The Harleian Society
History of the Society
On 28 May 1869, Sir George Armytage, Baronet, FSA, and J J Howard, LLB, FSA, called a meeting at 8 Danes' Inn, in the Council Room of the Surrey Archaeological Society. The purpose of the meeting was to inaugurate the Harleian Society which was to have as its chief objective 'the publication of the Heraldic Visitations of Counties, and any manuscripts relating to genealogy, family history, and Heraldry, selected by the Council.'
The Society was named after the Harleian Manuscripts, which include many copies of the Heralds' Visitations. This collection was built up by Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford, and his son Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford. Having passed it to the nation in 1753, it is now in the British Library.
The founding of the Harleian Society met with immediate and substantial
support. By 18 May 1870 there were one hundred and sixty-nine
subscribers, with the Duke of Manchester as President. Of the original
subscribers, one currently remains, namely the Royal Library at Windsor
Castle. By the end of 1870 numbers had risen to two hundred and
sixty-four, and included the first American subscriber, the Minnesota
Within the first year of its existence, Mr Evan Ortner had presented the
Society with the engraving of the badge which has ever since been used
on each publication. Five hundred copies had also been printed of the
Society's first volume, The Visitation of London in the year 1568. The
printers' bill for this publication was £87. In 1877 a separate section
was established for the publication of parish registers, following the
publication in 1875 of the registers of Westminster Abbey edited by
Colonel Chester. This Register Section subsequently published
eighty-nine volumes, the last being The Registers of St Margaret's
Westminster Part III in 1977. With a few exceptions, the volumes have
been devoted to the parishes of London. Of particular interest was the
1953 publication of The Register-Booke of the Fourth Classis in the
Province of London 1646-59, a study of Presbyterianism during the
Interregnum, edited by the Rev C E Surman.
In 1979 the Visitation and Register Sections were amalgamated as
Harleian Society Publications, New Series. The last parish register to
be published by the Society was The Register of the Temple Church,
London, baptisms 1629-1853 and marriages 1628-1760, transcribed by
George Squibb, Norfolk Herald Extraordinary.
The present policy of the Council is to concentrate on the Visitations
and other manuscript material of genealogical and heraldic content
rather than parish registers, which are thought to have limited appeal
to subscribers. In addition, the work of transcribing parish registers
has now largely been taken over by others.
Before the amalgamation of the Visitation and Register Sections in 1979, the Society had published one hundred and seventeen volumes in the Visitation Section. Fifty-three of these comprised Heralds' Visitations or collections of county pedigrees. Hunter's Pedigrees and Le Neve's Pedigrees of Knights accounted for six more. Five volumes covered grants of arms, fourteen marriage licences and seventeen comprised valuable indices: Musgrave's General Nomenclator and Obituary, Dr Charles Moor's Knights of Edward I, J B Whitmore's A Genealogical Guide, Lewis Loyd's The Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families and Sir Anthony Wagner's A Catalogue of English Mediaeval Rolls of Arms. Since the amalgamation of the two sections in 1979 there have been 20 publications.