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John Leland and the ‘Briton Brykes’

  • Oliver Harris (a1)

This paper traces the practice among early modern antiquaries of describing Roman bricks as ‘British’. The term originated in the 1530s in the notes of John Leland, who based his nomenclature on material first encountered at Verulamium. He may either have regarded the settlement there as British, or have adopted a local folk-attribution. Others who followed his usage, including William Camden, recognized that the bricks were actually Roman, but the terminology was not properly discussed until the end of the seventeenth century. While Leland's designation was flawed, his identification is of significance as an exceptionally early exercise in archaeological typology.

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Bodleian Bodleian Library, Oxford

BL British Library, London

SRO Staffordshire Record Office, Stafford

Manuscript sources

Bodleian, Ashmole 1817b

Bodleian, Eng b 2043

Bodleian, Hearne's Diaries 159

Bodleian, Rawl D 390

Bodleian, Rawl D 400

BL, Add 22665

BL, Cotton Julius Cvi

BL, Harleian 6726

SRO, D649/4/1

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