SORBY, Henry Clifton, FRS (1826–1908), geologist and microscopist. Autograph letter signed to an un-named correspondent, 1 side of a bifolium, 8vo, on the headed notepaper of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Sheffield, December 19th 1860, “You kindly promised to look out and see whether anything exhibited at your conversazione would be suitable, and could be procured for ours which has been fixed for Jan 29th. Will you kindly inform me whether you have succeeded in doing so, since I should like to have an idea of what we can get, being now very busy writing to various people on the subject”. Docketed by the recipient at the head of the letter “Received and answered 20th inclosing Syll. List. P.G & G. and ref. to G.C., P.R.C.[?]” 19th C slip pasted inside the bifolium (probably by autograph collector) identifying Sorby.
This letter was written in the early part of Sorby’s productive career in microscopy and geology, when, with the benefit of a private income and a well-equipped laboratory at his home, he had immersed himself in the application of the microscope to the study of geology and mineralogy. Sorby quickly became a leading light in Sheffield’s Literary and Philosophical Society (founded 1822), being elected President in 1852 and was its Secretary over many years. The first Annual Conversazione of the Society took place on 19th January 1860 and was so popular that subsequent events had to be limited by ticket until larger premises could be found. Sorby became the principal organiser of the annual Conversazione, which exhibited the latest scientific apparatus, and collections of natural science, archaeology, historical objects and art. The recipient of the letter clearly played a special role in another cultural organisation, and his identity and that of his organisation might yet be found from the docket note.