RAY (JOHN) Collection of papers and correspondence of John Ray and his executor Samuel Dale, from the collection of Ray's posthumous editor the Rev William Derham
Lot 188
Sold for £ 5,520 (US$ 7,711) inc. premium

Lot Details
Collection of papers and correspondence of John Ray and his executor Samuel Dale, from the collection of Ray's posthumous editor the Rev William Derham, comprising:

(i) Series of six autograph letters signed by Samuel Dale, to Derham, the first written just a month after Ray's death ("...I am desired by Mrs Ray to acquaint you that shee hath received your kind letter; and returns her humble thanks, for all the great respect and kindness you express to her. Mr Willoughby's Papers and designs are all safe & will be return'd to his son... Among the papers he hath left, I cannot at present find any MSS. of any value besides his Histor-Insectoris, in which he hath made good progress; having from his own observations, Mr Willoughby's MSS, &.c. described about 1100 of all sorts and will be great pitty some other hand doth not finish it. As to his other papers I have taken but a cursory view... as soon as time will permit my finishing the Catalogue of his books, I will more carefully observe them and give Dr Sloan an account..."); the series discussing in considerable detail the publication by Derham of Ray's manuscript remains ("...I entirely agree with you... as to the Method of publishing those long expected Remains of our late learned friend, and hope Mr Innys will come in with it, and let us shortly have the letters. You well observe that the Itinerarys are part of the Life, and give me leave to add The greatest part thereof thats now recoverable, unless he be made the man he was not, which I do not expect from your candour, and indeed lives are the most difficult part of History and most rarely done true. I have not seen Mrs Ray since I received yours, the last time I did shee was under concern for her Husbands papers, concluding that nothing would be publisht of them and therefore desired me to write to you for them, however when I next see her I will acquaint her with the contents of yours which perhaps will satisfie her..."), grumbling about printers ("...if they cannot hope to gett a great deal they will not undertake any thing..."), sending him manuscripts ("...I am glad you did receive Mr Rays M.S. Itinerarys safe, they are all that I know of except some small matters relating to Suffolk written in a Table Book with a pin, which is so scored and eaten out by time that I fear it will be difficult retrieving them..."), and venturing to criticize Derham's editorial stringency ("...I am sorry to find that you hesitate about adding the Polity and Curiosity of the Places Mr Ray was at, those I think will not only be an ornament, but will also make the worke more compleat & desirable, and without them it will be jejune..."); the first letter docketed by Derham "Mr Ray - The within named great man died on [Mercury symbol, i.e. Wednesday] about 10 clock in the morning Jan: 17. 1704/5", 8 pages, address leaves, one with a corner chewed by rodents, 4to and 8vo, Braintree, 18 February 1704[/5], 29 January and 24 March 1713, 7 and 21 April 1714, and 8 January 1716[/17]

(ii) Autograph letter signed by the Rev W. Pyke, Rector of Black Notley, to Derham, refusing permission to print Ray's funeral sermon and, in a postscript apprising him of a visit by Ray's widow ("...Since I writ Mrs Ray Came to my house and shewed me your Letter, as allso another that came to her hands, since Mr Rays death, from one Dr [Petrus] Hotton Professor at Leyden, who presses her very much not to part with any letters that passt betwixt Mr Ray & him, because they contain some matters of secrecy; by no means proper to be divulged, and so I advised her in justice to him to keep them by her, tho' they were among those you laid aside at her house. As for the Rest from Dr Sloane & cet: she puts them into your hands with an entire confidence that no other use shall be made of them but purely to serve the good design you have in hand..."), 2 pages, address panel, 4to, Black Notley, 26 June 1712

(iii) Autograph letter signed by William Derham, to the Rev Dr Bennett, asking him to supply information on Ray's career at Cambridge and Trinity ("...I am engaged in writing the Life of my friend [...] Ray... formerly a Fellow of your Coll... I had written to Mr Cotes, but hearing he is dead, I beg your leave to address it to you, & that you take the trouble on you. Your acquaintance & Interest I doubt not is sufficient at Trin: Coll..."), 2 pages, 4to, two address panels, Upminster, 4 June 1716

(iv) Autograph letter signed by J. Simpson of Trinity College, Cambridge, to Bennett (responding to the request made by Derham of Bennett), furnishing "the particulars concerning Mr Ray, which Mr Derham desires to be satisfyed about" ("...talking with the Master about it, told me Mr Ray did not goe upon his travels till he quitted the College..."), with answers on a separate sheet, 2 pages, 4to, Trinity, 25 June 1716

