James Gillray, Presages of the Millenium (sic)

hand coloured etching


The Walpole Society was formed in 1911, and was named after Horace Walpole (1717-1797), who published the first history of art in Britain, basing his work on the manuscript notebooks of George Vertue (1684-1756), which he had acquired. One of the first goals of the Society was to publish the notebooks in their original form, which included much material that Walpole omitted. This took up six volumes as well as an index volume, and was finally completed in 1950. This publication is the single most important source of information concerning art collections, artists, architects and craftsmen working in Britain before the mid-eighteenth century. They form part of more than 60 volumes that the Society has so far published containing articles, catalogues and editions of original documents.

Material published in the volumes is remarkably diverse as can be seen from the complete list set out in the section of this website headed “Previously published volumes”. Apart from the seven devoted to the fully indexed publication of the Vertue note-books, other outstanding volumes issued by the Society include the drawings of Matthew Paris; the Lumley inventories; the book of architecture of John Thorpe; the Inigo Jones masque designs; the note-book of Nicolas Stone; the manuscript catalogues of King Charles I’s Collection; the memoirs of Thomas Jones; the diaries of Otto Mündler; an edition of the Chantrey Ledger at the Royal Academy; a double volume dedicated to the collections of our late President, Sir Brinsley Ford; and another double volume published to mark the Centenary of the Walpole Society, The Travel Notebooks of Sir Charles Eastlake.


Membership is by simple application; there are no restrictions on who can join, and no limits on the number of members. The annual subscriptions are shown in the section “How to join” and may be paid in British pounds, US dollars or in Euros. These subscriptions go entirely towards the cost of the production of new volumes. In return for their subscription, members receive a free copy of each new volume published by the Society, and are able to buy earlier volumes at preferential rates. The Society's publications are indispensable to all those interested in British Art, but in order to continue its essential work, the Society needs a flourishing membership.


All enquiries concerning the Society and membership should be sent to the Membership Secretary, who can also send a copy of the constitution, and the most recent annual report and accounts.


Source material relating to the history of the arts in Britain is abundant. Much of it still lies neglected in public and private archives awaiting transcription and examination, and remains to be published in order to be available for general use by historians. Suitable contributions, which may be concerned with any period of British art, are very welcome. Proposals should be sent to the Editor, Richard Stephens, and further details are set out in the "Information for prospective authors" section of this website.