A Prince's Papers: Sesson 4

Prince Albert's Raphael Collection

Read the introduction page for background on this workshop series.

The Prince’s Raphael Collection was one of the most ambitious art historical projects of its time, engaging with collectors, artists, and photographers around the world. It sought to gather together print reproductions of every known Raphael into a systemically organised collection, illustrative of the development of the artist's work. Housed in a specially built cabinet in the Print Room of Windsor Castle, it was intended to act as a resource for better understanding the artist, both for the Prince and Queen Victoria, and for the education of others.

The project was one of enormous scope and strenuous effort, and would not be drawn to a close until some fifteen years after Prince Albert's death in 1861. Led by Albert's close assistants, Ernst Becker and Carl Ruland, the creation of the collection involved a complex network of contacts and communications, as photographers were engaged to travel, photographing relevant paintings, drawings, cartoons, buildings, and other objects. Some of the machinations of this work are recorded in well over hundred letters relating to the collection, which reveal much about the work involved.

The project was one that directly engaged Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, both keen amateur artists, and Victoria noted evenings spent either viewing or arranging the prints frequently in her diaries. 

The resultant collection is still of enormous art historical and research value. It was the subject of a micro-film copying project in the 1980s, and has now been digitised in full as part of the Prince Albert: His Life and Legacy project. As such, it is also an excellent example of media history, with a chain of copyings and remediations stretching back to the 1840s. 

A step further into TEI mark-up

Special characters

When we are creating documents for computers to read and transmit, it is important to consider that some characters have special importance in computing languages. For example, in many '&' is used to alert the computer to an encoded special character and ';' is used to close that encoding. When we transcribe those characters, we have to make it clear to the computer that they are part of the text (the data), and not part of an instruction (the code). As such, both '&' and ';' should be given in numeric code. The ampersand ('&') is rendered '&'. The semicolon (;) is rendered ';'.

New mark-up

In this session, we introduce the 'unclear' mark-up, alongside the 'opener' and 'closer' encodings with some of their sub-categories.

The <unclear></unclear> encoding is useful for denoting situations in which we think we can read a word, but there is some uncertainty. Unlike the <gap/> short tag, it wraps around the unclear section; however, like the <gap/> tag, it can take a reason value. For example, <unclear reason="ink smudge">This passage is hard to read, but my excellent intuition and scholarly instincts make me believe I know what it says.</unclear> This could apply equally to poor handwriting, or some of the ambiguities we have seen.

The <opener></opener> encoding is used in letters to denote the prefatory material to the letter. It takes a number of subcategories, the most useful of which are <dateline></dateline> and <salute></salute>.

For example, if I were to write a letter with an address, date, and salutation

Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
June 2020

Dear A. N. Other, Super Hero, MOSH (Member of Order of Super Heroes),


I might mark it up as follows within an <opener> semantic structure:


Bodleian Library, Oxford
June 2020
Dear A. N. Other, Super Hero, MOSH (Member of Order of Super Heroes),


I would then continue to mark up the rest of the letter in <p></p> semantic structures as usual. I could also go further and mark up some of the more detailed features using the tags that we have already learned:



<address><name type="place">Bodleain Library</name><name type="place">Oxford</name></address>
<date>June 2020</date>

Dear <name type="person">A. N. Other</name>, Super Hero, MOSH (Member of Order of Super Heroes),



The <closer></closer> pairing, predictably, is used to encode the ending of a letter, and can include a <salute> and <signed> tag. 

Thus, I might encode the ending


I remain your very obedient &c., &c.,
Andrew Cusworth


in the following way


<salute>I remain your very obedient &amp;., &amp;.,</salute>
<signed>Andrew Cusworth</signed>



The materials for this session

The materials for this session have been selected to give a cross-sectional view of the project, from general introductions to it, to the challenges the posed by photographing paintings in difficult conditions, to the value of the collection, and to the continuing of the work after Prince Albert's death.

Choose one of them, and make your transcriptions and editions using the new tags we have worked on today.

General overview of the project
Copy letter from Dr. Ernst Becker to the Netherlands Ambassador explaining the Prince Consort's project and seeking the Ambassador's help in obtaining permission for drawings in the Teyler Museum at Haarlem to be photographed 25 Jun 1859 

The Collection engendering scholarly debate
Letter from Sir Charles Eastlake to Dr. Ernst Becker casting doubt on Passavant's attribution of two pictures to Raphael. 25 Mar 1857 

Dovizelli washing his photographs in the River Tiber
Letter from Messrs. Colnaghi to Charles Ruland giving details of Dovizielli's photographs of the Farnesina Palace frescoes by Raphael, which the Prince Consort may wish to buy. 18 Sep 1861 
Photographer EJ Bingham’s wife assisting him clerically
Letter from Mrs Bingham, wife of the photographer, explaining that her husband is ill but that he has just sent the proofs of his photographs of Raphael drawings to the Prince Consort 20 Jan 1860 

Difficulty of carrying out photography in Russia in the winter
Letter from Sir John Crampton, the British Minister at St. Petersburg, to Dr Ernst Becker regretting that it has not yet been possible to obtain photographs of the works by Raphael in the Imperial Collection in the Hermitage. 11 Nov 1859 
Expensive photographers
Letter from Hon. Edward Erskine, the British Chargé d'Affaires in Russia, to Charles Ruland announcing that he has ordered photographs of the two pictures requested by Ruland and reporting the photographer's comments about his charges. 5 Sep 1860 

Albert’s children assisting with the continuation of the collection after Albert’s death
Copy extract of letter from Victoria, Princess Royal, to Princess Helena saying that she has made arrangements for the Raphael works in Naples to be photographed. 25 Dec 1862 

About the benefits the Raphael collecting project has bought to connoisseurs and art historians in allowing them to study drawings that are abroad
Letter from William Hookham Carpenter, the Keeper of Prints & Drawings at the British Museum, concerning a drawing in the Cracherode collection, praising the Prince Consort's Raphael collection and expressing his willingness to help. 25 Jul 1861