EVELYN, JOHN (1620-1706, diarist, antiquarian, numismatist and garden historian, F.R.S.)
The gift was doubtless made as a consequence of Thoresby's visit to the Evelyns the previous year, which he recorded in his own diary: 'The famous Mr Evelyn, who has published a great number of very rare books, was above measure civil and courteous, in showing me many drawings and paintings of his own and his lady's doing; one especially of enamel was surprisingly fine, and this ingenious lady told me the manner how she wrought it, but I was uneasy at his too great civility in leaving an untold heap of gold medals before me &c.'
In his own papers is an autograph list of donors to his museum, in which Thoresby recorded the gift made by Mary Evelyn: 'My Lady Mary Evelyn dauter of Sr Richd Browne, Resident in the Court of France for K: Ch I & 2d to K: Lewis 13th (of w[ho]m there is an hon[or]able Character in the Fasti Oxon: p: 859) & the Ingenious Consort of John Evelyn. Esq, FRS. Two very rare Obsidional Coins a Crown piece w[i]th...a plaine crosse, probably of Dublin before the usuall sort with CR crowned,...a shilling with XII on one side & N.E. on ye other, both near ye edge yt ye greatest part of the Coyne is vacant, 'twas probably of Newarke, of this see my Lord ABp of Yorks Letter, Augt. 15th 1702.' [WYAS, YORKS. ARCH. SOC. MS 27, photocopy included in the lot].
Ralph Thoresby (1658-1725) was the noted Yorkshire antiquary and topographer, author of Ducatus Leodiensis, or, The Topography of Leeds, 1715, whose father, having served under Fairfax in the Civil War, was able, after the general's death, to purchase Fairfax's coin collection and library for £185, which he used to create a private museum, the Musaeum Thoresbyanum. Thoresby continued his father's work and won a reputation as England's foremost private collector, including of manuscripts, his main work being on his collection of some 2,000 coins and medals. Of his manuscript collection Thoresby wrote: 'a branch of curiosities that I began to collect of late years, viz. Original Letters, and other matter of the proper Hand-writing of persons of all ranks, eminent in their generations' (A.N.L. Munby, The Cult of the Autograph Letter in England, 1962, p. 3). Thoresby's letters and autographs formed lots 67-90 of the third day's sale of his collections by Whiston Bristow on 7 March 1764.
Among his many works, Evelyn published Numismata; a Discourse of Medals, 1697, largely concerned with medallic and engraved portraits, their collecting, and their interest as a guide to character.
Autograph letters signed by Evelyn are scarce: only seven have appeared at auction since 1979.