[Almanac] The Oxford Almanack for the Year of Our Lord God MDCCXXI. M. Burghers, Sculpt. Univ. Oxon. With a copper engraving as a headpiece, sheet 76 cm x 54 cm, image 48.5 cm x 44 cm, the image is above the calendar, the University engraver’s signature, “MBurghersSculp.Univ.Oxon,” is in the lower right-hand corner. The “Regal Table Since the Conquest” and “The chief ports in or about England” flank the title on the left and right respectively. The annotated academic calendar with the phases of the moon is below the Table and the Chief Ports, outside the engraved frame of the headpiece. The date “1721” is engraved above the engraved frame of the headpiece, right-hand corner, inside the plate impression. Helen Mary Petter states there is another engraved signature on the image, that of Gerard Vandergucht, 1695/6-1776. Where it is, she does not say, and it has yet to be found on the picture of this almanac. Vandergucht was the son of Michael Vandergucht, an Antwerp engraver, who emigrated to and settled in England. Petter states the design was likely the second of two drawings made for use on almanacks by Sir James Thornhill, “… mentioned by Dr. Clarke in a letter to Dr. Charlett (Bodl. MS. Ballard xx, f. 107v.) It is an original composition and the size of the engraving, the frame, and the treatment of the figures and drapery are similar to the Almanack for 1720. That a London engraver was employed for one of the plates points to Thornhill as the designer.” (Petter, The Oxford Almanacks, p. 53, Thornhill illustration on p. 52.)
Sir James Thornhill 1675 – 1734, regarded by some as the most important English baroque painter, worked at All Souls College in Oxford. He also painted the hall at Blenheim Palace. The lead figures placed on the roof of the Clarendon Building, built as the University Printing House, were designed by Thornhill and installed on the roof in 1717.
The headpiece features personifications of Architecture (center), Mathematics (left), Abundance (or Agriculture) and Hercules Slaying the Hydra (on the right). The figure above on a cloud represents Vigilance and the bent palm tree symbolizes Perseverance.
This rare surviving Almanack from the reign of King George I has undergone an extensive expert conservation, and tears have been repaired. There is paper loss to the extreme left edge of the untrimmed sheet, not affecting the image. There is a slight loss of paper in the right-hand side of the calendar, affecting the month of November for the days 9 – 11 and the month of December, same days, even less. The surface has undergone cleaning to remove superficial and ground-in dirt. The sheet was washed to reduce acidity and some slight discoloration, then resized with gelatin. Tears were reinforced with mulberry paper, using wheat starch paste. Paper losses inside the window were filled using paper taken from the large margin. The sheet was then flattened to correct any planar distortions.