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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Liber Notes (2) Sketchbook c.1808–18

Turner Bequest CLIV a 1–77a
Sketchbook bound in boards, rebound in modern brown leather, with pastedowns laid in (D40851, D40853)
78 leaves and pastedowns of white wove paper; page size 89 x 112 mm
Numbered 405 as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854 and endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest inside front cover (D40851)
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketchbook comprises a rather miscellaneous range of drawings and notes. Many of the sketches are effectively undatable, although there are various indications to suggest that the book was largely in use around 1817–18. The notes relating to Turner’s Liber Studiorum series of landscape prints, which prompted the long-standing title of this sketchbook and its placement with other Liber-related sketchbooks in the present catalogue, are on folios 24 verso, 25 recto and verso, 26 verso, 27 verso, 28 recto and verso, 29 recto and verso, 30 recto and verso, 31 verso and 32 recto (D12156–D12158, D12160, D12162–D12168, D12170, D12171; Turner Bequest CLIV a 23a, 24, 24a, 25a, 26a, 27, 27a, 28, 28a, 29, 29a, 30a, 31).
The Liber checklist running from folio 24 verso to folio 25 verso (D12156–D12158; CLIV a 23a, 24, 24a) has been dated to 1808, but complementary notes on other pages appear to have been amended as late as 1818. These dates are discussed in the context of a transcription of all the Liber Notes (2) texts, annotated with full details of the subjects and their publishing history, within the present author’s Introduction to the section of this catalogue covering the watercolour studies for the series (‘Liber Studiorum c.1806–24’).1
Turner seems to have used this sketchbook from time to time to make notes on other work in progress, particularly in relation to the subjects he was producing as watercolours for engraving projects. Where their substance can be recognised, these notes seem to have been be current around 1817–18, tying in with the dating of the later Liber notes. Otherwise these inscriptions have been given a broad 1808–18 date. There are notes on subjects relating to Walter Scott’s Provincial Antiquities: folio 2 verso (D12127); relating to engraving project(s): folios 10 verso, 11 verso, 12 recto, 17 recto (D12138, D12140, D12141, D12148), 40 recto (D12179; CLIV a 39); and concerning various works in hand: folio 59 recto (D12204; CLIV a 58) and inside back cover (D40853).
There is a passage from a traditional poem on the inside of the front cover (D40851) and a fragment of what seems to be original verse on folio 13 recto (D12143). As discussed under folio 1 recto (D12124), there are studies and notes relating to Turner’s work on Battle of Waterloo compositions around 1817–18. There are also miscellaneous accounts and notes: inside front cover, folios 1 verso (D40851, D12125), 54 verso (D12196; CLIV a 53a), 60 recto (D12206; Turner Bequest CLIV a 59), 65 verso (D12214; CLIV a 64a), 69 verso (D12222; CLIV a 68a), 70 recto (D12223; CLIV a 69), 78 verso (D12239; CLIV a 77a).
An unidentified landscape appears on folios 3 verso–4 recto (D12129, D12130); with varying degrees of certainty, there are several studies made in and around Turner’s familiar haunt of Richmond upon Thames, west of London: folios 10 verso–14 recto (D12138–D12145), 56 verso (D12199; CLIV a 55a), 67 verso (D12218; CLIV a 66a), 68 recto (D12219; CLIV a 67). Botanical studies are on the rectos of folios 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 (D12131–D12133, D12135, D12136). As listed under folio 7 verso (D12134), the largest group of drawings, occupying nearly thirty pages, is devoted to studies of cloudy skies, including some double-page sketches; some are annotated with colours and other observations. There are numerous cloud sketches and Richmond studies, probably of similar dates, in the Aesacus and Hesperie sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXIX), also included in the present Liber-related section of the catalogue.
Finally, there are other slight sketches and plans of varying sorts: folios 52 verso (D12193; CLIV a 51a), 59 verso (D12205; CLIV a 58a), 64 verso (D12212; CLIV a 63a), 68 verso (D12220; CLIV a 67a), 69 verso (D12222; CLIV a 68a), 70 recto (D12223; CLIV a 69). As with the inscriptions, the sketches have been given a broad range date of 1808–18 unless there are grounds for being more specific, although it is possible that the book remained largely empty apart from the initial Liber notes until the 1817–18 period to which some of the sketches and notes have been assigned.
See also the notes and transcriptions from this sketchbook in Forrester 1996, pp.13–14, 15, 29, 160–3.

Matthew Imms
September 2013

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How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Liber Notes (2) Sketchbook c.1808–18’, sketchbook, September 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/liber-notes-2-sketchbook-r1147538, accessed 28 May 2024.