When selecting items for a treasures volume, the University Archive was an obvious source to comb, with its records of University proceedings from the foundation of the University in 1836 onwards. This was where we could expect to find unique documents which provided a sense of University identity. As Senate House Library had put on an exhibition of items from the Archive in 2011 to celebrate the University’s 175th anniversary, selecting items for the treasures volume was quite easy. We had already looked at numerous items, far more than we could exhibit, in the earlier context, and in that context had regretfully discarded this picture of the Colleges in favour of some showing the location of the central University, namely the Imperial Institute in South Kensington and Senate House.
The picture shown here is from the time when the University was located in the Imperial Institute. It is the work of Stanley Gordon Wilson, a historian and vicar who drew it while recovering from a motor-cycling accident. The drawing measures 55.7 by 21.7 centimetres before mounting; 69.9 by 37.6 centimetres when mounted. On the assumption that members of the University might like to have it on their walls, copies could be purchased from a shop in Southampton Row. A reduced version, measuring 13.8 by 41.7 centimetres, appears as the frontispiece of Wilson’s The University of London and its Colleges (1923), which claimed to be the first illustrated account of the University of London ever published. The picture represents every institution that formed part of the University at the time, by a sketch, coat of arms, or both. It thereby aims to portray the University as a cohesive whole composed of and even greater than the sum of its distinguished parts.