John Wallis's encyclopaedic endeavours were built on a mountain of ink and paper. To consider Wallis's work in the making, this article will draw his portrait as a reader and book collector. Keeper of the University of Oxford archives, he secured donations for the Bodleian and Savilian libraries and obsessively consulted old and new publications, manuscript and printed texts to build and defend his own work.
Revealing interconnections between his contributions to theology, cryptography, linguistics, music and mathematics, this paper will focus on Wallis's methodical construction of his personal ‘inkscape’. His passionate obsession with the preservation and dissemination of his thought in print will be considered alongside the research he only consigned in manuscript form, through correspondence and notes. This reconstruction of John Wallis's libraries will therefore provide us with an overview of the érudit's contested achievements, as well as a panorama of contemporary scholarly practices.