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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Design for a Title for the 'Liber Studiorum' c.1806

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 14 Verso:
Design for a Title for the ‘Liber Studiorum’ circa 1806
Turner Bequest LXXXVII 10
Pen and ink on cream laid paper, 118 x 185 mm
Inscribed by Turner in ink (see main catalogue entry) within a drawn outline
Inscribed by a later hand in pencil ‘LXXXVII, 9–10’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘LXXXVII 10’ bottom left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This design is not recorded in Finberg’s Inventory as it was presumably laid down, the recto of the sheet (D05384; Turner Bequest LXXXVII 9) having been included in the First Loan Collection touring display. Finberg only listed his LXXXVII 10 as bracketed with 9, without description. He did, however, gain access to it in time to describe it in his 1924 book.
For the Liber Studiorum, Turner’s collection of images representing types of landscape, see Tate D08084–D08106, D08108–D08123, D08125–D08142, D08144–D08187; D08222, D08231, D25373, D25451; D40043, D40045, D40141, D41481, D40351–D40381; N02782, N02941, N02942, N03631; Turner (or Vaughan) Bequest CXVI 1–29, 31–48, CXVI A–E, G–V, X–Z, CXVII A–Z, CXVIII A–Z, a–h, CXX I, Q, CCLXIII 328, 251. Turner’s draft title is written within a drawn outline or cartouche, with an additional motif added on the right, perhaps intended to denote a palette and cornucopia. It reads:
No 1 of | Liber – Studiorum ... | being | Studies for Pictures in History | Mountain Pastoral Marine | and Architectural Landscapes | Price 15
Finberg, followed by Herrmann, located the origin of Turner’s idea for a title within an ornamental frame in Paul Sandby’s series of aquatints, XII Views in South Wales, 1775 and XII Views in North Wales, 1776. Finberg read Turner’s wording differently from this writer, so that the title ended ‘...Architecture – and Landscapes’. He thought it ‘ludicrous’ but indicative of ‘the difficulties which the proposed system of classification presented to Turner’s mind’. No less revealing of Turner, perhaps, is that even at such an early stage he was already thinking of price!
The presence of this early idea for the Liber in this sketchbook underlines its connections with the engraver Charles Turner and the artist William Frederick Wells. The impressive roster of subscribers for Charles Turner’s mezzotint of Turner’s Shipwreck, listed on folios 1 verso, 2 verso and 5 verso (D05377, D05379, D05399; Turner Bequest LXXXVII 2, 4, 24) must have encouraged Turner to consider a more ambitious project including the same engraver. Wells, who with his family subscribed to the Shipwreck plate, is thought to have first suggested the Liber while the artist was staying with him at his cottage at Knockholt, Kent in autumn 1806. This study probably dates from around that time or even from the visit itself.

David Blayney Brown
January 2006

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Design for a Title for the ‘Liber Studiorum’ c.1806 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, January 2006, 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/joseph-mallord-william-turner-design-for-a-title-for-the-liber-studiorum-r1139179, accessed 22 October 2019.