Missing Notebooks Appeal

Please help us find Humphry Davy’s missing notebooks – please share

The AHRC recently awarded a substantial three-year grant to a group led by Professor Sharon Ruston at Lancaster University to image, transcribe (using Zooniverse), interpret, and make freely available the notebooks of the chemist Humphry Davy (1778-1829).

All Davy’s notebooks so far identified are held either by the Royal Institution or Kresen Kernow. However, by 1904, four Davy notebooks – mostly, though not exclusively, relating to his fishing exploits – had come into the possession of Arthur Gilbey (1861-1939), a collector of angling memorabilia. In 1982, one of these was purchased by the Royal Institution where it now forms RI MS HD/14/M. (Bound in green boards with a leather spine, it contains 174 pages of size 8 x 5 inches, approximately 20 x 12.5 centimetres; illustrated below). Davy’s name does not appear in this notebook, although it is in his distinctive hand and does refer to his book Salmonia (1828). It is thus possible that the other three manuscripts might be catalogued in some archive as simply anonymous early nineteenth-century notebooks relating to fishing.

We would be grateful to scholars, archivists, librarians, and dealers if they could check any collections which might hold these notebooks and if any positive lead transpires to contact Dr Andrew Lacey, Senior Research Associate on the Davy Notebooks Project: a.lacey2 at lancaster.ac.uk.