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Images of Queen’s College available online as part of the King’s Topographical Collection

28 October 2020

King George III was a great collector of books and maps. His library is one of the foundation collections of the British Library (BL), now on public view in the dramatic King’s Library Tower in the BL’s entrance hall. The King’s Topographical Collection constitutes one highlight of this collection, and for the last seven years, the BL has been cataloguing and digitising this rich resource. It contains thousands of maps, prints and drawings and watercolours of interest to the King, and provides a window on the world from the viewpoint of an eighteenth-century, royal, armchair traveller.

Benjamin Green, [The Queen’s College, Oxford], [Oxford], [1762]. Figures depicted include the provosts William Lancaster, Thomas Barlow and Timothy Halton. British Library, Maps K.Top.35.10.n.1.

On 13 October, the BL added 18,000 images from the collection to the public domain Flickr Commons, making available to anyone a vast range of high-resolution images. Among this collection are a number of fine images of The Queen’s College, some of which are unique or rare, and are a reminder of the connections between the College and the Royal Household, as well as being a record of how the College has developed over time. These include pen and ink drawings of plans of the South Quad and an illustrated manuscript detailing the donation by Queen Caroline of £1,000 from the Royal Bounty towards the rebuilding of the College. Many of the images show items from works held in the College Library, but not previously freely available online.

James Green, ‘Introitus cubiculi Nigri Principis. Reliquias Aulæ Reginensis recentiori fabricæ jam cessuras ære incidendas curavit EDV. ROWE MORES A.M. & S.A.S. Introitus cubiculi Nigri Principis. Reliquias Aulæ Reginensis recentiori fabricæ jam cessuras ære incidendas curavit EDV. ROWE MORES A.M. & S.A.S.’ [1751]. British Library. Maps K.Top.35.10.w.

The catalogue notes: ‘In 1751, when the wholesale rebuilding of Queen's College was nearing completion, the antiquary Edward Rowe Mores commissioned the twenty-two-year-old Green to produce three drawings of the few medieval remains still awaiting demolition: the old gatehouse and the “Black Prince’s Chamber”.’

British Library. Maps K.Top.35.10.q.

In relation to the donation by Queen Caroline, the King’s Topographical manuscript is interesting to compare to the similar record in the College’s Benefactors’ Book, shown here. Mike Riordan, the College’s Archivist, notes the similarity in style but suggests that different draughtsmen are involved.

Felicity Myrone, lead curator, Western Prints and Drawings at the British Library, says ‘we hope that by making them more accessible to a much wider audience more information can be amalgamated and generated and that the images and records will have a new lease of life.’ The BL seeks further information about the collection from the wider public, and Felicity comments, ‘But cataloguing is never complete. These drawings for Queen's of the South Facade and this elevation of the south quadrangle, for example, lack attribution.’ Suggestions can be sent via

"[South facade of The Queen's College, Oxford]." British Library. Maps K.Top.35.10.r.

The collection can be found on Flickr and also via the Explore the British Library website, using the search term ‘George III Queen’s College’, limiting the search to online access, and using the ‘I Want This’ tab.

‘COLLEGIUM REGINALE’ [1713], Maps K.Top.35.10.a.

Matthew Shaw, The Queen's College Librarian

Below: British Library, Maps K.Top.35.10.m