Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: A Financial Note


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 69 × 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

With the page turned vertically, Turner has noted the following above the prominent printed label pasted to the centre of the page:
               840 12 May 1808      20 
         Paid [...] Taxes 
The illegible word is partly rubbed and worn away; it is very short, ending in a letter with a long tail, and may simply be ‘my’. For more on Turner’s finances as set out in the extensive notes in this sketchbook, see the Introduction.
The shield-shaped, engraved label pasted lengthways onto the endpaper is surmounted by a Prince of Wales crown and ostrich feather crest and a scroll inscribed: ‘Manuf[actu]rer to His Royal Highness the P[rinc]e of W[ales]’. The rubbed and partly obliterated text continues:
Thos. Williams’s | (Late Hall & Co.) | Much Approved Velvet Paper | Memorandum Books | with Metallic Pencils the Points | of which will never Break and the | Writing remains s[ecure] from Eras[ure.] | Keep the Point[s] of the Pencil[s] | smoothly scr[aped] flat and [Write] | with them in the same d[irection] | as with a Pen.
[So]ld retail by the | Stationers & Venders | of Pocket Books In Town & Country | and Wholesale for E[xpor]tation | by Thornhill & Son, Fish St[reet] Hill London
Technical notes:
The endpaper is pasted over a simple pocket constructed integrally with the inside of the front cover, into which Turner inserted four loose papers (see the Introduction to the sketchbook). There is dark staining around the outer edges from the leather overlaps. The paper has developed a bulge over the pocket and its contents, causing localised abrasion against the opposite page, particularly affecting the label described above.
This sketchbook is unique in the Turner Bequest in being composed of ‘velvet paper’, with a soft, flock-like surface. The collector Sir Thomas William Holburne (1793–1874) used a similar book for pencil and watercolour sketching in Scotland in 1828 (Holburne Museum, Bath); its label is worded identically except for being headed ‘PHELPS | Original Manufacturer of | HALLS’S | Much Approved ...’ and concluding ‘... Exportation | by J. PHELPS & Co. | At the Manufactory | 27, PATERNOSTER ROW.1 On his 1830s voyage in the Beagle, the scientist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) used six comparable notebooks (classed as ‘Type 5’; English Heritage, Down House), bearing labels without a manufacturer’s name but with similar wording:

Matthew Imms
September 2013

‘The Collection: AR152a: Sir William Holburne’s Scottish sketchbook’, The Holburne Museum, accessed 10 September 2013,
‘Darwin’s Beagle field notebooks (1831–1836)’, Darwin Online, reproducing and transcribing one label, accessed 10 September 2013,
See ‘Silver Point’ in Peter and Linda Murray, The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists, 5th ed., Harmondsworth 1983, p.387.
Bower 1990, p.80 note 3.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop