J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Abbotsford sketchbook 1831

Turner Bequest CCLXVII
Sketchbook, bound in cardboard with brown leather back and one clasp, now broken. The edges were painted with what now appears as a greenish wash, and the front cover has been stamped ‘CCLXVII’ in the top-left corner.
92 leaves of post octavo off-white wove writing paper made by Joseph Jellyman at Downton Mill in Downton, Wiltshire, and watermarked ‘J JELLYMAN | 1828’. Approximate paper size 185 x 113 mm
Numbered ‘271’ as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854 and endorsed by the executors of the Turner Bequest on the inside front cover (D40995).
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The Abbotsford sketchbook was used by Turner between 5 and 15 August 1831 while he was staying at Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, and during his journey from there to Edinburgh via Berwick-upon-Tweed. From 5–9 August, Turner took a number of day trips from Abbotsford to the surrounding country accompanied by Sir Walter Scott and his publisher Robert Cadell. On the 9th he left for Berwick-upon-Tweed, travelling via Jedburgh and Kelso. There he parted company with Cadell and made his own way to Edinburgh via Dunbar and Haddington.
Arriving at Edinburgh he finished with the Abbotsford sketchbook, except for a sketch of Craigmillar Castle (see folio 23; D25968; CCLXVII 23). During this time Turner also used the Berwick Sketchbook (1831).
The ‘Abbotsford Diary’ of Robert Cadell records Turner’s movements during this period, except for his journey from Berwick to Edinburgh, 11–13 August, and Cadell even wrote about Turner making particular sketches so it is possible to link certain sketches to diary entries.1 Gerald Finley has studied the Cadell papers including the diary and his letters to Scott, and some of the relevant pages are transcribed in an article by him.2 There is further useful study and analysis in Finley’s book.3
The purpose of Turner’s visit to Scotland in 1831 was to make sketches of various views to be illustrated for a new edition of Scott’s Poetical Works (see Tour of Scotland for Scott’s Poetical Works 1831 Tour Introduction). Turner, Scott and Cadell had a meeting about the project on the morning of 5 August where they discussed the subjects to be illustrated for each volume, and Turner wrote some of these down in the front of this sketchbook (Inside front cover; D40995). Ten of the Poetry illustrations are based on sketches in this book. (See the Tour Introduction for a full list of illustrations).
The Abbotsford sketchbook also contains sketches of Rhymer’s Glen (see folio 4 verso; D25934) and Craigmillar Castle, which were both subjects that Turner was later commissioned to illustrate for an edition of Scott’s Prose Works. Other subjects sketched in the book, but not illustrated for Scott, are Haddington Church, and Norham, Roxburgh, Innerwick, Yester and Hailes Castles.
Robert Cadell, ‘Abbotsford Diary’, National Gallery of Scotland, MS Acc. 5188, Box 1; partially transcribed in Finley, 1972, pp.359–385.
Finley 1972, pp.359–385.
Finley 1980.

Thomas Ardill
September 2009

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How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Abbotsford sketchbook 1831’, sketchbook, September 2009, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/abbotsford-sketchbook-r1134297, accessed 26 May 2024.