(v) Autograph letter signed by the non-juror Francis Brokesby, Ray's younger contemporary at Trinity, furnishing Derham with "some small Account of him from that knowledge I had of him after I was fellow of the College & thence forward became acquainted with him" up until the time he contributed to Ray's Collection of English Words ("...Tis scarce worthy your notice, that I, being not long before settled in Yorkshire, & a Stranger to many Local Words, used there, collected them, & collected several not observed by Mr Ray in his first Collection. This I communicated to Mr Ray, together with some Observations concerning the Northern Dialect: which he entertained with greater Pleasure than I could have expected from a Person of his great Learning..."), 2 pages, folio, [?c.1716]

(vi) Autograph letter signed by the historian of Essex, William Holman, to Derham, communicating the text of Ray's Latin verses upon the Restoration, 3 pages, address panel, 4to, 23 May 1721

(vii) Two autograph letters signed by Ray's correspondent Tancred Robinson, to Derham, tendering advice about publishing Ray's remains, especially the Itineraries ("...some part of it is worthy of his name even at this time...") and discussing the dispute about classification between Ray and Robert Morison, Oxford Professor of Botany ("...Mr Ray at the request of Bishop Wilkins drew up in haste here in town all the Tables in his Universall character relating to Plants, Animals, and Mineralls. This gave offence to Dr Morison, who was then projecting a new and unhear'd of Method of Plantes...Mr Ray upon publishing his Method... put forth at the end of that Book Caesalpinus his Method, without reflecting upon Dr Morison. this raisd much Bile, and Mr Ray was justly provok'd (tho not easily)..."), 4 pages, 4to, address panels, postmarks, some creasing, Norfolk Street, 26 July [?1721] and 12 August 1721

(viii) Bibliography of Ray's works, listing nearly thirty publications, with an addition and revision added by Derham, 3 pages, 4to

(ix) Transcript of Ray's Latin epitaph, directed to Derham on the verso and docketed by him "Mr Ray's Epitaph", one page, folio

(x) Collection of Derham's working papers for his life of Ray, including a 24-page booklet headed by Derham "Notes, for Mr Ray's Life", "A Short account of the Life of The Justly famous & no less Learned Mr John Ray" begun in another hand and finished by Derham, and a wide range of autograph notes and drafts by Derham, written on letters addressed to him ("For the Reverend Mr Derham to be left with Mr Innys's [the printer] at the Prince's Arms in St Pauls church yard London") by the astronomer Samuel Molyneux (1716), Derham's brother-in-law, Thomas Scott (1716) and others, and on sundry other scraps of recycled paper, upwards of 60 pages, folio, 4to and 8vo, [c.1716]


  • AN IMPORTANT BIOGRAPHICAL SOURCE FOR THE STUDY OF RAY'S LIFE AND WORKS, AND THEIR POSTHUMOUS PUBLICATION. The Rev William Derham FRS (1657-1735), from whose papers this collection derives, published a selection of Ray's correspondence under the title Philosophical Letters in 1718, followed by a biography of Ray in The Select Remains of the Learned John Ray in 1760; this appearing after his death, edited by his nephew-in-law George Scott FRS (who inherited these papers, along with the Hooke Folio and Diary). Derham's 24-page booklet of "Notes for Mr Ray's Life" is particularly revealing, in that it lists what papers came into Derham's hands, and when; and provides us with details of what letters from Ray's correspondence with Sloane, Robinson and Lister were held by Derham. It also describes how Derham came to write his life in the first place: "In the Summer of 1711 Mr/ Deacon Warley & other learned Men being at my Lord of Londons house at New-place they with my Lord desired me to write Mr Ray's Life". Indeed these "Notes" have something of the immediacy of Aubrey's biographical jottings, describing as they do conversations held with the likes of Tancred Robinson and Samuel Dale; but without the self-censorship Derham was wont to impose on his published material, thought even by Ray's executor too stringent (see Dale's letter above). For example, his terse jottings on Ray's death (the information evidently furnished by Dale) go beyond the usual death-bed pieties: "May 27/8. 1712 Received of Mr Dale Mr Ray Letters/ 4 Daughters Margaret, & Mary were Twins, Katharine, Jane unmarried. Margaret is married to Mr John Thomas of Langford near Maldon/ Mr R confined to his chamber about a month, kept his bed about a week before his death. Retained his Understanding to the last: at least lost it very little before his departure...".

    Another group of Derham's Ray papers was included in our sale of the Enys Collection (which had been assembled in the nineteenth century), 28 September 2004, lots 294-307, including some of the letters listed in Derham's "Notes".
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