Henry B. Wheatley: Pepys, indexing and bookplates

One of the joys of cataloguing rare books is coming across bookplates and signatures of people now deceased, and tracking down who they were.  While working on the Restoration Drama collection I came across the following bookplate in three items; with the words Bibliotheca Pepysiana secunda H B W 1904 underneath the picture of Samuel Pepys.  The image of Pepys comes from the J. Hayls oil painting completed in 1666.


H. B. W. turned out to be Henry Benjamin Wheatley (1838-1917), a prolific writer, editor and indexer.  To some he is known as “The father of British indexing” writing seminal texts on the art of indexing, and today his memory lives on with the annual awarding of the Wheatley medal – given for an outstanding index.


Henry B. Wheatley

Along with his brother, Benjamin Robert Wheatley, he was one of the founders of the Library Association (now known as CILIP – the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in 1877 and remained on its Council for many years.  He was interested in bibliographies and cataloguing, and wrote an article on cataloguing, published in the Transactions of the Bibliographical Society (1911-13; 12:25-37).

He was involved in numerious other societies over the years including the Early English Text Society, the New Shakespeare Society and the Samuel Pepys Club, which he was president of from 1903-1916.  He had a particular interest in Pepys, and was involved in editing and producing two editions of Pepys’ diary, as well as writing a life of Pepys, plus a host of articles and lectures on him.

WheatleycrestWheatley collected books, especially those with interesting or fine book bindings; thus, unsurprisingly, when he died in 1917  his library was sold off the following year by Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge.  Of the three  items we have containing Wheatley’s Pepys bookplate, one is an armorial binding in calf with a central gilt stamped coat of arms of an anchor with the initials “S P” [i.e. Samuel Pepys] and “H. B. W.” [i.e. Henry Benjamin Wheatley],the other two also have a crest on the upper cover of their bindings that incorporates the dolphin and anchor of Manutius.

 WheatleybookplateAccording to Lee (2002, 86) Wheatley’s bookplate, designed by John Philipps Emslie in 1899, showed the man himself sitting in his library in Bedford Square.  Fifteen years later it appears he had a new bookplate, depicting Pepys.  Was he attempting to replicate or rival Pepys’ library? Or just to pay homage to the man he had so much respect and admiration for?

Lee, J. D. (2002) The father of British indexing: Henry Benjamin Wheatley.  The Indexer 23.2: 86-91.


2 responses to “Henry B. Wheatley: Pepys, indexing and bookplates

  1. Pingback: Henry B. Wheatley: Pepys, indexing and bookplates | Special Collections Librarianship | Scoop.it

  2. Pingback: Tools of the trade | Indexing Woolf

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