- Museum number
Album with remnants of ties, bound in green leather with gilt ruling and marbled boards, a leather label on the spine with "CORDINER'S DRAWINGS", containing 98 blue leaves with 133 drawings laid down or tipped in (some drawn on recto and verso), and 100 blank blue leaves, with mainly topographical views and monuments; several autograph letters and manuscript notes also kept with the album, and a sheet of notes tipped in; subjects include Banff, Loch Ness, Buchan, Huntley Castle, the Hebrides, Duffus Castle, John a Groat's, Golspie, Dingwall, Spinie (?) Castle in Moray, Fort George, Cromarty Bay, Tain, Elgin Cathedral, Dun Castle, Kildrummy Castle, rocks between Bullers of Buchan and Peterhead, Wallace's Tower, Ben Hope, Gordon Castle, Beaulieu Abbey, Sandwick (Rosshire) , Calder Castle, Braal (?) Castle, Caithness (Oldwick Castle, Insulata Column, Castle of Dildred, Castle Sinclair), Dunrobin, Churchyard of Nigg, Fort Augustus, Glen Quoitch, Ruthven Castle, Morven, Thurso Bay, Kyle (of Sutherland), Aberdeen, Abbey of Pluscarden, Athol House, Cruickston Castle, Northop, Dunvegan Castle, River of Almond, Bangor, Island of Bass, a Danish Fort, bird-catching, women at the quern, coins, fossils, zoological specimens, tomb effigies, and the arms of Warren, Earl of Surrey
Most drawings in watercolour over graphite, often heightened with white, bodycolour, and/or gum; also graphite, pen and ink and wash or watercolour (usually over graphite) and wash drawings over graphite; several on card
- Production date
- 1769 (c.)
Height: 272 millimetres
Width: 220 millimetres (covers)
- Curator's comments
- According to the Register, the drawings relate to Thomas Pennant's 'Tour in Scotland' (1769 and later) and are largely by Rev. Cordiner, whose first publication (1780) was in the form of a series of letters to Thomas Pennant. The Register also mentions that there are 6 drawings by the Scottish architect James Craig, 6 [corrected to 5] by Moses Griffith, and the album also includes a copy after Cordiner by Mrs Delany. Cordiner published two books: 'Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland' (letters to Pennant, 1780, above) and 'Remarkable Ruins, and Romantic Prospects of North Britain' (1788, with engravings by P. Mazell). The drawings in this album presumably relate to these publications.
The accompanying letters and notes include: a sheet with a brief description of the drawings, a notice entitled "Wroxeter", a sheet (cut down) with text, a sheet (cut down) with the beginning of a letter, part of a letter from Charles Cordiner, 4 dated letters from Charles Cordiner (19th November 1779, 4th July 1781, 17th November 1785, and 5th [...] 1777), another letter in the same hand, a letter (with part of a seal) from William Ogilvie to Thomas Pennant dated 21st December 1773, a letter from Don McLeod to Charles Cordiner dated 18th January 1780, and 3 sheets of paper with lists of placenames.
The 19th November 1779 letter reads:
It is truely pleasing to me that you think these letters worthy of so much care; and I shall alway be happy in any opportunity of giving all the information in my power, with respect to the subject of them.
The druid circle of stones, that I sent the sketch of – “is near the end of the avenue that leads to Logie the seat of Adl Duff [Admiral Robert Duff, 1721-1787] who is at present blocked up in Gibralter [the Siege of Gibraltar]. It is about 10 miles from Peterhead, betwixt that place and the hill of Monmount. The two pillars, on each side of the flat stone, which is commonly suposed to be the Altar, are very large. There is one within 6 miles of this of a more complex[?] form – but I have no drawing of it at present. To the best of my remembrance twas something like [pen sketch of stones laid out in a figure of eight] But as it is within two hours ride, you can have it – wt the utmost exactness – if you in the least wish for it. I remember one near the hill of Benachie, of very ample dimensions; of which this singular circumstance is a proof – that the Present Church is built within the circle, and several of the Stones are huge masses in the church yard, and some even[?] without the dikes.
You make particular enquiry about the pictish buildings. In further explaining myself, if I deal freely both with Mr Pope and the plates[?] you must excuse my zeal in the cause of both[?].
