Archive Item of the Month – July 2012

To coincide with the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society (BGAS) Library open day on Saturday 21st July, our item this month is a 300 year old first edition of Sir Robert Atkyns’s The Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire, published in 1712.



Sir Robert Atkyns (1647–1711) was a topographer, antiquary, and Member of Parliament. He was educated at St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford, and at Lincoln’s Inn. He held various powerful positions including that of Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire. He was knighted by Charles II in 1663 and was an MP firstly for Cirencester and then for Gloucester.



His work The Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire was the first complete county history of its kind to be published, and had a great influence on successive volumes charting the history of Gloucestershire. The work includes coats of arms of prominent local families, a detailed map of the county and illustrated plates, as well as detailing various parish histories around the county.

The work is in excellent condition and extremely rare. An inscription written c. 1800 by an anonymous scribe in the front of the volume tells us why:

This impression of Sir Rob. Atkyns’s Glostershire is very valuable, as all the copies were accidently burnt except about one hundred. There is a new edition of less value than this printed in 1768… It has 73 copper plates. The above copies were destroy’d by fire in the printing office of William Bowyer father to the late Will. Bowyer printer. It happen’d Jan. 30th 1712-13. Many of the copies which were sav’d retain the indelible marks of those flames from which they were with much difficulty rescued. This copy was probably not in the office when the accident happen’d

If you would like to come along and see this treasure please consider coming to our open day, part of the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology fortnight. We will be open on Saturday 21st July from 10am – 4pm.

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