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  • Title
    Letter from Sarah Sophia Banks to her brother Joseph Banks, 7 November 1766
  • Creator
  • Call number
    MLMSS 9979
  • Level of description
  • Date

    7 November 1766
  • Type of material
  • Reference code
  • Physical Description
    0.01 meters of textual material (1 folder) - manuscript

    This is a letter sent from Sarah Sophia Banks (1744-1818) to her brother Joseph Banks (1743-1820) while he was travelling in Newfoundland. The letter is a direct reply to a letter from Joseph dated 11 August of the same year.

    Sarah’s main purpose in writing this letter is to offer Joseph a bequest she has inherited: ‘I have now you know been of Age above a year, and know exactly the State of my Affairs, by which I find I have full enough to make me happy, and if I had as much again, am convinced I should not be more so…it would give me a great deal more pleasure that you should have it…’ This inheritance (the source of which remains unknown) seems to have been in addition to the fortune Sarah came into on her majority.

    The letter also contains gossip about mutual friends, and enquiries about Joseph’s health and progress with learning musical instruments (Joseph had mentioned in his previous letter that he had recently given up the flute for the guitar). Sarah also responds to an offer Joseph made (possibly in jest) to send her a sealskin gown from the ‘Esquimaux ladies’.

    Joseph Banks had left London for Newfoundland in April 1766 on the HMS Niger. This was the first of his major voyages. Two years later he joined Cook’s Endeavour voyage as the official botanist, travelling to the east coast of Australia. It is estimated that Banks’ costs in joining this voyage would have been around £10,000.

    Joseph and Sarah were born a year apart, and remained close all their lives, living together in Soho Square after 1779. Joseph was the heir to the Revesby Abbey fortune, and Sarah evidentially came into enough of a fortune to remain independently wealthy and additionally finance her brother’s voyages.

    Sarah was an avid collector in her own right, amassing a collection of over 19,000 articles of coins and printed material, including fashion plates, admission tickets, visitor cards, press-cuttings, satirical prints, frontispieces, political caricatures, invitations, maps, an playbills. When the collection was donated to the British Museum after her death it was the largest and most varied collection of printed ephemera the museum had ever accepted. Sarah had the means to purchase these artefacts, but she also added to her collection through exchange and gifts from other collectors, making use of her brother’s wide travel and networks.

    Reference: Library correspondence file
  • Collection history
    From the private collection of a Canadian collector of postal history and stamps relating to Newfoundland, who purchased it in 1982 from a dealer in North America.
  • Scope and Content
    Letter from Sarah Sophia Banks to her brother Joseph Banks, 7 November 1766, sent from Chelsea to Newfoundland via Lisbon. Bifolium, folded to make three page letter with fourth page address panel. Laid paper, measuring 225 x 180 mm.
  • Copying Conditions
    Copyright status:: In copyright
    Research & study copies allowed: Author has been deceased for more than 50 years
    Please acknowledge:: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
  • Signatures / Inscriptions

    Signed by Sarah Sophia Banks
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