The Herschel Archive

The Herschel collection is divided into four sections: papers of Caroline Herschel (marked HERSCHEL C), of John Herschel (HERSCHEL J), of William Herschel (HERSCHEL W) and books and papers from the Herschel family which do not fall into one of these groups (Herschel Miscellaneous). The contents of the ‘Miscellaneous’ section have not been listed in full, except for books which have belonged to Caroline, John or William. Any books containing annotations have been included, as appropriate, under sections C, J or W.

Almost all the material in this collection has been donated by members of the Herschel family. In 1866 John Herschel gave the Society the four volumes of his father’s register sheets of double stars (W.2/5) and the copies made by Caroline of the sweeps with the 20-ft telescope (W.2/3). John Herschel also gave a series of manuscript star charts by himself (MN, vol. 27, 213–16), but unfortunately these can not now be located. In 1918 J. L. E. Dreyer was invited to select manuscripts from the family’s collection which the Society would value (MN, vol. 78, 547–54) and W. H. Steavenson made a further selection in 1943. Some additional material has recently been donated by Mrs E. Shorland (née Herschel).

The manuscripts have been arranged by subject as follows:


Papers of Caroline Herschel


1. Comets.
2. Papers relating to her work on Flamsteed’s observations and catalogue.
3. Various catalogues and indexes.
4. Miscellaneous papers.


Papers of John F. W. Herschel


1. Sweeps and other observations at Slough, 1816–33. 
2. Cape observations. 
3–8. Loose sheets of notes and calculations on the Cape observations (preserving the remains of John Herschel’s arrangement of these papers). 
9. The manuscript of the published volume of Cape Results.
10. Papers relating to the publication and distribution of Results.
11. Observations and notes made at Collingwood. 
12. The General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars. 
13. MSS relating to the paper ‘On the Solar Spots’, Quarterly journal of science, 1864. 
14. The General Catalogue and General History of Double Stars. 
15. Miscellaneous papers.


Papers of William Herschel


1. Correspondence (with separate Index). 
2. Astronomical observations: general. 
3. The solar system. 
4. The fixed stars and the construction of the heavens. 
5. Telescopes. 
6. Physics (including theoretical optics). 
7. Miscellaneous papers, &c.


The titles given in this list are generally as they appear on the manuscripts, and references to published papers are added where appropriate. Many of the manuscript versions of William Herschel’s published papers are copies by Caroline.

The list of manuscripts is followed by a complete index to William Herschel’s correspondence. Many of the correspondents have been identified and, as far as possible, their dates are given, but this task was limited by the time available for the complete project.



CH: Caroline Herschel.

Dreyer: J. L. E. Dreyer, ‘Descriptive Catalogue of a Collection of William Herschel Papers presented to the Royal Astronomical Society by the late Sir W. J. Herschel, Bart’, MN, lxxviii, 547–54, and ‘William Herschel’s Observations of Variable Stars and Stars suspected of Variability’, ibid., 554–68.

Gen. Cat.: D. S ‘A Catalogue of 10,300 Multiple and Double Stars arranged in the order of Right Ascension by the late Sir J. F. W. Herschel, Bart. Edited by Rev. R. Main... and Rev. C. Pritchard.. .’, Mem., xl (1874).

Gen. Cat. Neb.: J. F. W. Herschel, ‘A General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars, arranged in order of Right Ascension and reduced to the Common Epoch 1860.0’, Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society, cliv (1864), 1–138.

JH: John F. W. Herschel.

Papers: The scientific papers of Sir William Herschel, ed. J. L. E. Dreyer (London, 1912).

Results: J. F. W. Herschel, Results of astronomical observations made during the years 1834–38 at the Cape of Good Hope (London, 1847)

WH: William Herschel.