image sprat t, im004346
Image number: RS.3782
Credit: © The Royal Society
Looking for a special gift? Buy a print of this image.

Frontispiece to Thomas Sprat’s ‘The History of the Royal Society’




Francis Bacon (1561-1626, British), Natural philosopher
William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker of Lyons (1620-1684, British), Mathematician
Charles II (1630-1685, British)


Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677, Bohemian), Draftsman


John Evelyn (1620-1706, British), Diarist

Object type




height (print): 238mm
width (print): 175mm


Content object


Frontispiece to The history of the Royal-Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, by Thomas Sprat (printed by T.R. for J.Martyn, London, 1667).

This key piece of iconography for the early Royal Society includes central portraits of the first President, William, 2nd Viscount Brouncker (1620-1684) and Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (1561-1626, with a bust of the Society’s first Patron, King Charles II. An angel is shown placing a laurel wreath upon Charles’s head. Brouncker points towards the statue’s plinth which is inscribed: “CAROLUS II. SOCIETATIS REGALIS AUTHOR & PATRONUS.” At his feet is the inscription “SOCIETATIS PRAESES”. Bacon, shown with the great seal bag, indicates towards the title page of the book. At his feet is the inscription “ARTIUM INSTAVRATOR”.

Behind and on each side of this central group are objects from the Society’s early history. The coat of arms with the motto “Nullius in verba” appears above. In a landscape behind, in the far distance is an aerial (refracting) telescope. To the left as viewed a book-case with a set of scales on top and a Kincardine-style pendulum clock. On a table in front of the bookcase is a representation of the Society’s mace and charter [although inscribed “DIPLOMA”]. To the left of the bust of Charles II is an early air pump of the type used by Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. Various other instruments appear hanging from pillars, some of which may refer to experiments related in Sprat’s text, for example a gun (“Experiments of the recoiling of guns by the Lord Brouncker”, pp.233-).

Inscribed below: “Evelyn. Inv. DCC. Wencellaus Hollar f.1667”.

Associated place

<The World>
   > Europe
      > United Kingdom