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Scientific and antiquarian papers of Christopher and Richard Towneley, 17th-18th cent.


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The collection reflects the wide ranging interests of Christopher and Richard Towneley. There are scientific papers, which include Richard Towneley's records of experiments in air pressure and volume and his mathematical notes; correspondence and working papers relating to astronomy collected by Christopher Towneley, and notes and extracts from scientific reference works. There are also antiquarian papers, which include notes and extracts from philosophical works, transcriptions of records relating to English Roman Catholics and some family papers.


  • Creation: 1620-1787


1.05 Linear metres (17 Shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Latin
  • French

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. c. 7031, fols. 1-2].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 7031-7032, Eng. d. 3537-3540, Eng. e. 3387-3393, French e. 41, Lat. misc. d. 100, Lat. misc. e. 133-134

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 13173


Scientific papers of Christopher and Richard Towneley relating to their work in physics, geometry and astronomy and the antiquarian papers of Christopher Towneley relating to English Roman Catholics, 17th-18th cent.

Biographical / Historical

Christopher Towneley (1604-74) and his nephew Richard Towneley (1629-1707) were members of a Catholic gentry family from Towneley in Lancashire. Christopher Towneley is known as an antiquary but these papers also reflect his interest in scientific research, particularly astronomy. He befriended a number of the northern astronomers, Jeremiah Horrocks, William Crabtree, William Gascoigne and John Stephenson, and collected their papers. His nephew, Richard Towneley, working with other local collaborators, conducted experiments into the relationship between air pressure and volume which became known as Boyle's Law. He also perfected the micrometer and was a pioneer of meteorology. For further details of Christopher Towneley see Dictionary of National Biography and for further details of Richard Towneley see Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York, 1970-80). See also C. Webster, 'Richard Towneley, 1629-1707, and the Towneley Group', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, vol. 118, 1966.


The papers have been divided into scientific papers and antiquarian papers. There are further subject divisions within these two main groups. Records within the subdivisions have been arranged chronologically, wherever possible.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bought, Sotheby's, 23 July 1985, lot 546, with the aid of grants from the V & A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries and the Royal Society.

Catalogue of the scientific and antiquarian papers of Christopher and Richard Towneley, 17th-18th cent.
Finding aid prepared by C. Parker
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom