A Brief History of Leeds Antiquarians: Part II

This week, Librarian Antony Ramm gives the second part in a brief history of Antiquarians in Leeds, as told using books, manuscripts and other treasures held at the Central Library. You can find further instalments elsewhere on this blog, as well as a research guide detailing the relevant library collections available.

Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759 – 1821)
Whitaker was born in Norfolk and educated at Cambridge, before becoming Vicar of Whalley and then Blackburn in Lancashire. His connection to Leeds is through marriage: to one Lucy Thursby, a descendant of Ralph Thoresby, the “father of Leeds history” – their letters to one another were made available by the Thoresby Society itself in 2011.

In 1816, Whitaker published a new, second edition of Thoresby’s Ducatus Leodiensis; a volume that included a new biographical introduction to the book’s author, and numerous footnotes, updating and correcting the original. Interestingly, many of those footnotes appeared to be exact copies of annotations made by Thomas Wilson, in that copy of the Ducatus held at the Central Library.

That ‘borrowing’ was made even despite the horrendously negative portrayal of Wilson that Whitaker contributed to R.V. Taylor’s Biographia Leodiensis in the 1867 supplement to that classic work (even if Whitaker did, at least, grudgingly acknowledge his debt to the earlier antiquarian).

Extract from the Wilson entry in Taylor’s Biographia

In the same year, Whitaker also published his Loidis and Elmete – which was a kind-of updated and expanded Ducatus, covering the period since the latter was published in 1715 and taking in a much wider area than Thoresby did: from the  latter’s focus on the area defined by the ancient Parish of Leeds, to most of the 10-miles round the town shown in Griffith Wright’s 1797 map.

Griffith Wright’s 1797 ‘A Map of Near 10 Miles round Leeds’

While the Library holds ‘only’ published copies of both the 2nd edition of Thoresby’s Ducatus and Whitaker’s Loidis (rather than any manuscripts), both volumes will play an important part in Part III of this brief history – especially when seen in the context of the following section.

Edward Parsons (1797 – 1844)
Another man of religious learning who contributed to the historiography of Leeds and its surrounding regions. Parson’s book, however – the grandly-titled The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial, and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley, and the Manufacturing District of Yorkshire (1834) – is today less notable for its actual content than for two interesting editions held at the Central Library: both grangerised by their respective owners – one anonymously and the other by the Bradford solicitor, historian and book collector, James Norton Dickons (1837 – 1912).

‘Grangerising’ a book simply means to expand an original text through the addition of relevant illustrations and other materials, usually derived from other published sources. Crucially, this practice is performed by the owner, rather than the author of the book and such editions were usually meant for a private audience.

The practice is named for James Granger (1723 – 1776), a parish priest in Oxfordshire, whose 1769 book A Biographical History of England from Egbert the Great to the Revolution “combined a chronological catalogue of prints with biographical information” – all the prints being derived from his own collection of some 14,000.

Representative pages from Dickons’ grangerised edition of Parson’s History, showing the insertion of a print illustration into the original text at the relevant point

The two aforementioned editions of the Parsons History both, then, offer a useful example of the grangerising process, albeit on a smaller scale than we will see in Part III of this article – to follow at a later date.

Please contact the Local and Family History or Information and Research departments to arrange an appointment to see any of the books or manuscripts mentioned here.

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