I on a former occasion mentioned suspicions with respect to the Authenticity of the plans and sections now under consideration – and from comparing these with Mr Popes original sketches I am convinced my suspicions are not groundless. Being so much indebted to Mr Ps letters, made me unwilling to discover errours, when blended with much usefull information. I inclose the sketches and letters alluding to the subject. It is from these evident that he supposes a great deal of what he says; but he does not say what plate XLVI would insinuate. He does indeed confound too[?] species of the Pictish buildings, but not so positively as the plate. His sketches were from memory are incorrect and erroneous. And the print (pl 46.) places the errours in a stronger light.
The ichnography is a just and good plan of a Dun [a stone-built fortified settlement] but the section to the best of my knowledge is like no building in the North of Scotland. I was within the Pictish house at both, and carefully examined it – He quotes it as that from whence he principally took his Ideas of the whole. The entry was confined & low, but the [?] of [?] in seemed owing to parts of the Building having fallen in – I was obliged to stoop much, or rather, creep for 6 or eight paces, the chamber within was near 9 feet long in the middle, eight foot at the sides of an oval form – from 4 to 5 feet wide, and 6 in height – Well built up at the sides, and after being a very little [?] covered with large long stones [pen sketch of dwelling].
Not it is very wrong to apply that kind of roof to the Duns, which are generally 20 feet diameter at list.
Mr Pope does not say that He ever saw a Dun with any part of the supposed roof, but reasons from the manner of covering the [?] [?] in the barns, and extends it to the large circular Buildings where it would have been impracticable: and where there is not the smallest vestige to countenance the probability.
“That these structures when entire, resembled our modern glass-houses, the walls being gradually contracted to a narrow compass at top, which was left open” – is the most visionary conceit imaginable - & Mr Anderson does well to give it from “hear say”.
You must be well convinced that the Duns in Glenbuy[?] never had closed at top in the way above mentioned. The inside walls, of Dormadilla, Dunalishaig, the Dun at Achirnahyle [Auchnahyle], do not even incline, they are perpendicular all their height. – And you I think judge well, that the projecting stones had supported proper roofs; - these roofs might be of wood, & other materials of which no specimens could so long remain – They who could build without mortar, &[?] hammers – might fit [?] [?], without axes or saws.
I have not a more distinct Idea of the house I live in than of the structure of the duns. But no attempt to describe them, ever seemed half so satisfactory, as the masterly narration – page 138-9 voyage to the Hebrides [Thomas Pennant’s Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, 1772] – To these I alway referred and endeavoured to be concise. The two castles in Glenbuy[?], are not more insular than the other duns are to them, and all of them to one another.
Their structure fully as uniform as any equal number of good houses now. Their varietys such as always must happen, when different persons are engaged, in executing the same general design. I sent a plan & section of Dunalishaig – as correct as in my power to give – Both inside and outside of the most entire[?] Dun in Sutherland. – and the same of Dormadilla –
You know the ousides can have no variety, especially where there is no considerable breach in the wall. Dunalishaig is all nearly of one height. So that the Danish fort in [?] p292. Voyage to Heb. or even Mr Andersons effort – is as good as any. [Pencil sketch of a fort]
Any thing else that occurs I shall note to mention when I write again along wt the Itinerary [?]
And along [?] with great esteem
Your most obdt humble servt
Charl: Cordiner Banff 19th Nov 1779"
The 4th July 1781 letter reads:
I have been eight days rambling in Moray & being now quietly set down at James[?] House take the opportunity of writing a few lines as it will still be some posts longer eer I can do so from Banff. Gainst this time the review of the scenery will be prepared, but my being out of the way has perhaps delayed it a little, I mention this list [lest] there should be a letter from you at Banff & my absence look like neglect in answering it.
I have forgot at present if you went down to Castle Duffus, on the north west beach[?] of Spinie Loch [Loch Spynie]. It is certainly a very curious [?] & castly old – yet well built, the sloping rooms, wt stairs & passages an all in the thickness of the Wall; placed on a mount, with tall trees waving round it, it makes a noble view, I was at much pains making good sketches of it, & will one day, I hope have the pleasure of sending a drawing from there.
I find myself at present without a penknife at command & have therefore a thousand apologies to make about my wick but as I have so little interesting to say it is but a matter of small moment.
There is however no resisting of the pleasure that a look out at the window inspires, & therefore as I go forth must say, that the tall, stately trees waving over the green, the deep shadows underneath, & the sun beams playing a thousand kicks among the branches the luxuriancy of the Gardens enriched every flower & the fruit ripening to perfection, all sugest the most agreeable Ideas of the sweetness of this rural retirement.
