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Printed images in Bodleian collections: Printing surfaces

A guide describing some of the notable collections of picture prints and illustrations in Bodleian Library collections, with information about catalogue resources.

About the Collection

Examples of blocks for relief printing and plates for intaglio printing found in Bodleian collections date principally from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. In origin they range from those made for the collectors, to illustrate books of which they were editors or authors, to items collected for their historical interest.

The bulk of the seventeenth- to early nineteenth-century copper plates are illustrations of works by a few scholars with Oxford associations, or whose large collections of other manuscript and printed materials have come to the Bodleian. In these, scientific and antiquarian interests predominate. 

The number of woodblocks is much smaller, represented by a few apparently made early in the eighteenth century for antiquarian publications, including reproduction initials in the Douce Woodblocks.

The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera holds copper plates associated with the printing of packaging and other ephemera.

The principal collections of printing surfaces are summarized here:


Lister Copperplates

Copper plates for Martin Lister, Historiae Conchyliorum (1685). The artists and engravers were Lister's daughters, Anna and Susanna Lister. Over 1000 plates are in the collection, many very small. The plates kept at this shelfmark include some for Edward Lhuyd, Lithophylacii Britannici ichnographia (1699).


Morison Copperplates

292 folio plates for Robert Morison, Plantarum historiae universalis Oxoniensis (pars secunda: 126 plates; pars tertia: 166 plates). Ten engravers are identified by name on 174 plates, of which the two most prolific are Frederick Hendrick van Hove (1628-98; 62 plates) and Michael Burghers (c.1647-1727; 60 plates).


Rawlinson Copperplates

Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) bequeathed 750 copper plates with the rest of his collections in 1755. These include plates made for Rawlinson to illustrate objects and views of his choice, and others, many from identifiable publications, collected by him.

Many are illustrated in Rawlinson Prints.


Lock Hospital Plates

Engraved music plates for the 'Lock Hospital Hymnal’ (A Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, 1762, and several later editions) are catalogued at the shelfmark Bodleian Mus. Plates 1. These are associated with the Reverend Martin Madan (1725-90), great-great uncle of Falconer Madan (1851-1935), Bodley's Librarian from 1912 to 1919.


Gough Copperplates

A little over 400 copper plates are listed in the collection of Richard Gough (1735-1809), the great majority of which are plates for his Sepulchral Monuments.  See Gough images)


Hearne Woodblocks

Apparently comprising blocks used in publications of Thomas Hearne (1678-1735), antiquary and sub-librarian of the Bodleian.


Douce Woodblocks

These are described in the catalogue, under the shelfmarks Douce Woodblocks d.1 and Douce Woodblocks f.1-3. Some are associated with the Bodleian donor Francis Douce (1757-1834), and some are additionally associated with the earlier collector John Bagford (1650-1716).


John Johnson Collection
Three box files labelled 'Copper plates for bookplates (1)' ; 'Copper plates for bookplates (2)' ; 'Copper plates for paper bags (1)'. 

Included in 'Copper plates for bookplates' is the copper plate for a calling-card of Maria Edgeworth (1768-1839, see Edgeworth Papers).

Access Information

Copper plates and printing blocks can be accessed under the following general shelfmarks. Please use the specified handlists or follow links to online catalogue records if available.

Request using the online catalogue:

Request by email to the reading room at specialcollections.bookings@bodleian.ox.ac.uk:

  • Lister Copperplates (see handlist to find shelfmarks for individual plates)
  • Rawlinson Copperplates (see handlist to find shelfmarks for individual plates)
  • Gough Copperplates (see handlist to find shelfmarks for individual plates)

Direct enquiries to rare.books@bodleian.ox.ac.uk:

  • Morison Copperplates
  • Hearne Woodblocks

Please direct any other enquires on accessing the collection to rare.books@bodleian.ox.ac.uk or ask a member of the Library's reading room staff who will be able to assist you further.

Copper plates

Morison Copperplate Sect. 15 Tab. 7

Morison Copperplate, Sect. 15 Tab. 7: Mosses