication date, an approximate date has been supplied in square brackets by the cataloger.

Guide to the Lewis Walpole Library Topographical Prints Collection
by Lewis Walpole Library Staff
March 2023
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