BRAYLEY, Edward Wedlake (1773–1854), topographer & archaeologist. ALS to his son Edward. 1853

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BRAYLEY, Edward Wedlake (1773–1854), topographer and archaeologist. Autograph letter signed to his son Edward [William Brayley], 4 sides of an 8vo bifolium, Russell Institution, January 10th 1853, regarding lectures “I shall be glad to have a detailed Syllabus of your lectures - divided in accordance with the times of delivering, into your parts ……. The accompanying packet from Capt. Smyth came here about the middle of last week ……… I shall print the brief Syllabus of Dr Browne’s Lectures on Phrenology, on the same paper as yours and I shall endeavour to see him shortly in order to get him to deliver his first lecture in place of your last ………. You have seen our Advertisement in the Athenaeum re this I imagine. It was in the Daily News this day, and will be in The Times tomorrow ……. The charges are curiously variable: Athenaeum 10/-  Daily N. 16/6  Times 1 – 5.”

Edward Wedlake Brayley was born in in 1773 in Lambeth, London. During his apprenticeship to a London enameller, he met John Britton, formed a close friendship which lasted for sixty-five years, and collaborated with him to produce illustrated volumes on topographical subjects. In 1800 Britton and Brayley became joint editors of The Beauties of England and Wales, which ran to twenty-five volumes, completed in 1816. Following his apprenticeship Brayley worked for the enameller Henry Bone, but he continued to write topographical works, and also turned his hand to fiction, poetry, geology, natural history, and other subjects, often writing with co-authors. His most important work was probably a History of Surrey (5 vols., 1841–8). He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1823, and in 1825 he was appointed librarian and secretary of the Russell Institution at 55 Great Coram Street, London, which offices he held until his death.

The Russell Institution was founded by private subscription in 1808, taking as models the Royal Institution and the London Institution, and its objects were the formation of a library and providing lectures on literary and scientific subjects. The Institution survived until the 1890s.

Dr William Browne (1805–1885) a leading advocate of phrenology, was one of the most significant asylum doctors of the nineteenth century, and was an important influence on the young Charles Darwin as a medical student in Edinburgh in 1826-1827.


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