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George Vertue Papers

c 1745-1818


George Vertue Papers


c 1745-1818

Archive reference number



This collection comprises correspondence, notes and inventories relating to Vertue's commission to catalogue the royal collection, especially those pictures belonging to Frederick, Prince of Wales; portrait engravings and etchings by and of Vertue; antiquarian, art historical and literary notes, including a pen and ink sketch of Rubens 'Peace and Plenty'; and biographical extracts from Walpole's 'Catalogue of Engravers Born and Resident in England'.

Record type


Administrative history

George Vertue (1684-1756) was an English engraver and antiquary. He was born in London to Roman Catholic parents who had served in the household of James II. After working as an apprentice under Michael Vandergucht, Vertue established himself as an independent engraver in 1709. He produced a variety of work, including reproductions of portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller. In 1711, he attended the Great Queen Street Academy run by Kneller to continue his artistic education. Vertue's career took off after he engraved Kneller's portrait of George I in 1715. From 1717 until his death Vertue was official engraver for the Society of Antiquaries of London, producing most of the illustrations for 'Vetusta Monumenta' (1717-56). He received commissions from patrons such as Frederick, Prince of Wales, whom he also assisted in cataloguing the royal collection, Heneage Finch, the fifth Earl of Winchilsea, and the Earl of Burlington, and enjoyed a sustained relationship with the Earl of Oxford during the 1720s and 1730s. Lady Oxford continued to patronize him after the earl's death in 1741, and the Duchess of Portland employed him to engrave a series of plates of curiosities in her collection in the late 1740s. Vertue is also known for his work as an antiquary, particularly his research on British art history, which he proposed compiling under the title 'Musaeum pictoris Anglicanum'; following Vertue's death, his forty-one notebooks were acquired by Horace Walpole who used them as the basis for his 'Anecdotes of Painting in England' (1762-71) and 'Catalogue of Engravers Born and Resident in England' (1763). His collections of books, prints, drawings, and books of prints were auctioned by Mr Ford, St James's, Haymarket, on 16-19, 21-22 March 1757.

George Vertue, "Vertue Note Books." Walpole Society, vol. 18, 1929-30; vol. 20, 1931-32; vol. 22, 1933-34); vol. 24, 1935-36; vol. 26, 1937-38; vol. 30, 1948-50
Thomas McGeary, "Frederick, Prince of Wales, as Print Collector." Print Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 3, 2002, pp. 254-60
Kimerly Rorschach, "Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-51), as Collector and Patron." Walpole Society, vol. 55, 1989, pp. 1-76

Custodial history

Gorringe's (Lewes, East Sussex), 11 October 2022, lot 284; purchased from Michael S. Kemp Bookseller, Mar 2023

Related material

Deposits of Vertue's papers are held by the following repositories: British Library, especially Add. MS 19,027 which includes: Note of paintings in Windsor Castle, made from memory by the Prince of Wales; 26 Sept. 1750, f. 5; 'List of pictures of Charles I. that are still in the Royal collection'; 1750, f. 7; List of paintings at Kensington, in the Closet, f. 12; List of the Prince's collection of paintings, 1750, f. 20; Notes from Schrader [secretary to the Prince] to Vertue [1751], f. 27; Bodleian Library, Oxford University; Society of Antiquaries of London; Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

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