The teenage lad was Yorkshire-born William Peckitt (1731-95) who went on to become a celebrated stained glass craftsman.
He counted George III among his patrons and the vivid colours of his work can been seen in many churches and grand houses across the UK including in York Minster’s south transept, at Strawberry Hill House in London and in Trinity College library, Cambridge (depicting Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon).
The manuscript includes notes on maths, physics, astronomy and other subjects and shows he used a combination of study and experiment to learn his craft.
It is the earliest surviving work in his hand.
Sarah Brown from the University of York said: “This extraordinary book contains Peckitt’s notes on what he was learning as a young artist. He writes about how to paint details… he considers thicknesses and textures, shading and light - what colours should be used and how paints should be mixed.
“Peckitt was the third son of a glove maker and how he trained as a glass artist has always been a mystery. His claim to be self-taught, stoutly defended after his death by his daughter, has been met with scepticism, but, while more research is needed, the notebook seems at first glance to bear that claim out.”
Glass painting was not as popular during Peckitt’s lifetime as it had been in the medieval period or would become in Victorian times and the artist is credited with keeping the tradition alive during a period of cultural decline.
The 1746 notebook was sold at auction with a £100-150 estimate at Toovey’s (24.5% buyer’s premium) in West Sussex on August 13. The university emerged as the buyer in December. It funded the purchase with help from the Terry Trust, the York Glaziers’ Trust and Friends of the Library and Archive.
Conservation experts at the university’s Borthwick Institute for Archives will restore the hand-stitched vellum notebook before digitising its contents and making them freely available to the public.