This is a transcription of the visitors’ book for the armoury of Dr Samuel Rush Meyrick when it was situated at 20 Upper Cadogan Place, London, between 1820 and 1830.
Much of the arms and armour formerly owned by Meyrick was acquired by Sir Richard Wallace in 1871 and is now in the Wallace Collection. The visitors’ book was generously donated to the Wallace Collection by Mrs Daphne Lucas in 2003.
The collection of Samuel Rush Meyrick (1783-1848), the father of the systematic study of arms and armour, was one of the sights of London in the 1820s. The King, George IV, was the first to sign his name in the book, and he was followed by many artists, writers, antiquarians and others (as well as several hundred people who are now totally unknown). In all the names of nearly twelve hundred people are included in the book, though this cannot be a complete record of all the visits the armoury received. Some of Meyrick’s friends are not included, and he clearly had a policy of allowing only one entry per visitor – hardly any name appears more than once. The book is titled Visitors To the Armoury of Llewelyn Meyrick Esqr: LL.B. because the money to buy the collection came from Samuel Rush Meyrick’s son Llewelyn, Samuel having been disinherited by his father after his marriage in 1803.
Very few of the entries are dated. From the transcription it will be seen that, in an apparent attempt to assist with chronology, the years from 1821 (page 7) to 1826 (page 32) were indicated in the visitors’ book. These dates were written on the top of a right-hand page, apparently when a new right-hand page in a new year was begun. However, from comparison between the known addresses of artists and those given in the visitors’ book (e.g. those of Delaroche, Lami and J. F. Lewis), it seems that these dates were written later and that they should not be relied upon. For example, it is probable that Delaroche, Cotes Wyatt, Bellangé, Ward and Lami (see page 14) visited the armoury in 1823, or even perhaps early 1824 – later than suggested by the visitors’ book.
It is known from external evidence that Delacroix, for example, visited on 8 and 9 July 1825 (because he dated some of the sketches he made there), but it would be very interesting to establish when some of the other artists (e.g. Gericault, Delaroche and Wilkie) actually saw the armoury. Anyone with any unpublished information which helps shed light on their visits (including unpublished sketches made there) is asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org . Of course, the book is of interest not only to art historians, but as a museum of works of art, it is with the artists, collectors and antiquarians that the Wallace Collection is particularly concerned.
Many of the entries were written by Meyrick himself rather than the visitor – hence, for example, the inclusion of Edwin Landseer as ‘Edwd Landseer’. Occasionally an entry has later been annotated – annotations of this kind are given here in italics. In the original book some of the entries have drawings of coats of arms in pencil and watercolour next to them.
Entries for painters and sculptors are given in bold to make identification easier for those particularly interested in them. Also to assist with identification, notes are given on artists and some of those involved in related occupations in bold in square brackets.
An article on the visitors’ book, ‘French artists and the Meyrick armoury’ by Stephen Duffy appeared in the Burlington Magazine, May 2009 (No. 1274, Volume CLI). When it was written it was assumed that the inscriptions indicating each year between 1821 and 1826 were accurate.
Download a PDF of the Meyrick Visitors Book