You will readily pardon these idle Ideas[?] as they sprang from an anxiety not to appear to fail in the [?] of correspondence.
I am with the utmost respect
Your much obliged &
most obedt servt
James[?] House July 4th 1781"
K. Sloan 'A Noble Art' 2000
The Reverend Charles Cordiner became the episcopalian minister of St. Andrew's Chapel, Banff in 1769. His name does not appear in Mallalieu and if he is known in British art, it is mainly as the supplier to Pennant (see cat. 87) of numerous drawings made in the north east for Pennant's published tour of Scotland as well as his Arctic Zoology. His view of Duff House was engraved by Sandby for the Virtuosi Museum (1778-9, pl. 66). But Cordiner himself was the heir of Stukeley's Roman Knights (cat. 85), an antiquarian who employed Druids and Scotland's own ancient bard, Ossian, as symbols of Scotland's ancient poetry and heritage. They ran as heroes and leit-motifs through the landscapes and views of Scottish antiquities in his own publications: Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland, in a series of Letters to Thomas Pennant (London 1780) and Remarkable Ruins and Romantic Prospects of North Britain, with Ancient Monuments and singular subjects of Natural History (2 vols, published in parts, London 1788-95, engravings by Peter Mazell). Not only did he supply other antiquarians with views, but they also sent some to him: Mary Delany's drawing of a coastline scattered with cliffs and caves, seen from above, copied from one of his own drawings is inserted into this album along with a small group by Moses Griffith and James Craig and a series of letters to Cordiner from fellow antiquaries and copies of his replies.
The ancient Caledonian epics, The Works of Ossian which James MacPherson claimed to have translated, aroused a [furor] of excitement throughout Britain from the 1760s onwards; surprisingly, they did not inspire many professional Scottish artists but they clearly formed an undercurrent in the approach to their own antiquarian interests of Scots like John Clerk (cat.94) and the Rev. Charles Cordiner. Debate raged over whether the poems were genuine or fake, but Stukeley wrote publicly to MacPherson congratulating him on his further publications of Fingal and Temora. The truth was probably that they were a mixture of both, but for the Scots their veracity became almost a patriotic cause. John Clerk found it difficult to reconcile the sense of pride in Scotland's beauty and heritage that the poems aroused in him, with his encouragement, as an enlightened Scot, of the attempt to improve the country's culture, language etc. through support for the Act of Union. His confusion was reflected in the paintings of the poems his brother Sir James Clerk commissioned for Penicuik in which the heroes were divorced, as indeed they are in the poems, from their native landscape. The antiquary in Cordiner caused him similar doubts: Walpole noted that in his text Cordiner had queried how Fingal became possessed of armour and swords of steel when the material wasn't yet known in Scotland (Wal. Corr. 29, p. 37). Nevertheless Cordiner embraced Ossian and the image of the bard as the source of Scottish culture, along with the Druids as the seat of ancient philosophy and learning and he had no compunctions about placing their figures in real landscapes. In his view of a cascade near Carrol, Sutherland, for example, a bard with his harp fills the lower right corner, accompanied by the text 'Here, perhaps, has Carril, whose name is still preserved in these scenes, nursed his wild and desultory strains: here, "amidst the voices of rocks, and bright tumblings of waters, he might pour the sound of his trembling harp"'. Similarly in the present view of a cromlech, an ancient 'Briton' laments his loss in the mountains of Wales, a bard's harp leaning against the cromlech on the right.
In 1791, Cordiner sent a pair of views of the cliffs and caves on the coast of Moray to the Society of Artists as an honorary exhibitor and the following year sent a framed group of six drawings of marine animals and several other views of waterfalls and lochs. This presumably served as publicity for his second publication which he had originally advertised in the Scots Magazine (lvi, 735). He died shortly afterwards, in November 1794 at the age of 48, just before the final part was published.
Literature: Errington and Holloway, pp. 59-61, nos 6.4, 6.15; Sam Smiles, Ancient Britain and the Romantic Imagination, New Haven and London 1994, pp. 42, 62-75
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 May-Sep, BM P&D, 'A Noble Art', no.122
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Cordiner's Tour
Associated Title: Voyage in the Hebrides
Associated Title: Arctic Zoology
Associated Title: Tour in Scotland
Associated Title: Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number