Skip to content

Wormald, Francis

    Full Name: Wormald, Francis

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1904

    Date Died: 1972

    Place Born: Dewsbury, Kirklees, West Yorkshire, England, UK

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): Anglo-Saxon (culture or style), English (culture or style), Medieval (European), and painting (visual works)


    Historian of liturgical and Anglo-Saxon illuminated medieval painting; paleographer. Wormald was born into a family of wool merchants in West Riding, Yorkshire. He studied at Eton and then Cambridge University where he read history at Magdalene College. His B.A. was taken in 1925. In 1927 he was appointed an Assistant Keeper in the Department of Manuscripts of the British Museum. The first of his three fundamental works on calendars, English Kalendars before A.D. 1100 I appeared in 1934, and the second, English Benedictine Kalendars after A.D. 1100 I in 1936. In 1935 he was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. The same year he married his cousin, Honoria Yeo. During World War II he served in the Ministry of Home Security, where he produced Civil Defense training films. The second volume of his Benedictine Kalendars appeared in 1946. After the war his career seemed set to become Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts and likely Director of the Museum. However, in 1949 he was selected to be the first chair of Paleography, attached to Kings College, Cambridge, over the candidates in historical paleography. During these years he published his volumes on English calendars on behalf of the Bradshaw Society. His qualities as an advisor to research students and colleague soon became apparent. He was elected to the British Academy in 1948, Section XI (art history) and the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Committee. In 1950 he received his Litt. D. from Cambridge. He accepted an appointment at King’s College, University of London, as Professor of Paleography, where he remained until 1968. His first monograph, English Drawings of the Tenth Century, 1952, was a fundamental treatise on illuminated initials. In 1956 he served as Vice President of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London until 1960, when he became Director, which he held until 1970. In 1960 he published in collaboration with Otto Pächt and C. R. Dodwell the Warburg Institute’s edition of the St. Albans Psalter. Wormald was a member of the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, N. J., from 1965 to 1966. In 1967 he became a trustee of the British Museum and Governor of the London Museum in 1971. His papers are held at the University of London. He was the only ex-officer of the British Museum to be appointed to the Board of Trustees, 1967-72. His final work was the introduction to the facsimile of the Winchester Psalter, 1971.Methodologically, he focused on Anglo-Saxon and Romanesque manuscripts, blending iconographic approaches to the illumination and paleographic analysis to the text. His contribution to the liturgical hagiology was extensive.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Pächt, Otto and Dodwell, C. R. The St. Albans Psalter (Albani Psalter). London: Warburg Institute, University of London, 1960; An Early Breton Gospel Book: a Ninth-Century Manuscript from the Collection of H. L. Bradfer-Lawrence, 1887-1965. Cambridge, UK: Roxburghe Club, 1977; English Drawings of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries. London: Faber and Faber 1952; The Miniatures in the Gospels of St. Augustine, Corpus Christi College MS. 286. Cambridge, UK: University Press, 1954; Paintings in Westminster Abbey and Contemporary Paintings. Proceedings of the British Academy 35. London: British Academy, 1952; The Utrecht Psalter. Utrecht: Institute of Art History, 1953; The Winchester Psalter. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1973; “The Survival of Anglo-Saxon Illumination after the Norman Conquest.” British Academy, London. Proceedings of the British Academy, 1944. London: British Academy,1947, pp. 127-145.


    Brown, Julian. “Francis Wormald”, Proceedings of the British Academy 61 (1975): 523-60; Dictionary of Art; Archives in London and the M25 project; “Professor Francis Wormald.” Antiquaries Journal 52 (1973): 456-59; Nordenfalk, Carl. “Francis Wormald.” Burlington Magazine 114 (April 1972): 245; Brown, T. J., and D. H. Turner. “Francis Wormald, 1904-72.” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 45 (1972): 1-6.


    "Wormald, Francis." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: