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Robert Plot 1640-96 - scientist & antiquary

His published work (1)

Robert Plot's best-known works, The Natural History of Oxford-shire (1677) and The Natural History of Stafford-shire (1686) represent the major part of the learned doctor's publications.

Around 1673 Robert Plot set out his great plan of 'a journey at least through England and Wales', to continue and supplement the work of Leland, Camden and others. His first aim was 'the promotion of learning and trade, which indeed are the things chiefly aimed at. But beside these of profit there are others of pleasure that fall within the verge of this design, intending in the same journey to make a strict inquiry after all curiosities both of art and nature' (undated letter to Dr John Fell, dean of Christ Church; see R. T. Gunther 1939 Early Science in Oxford, xii,pp 335-45). The work would be finished in ten years.

He intended to use pre-printed questionnaires which were to be issued 'to the most ingenious of each county in my travels through England' so that nothing important was missed (Bodl. MS Ashmole 1820a, ff. 222-3). It was a tool of research typical of the analytical approach of the period. In February 1679 Plot produced a detailed questionnaire to be used for 'each county in my travels through England and Wales' which included the following:

'21. Was there ever any ancient seat of kings in or near this place, any ancient baronies, abbies, priories, preceptories, nunneries, colleges, chantries, hospitals? Are there the remains of any ancient castles or fortifications hereabout, any ancient ways or banks of land now remaining, any barrows or ancient monuments of stone? Were there ever any parliaments, councils or terms held here? any battles anciently fought near this place? Find you hereabout any ancient money, urns, lamps, lachrymatories, pavements, bracelets, rings, seals or other British, Roman, Saxon or Danish antiquities? and whether any gentlemen hereabout have any such in his possession?' (Bodl. MS. Ashmole 1820a, ff. 224-5).

1973 reprint of The Natural History of Stafford-shire Table XXX111  

1973 reprint of The Natural History of Stafford-shire, and Table XXX111 showing Neolithic,
Bronze Age and Saxon crosses with Jack of Hilton, from the same book.

Scientist Robert Plot: case study His published work (2)
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