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Subseries IV: John Wilkes manuscripts, prints, and newspaper clippings, 1763-1976, bulk 1763-1805



  • 1763-1976, bulk 1763-1805


All series and subseries within this collection are open for research, with the exception of a few files within the Academia series that are restricted. The Academia series contains financial and sensitive institutional records from Wilkes College, and financial report records from Princeton University that will remain restricted for 80 years upon creation.


From the Collection: 17 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Condition Note:

The condition of materials ranges from subseries to subseries, however the vast majority should be handled with care due to their age. Subseries V is an outlier in this collection, as the majority of the materials contained within it are posted on sturdy poster board, and shows little to no evidence of wear, outside of slight browning of the paper and some minor stains. The other collections, however, show major signs of wear and age. Browning of pages, tears ranging from very minor to relatively major are common, stains and remnants of various materials such as wax or tape are present in many, the ink used is faded though still legible in many cases, and the paper of most pieces is quite delicate, once again due to their age. Several pieces should be handled with extreme care including Item 8: Pay Records Signed by John Wilkes as Mayor, as well as Items Ia and 1b: Letter to “Lord Vere” to Thomas Rothery, 1763 November 16, and Letter From Unknown Author to “Sir”, No Date.

Subseries IV: John Wilkes manuscripts, prints, and newspaper clippings, 1763-1976, bulk 1763-1805

Subseries IV: John Wilkes manuscripts, prints, and newspaper clippings, 1763-1976, bulk 1763-1805, is arranged chronologically and contains artwork including prints and engravings, heraldry, correspondence, and newspaper clippings concerning John Wilkes, 18th century British essayist, journalist, and politician.

John Wilkes was born on the 17th of October 1725. After a youth that consisted of scholarly pursuits which included an education from the University of Leiden, Wilkes began his campaign towards political advancement. Wilkes first entered Parliament from Aylesbury on July 6th, 1757, beginning his long relationship with serving in the House of Commons. No stranger to controversy, Wilkes was in hot water for a large portion of his career with various scandals including a duel with William Talbot as well as with secretary of treasury Samuel Martyn on a separate occasion, being expelled from Parliament on several occasions, and being imprisoned in King's Bench Prison in late 1768. Wilkes is well known for his many controversial works of literature including publications from his periodical, North Briton, such as North Briton No. 45, as well as his infamous satire of Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man, titled “Essay on Woman.” Throughout his career, he held many different political positions including the aforementioned seats in Parliament, however he was also elected as an alderman in 1869, as well as becoming the mayor of London in 1774. Wilkes was also well known for his support of America during the Revolutionary Period, even going as far as presenting a petition to King George III in protest to the king’s policy in America in 1775. After living a life of controversy and debt, Wilkes passed away insolvent on December 26, 1797 at St. Grosvernor’s Square in London.

This series covers various different subjects regarding the life of John Wilkes, with Subseries I covering forms of art related to Wilkes including a coat of arms granted to him, several different types of portraits, including historical portraits and political caricatures, engravings of the figure, as well as one picture of a painting. This subseries is arranged in chronological order, spanning from the 1763 until after his death in the first few years of the nineteenth century, and also contains other figures of the time alongside Wilkes such as, Serjeant Glynn, Mr. John Horne, Samuel Gillam, Sir Fletcher Norton, the Duke of Grafton, the Lord of Holland, the Duke of Bedford, and Lord Mansfield.

Subseries II consists of various newspaper clippings that relate to Wilkes and are organized chronologically by date. This newspaper subseries is primarily centered around events that occurred around 1768, however many of the clippings are undated. Some of the events that are referenced within this subseries include the Middlesex controversy, the reversal of his outlawry by Lord Mansfield, as well as his trial and imprisonment.

Subseries III consists of various manuscripts and printed materials written about and by Wilkes himself, and is organized in chronological order. The dates of this subseries range from 1763-1788, and cover areas of his life such as his infamous piece titled “Essay on Woman,” his duel against Samuel Martyn, parliamentary proceedings against Wilkes, as well as his imprisonment in 1768. Several historical figures are mentioned throughout this subseries including Lord Sandwich, Samuel Martyn, William Hogarth, Lord Vere, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard, and Archibald Stewart.

The final subseries, Subseries V, is arranged chronologically and contains exhibit captions used in the June 19, 1988 Wilkes College Sordoni Art Gallery exhibition, titled, John Wilkes and Isaac Barre: Politics and Controversy in 18th century Graphics.

Processed By:

Initial processing was conducted by Christopher Smith, Class of 2021 in Fall 2020. In-depth processing was done by Conrad Middleton, Class of 2024, supervised and edited by Suzanna Calev, Archivist, Winter Intersession, 2021-2022.

Repository Details

Part of the Wilkes University Archives Repository

84 W South St.
Wilkes-Barre PA 18701 US
570-408-7823 (Fax)