Pryce, William (DNB00)


PRYCE, WILLIAM (1725?–1790), antiquary, born about 1725, was said to be descended from Sir John Pryce of Newtown Hall, Montgomeryshire, who was created a baronet in 1638, and whose family in direct line and title became extinct in 1791. He prided himself on kinship with the Cornish family of Borlase. His father was Dr. Samuel Pryce of Redruth in Cornwall. Philip Webber of Falmouth was 'the indulgent father and protector of his orphan state during a long minority.' He claims to have 'dissected under the instructions of the accurate Dr. Hunter' (Mineralogia Cornub. p. 57), and from about 1750 he practised as a surgeon and apothecary at Redruth. He owned 'a small part' in the copper mine of Dolcoath in Cornwall. For ten years he was similarly interested in the adjoining mine of Pednandrea, which was worked for both tin and copper (ib. p. 130). Soon after the publication of his volume on mineralogy he 'became M.D. by diploma' (Polwhele, Cornwall, v. 119-21), and on 26 June 1783 he was elected F.S.A. He was buried at Redruth on 20 Dec. 1790. His portrait, a very good likeness, was painted by Clifford and engraved by Basire; a print is prefixed to the 'Mineralogia Cornubiensis.' He married Miss Mitchell of Redruth, and left two sons, William Pryce and Samuel Vincent Pryce, both of whom were surgeons at Redruth.

Pryce published his chief work, the 'Mineralogia Cornubiensis,' in 1778. It was the result of careful study of the mining world of Cornwall, and is still of value, both for historical purposes and for practical mining.

Pryce's second volume, the 'Archæologia Cornu-Britannica,' was published in 1790. The value of the work depended mainly on the vocabulary of sixty-four leaves and the Cornish grammar. Much of the matter was taken wholesale from the collections of Thomas Tonkin and William Gwavas; and Prince L. L. Bonaparte, who owned the original manuscript, accused Pryce of having disingenuously published the treatise as his own. But the preface records Pryce's obligations to both of these antiquaries.

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 20, 136, ii. 535-6, 758; Polwhele's Cornwall, v. 119-21; Boase's Collect. Cornub. pp. 770, 1342; Henwood's Address to Royal Instit. Cornwall, 18 May 1869, p. 10; Medical Reg. 1779. pp. 68-9; Letter from Pryce to Emanuel Da Costa (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 28541) in the Western Antiquary (iv. 192).]

W. P. C.