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Contents of the collection

The contents of the collection

The King’s Military Collection comprises some 3,000 maps, views and prints ranging from the armies of Charles V at Vienna in 1532 to the Battle of Waterloo (1815). Not all of them were collected by George III in the first instance: like most collectors, he not only purchased individual items but also acquired the collections of others.

Most notable among these are the military maps, prints and drawings collected by his uncle, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721–65), particularly during his period as Captain General of the British army during the War of the Austrian Succession (1743–8) and the Seven Years War (1756–63).

The second major collection, bought by George III in 1763, consists of military prints collected by the Italian art patron, Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1657). George III also acquired hundreds of maps of contemporary conflicts, such as the American War of Independence (1775–83) and the French and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815).

Storage

These maps, views and documents were originally stored in 15 large Solander boxes – a storage system designed by Daniel Charles Solander (1733–82), a Swedish botanist who arrived in England in 1760, the year of George III’s accession. Each box was capable of holding in excess of 200 items measuring up to 470 × 330 mm. Larger items were folded to fit.

Some were too big even to fold (the largest is 2.17 × 2.92 m, or 7ft × 9 ft 6in.). These outsized maps are backed with strong linen, edged with carmine silk and fitted with brass rings for hanging on mahogany ‘trees’ to facilitate inspection. They are also fitted with silk ribbons to one side so that they could be rolled up, tied and stored in large custom-made tables. In place of these outsize items, a ‘dummy sheet’ would be inserted in sequence in the Solander boxes, giving the basic bibliographical details, such as title and author and the location of the item.