The Walter Hawkins collection consists of a scrapbook in two volumes entitled The Casket, along with 3 index volumes. The scrapbooks are bound in leather, by Clarke & Bedford, London. Many of the title pages within the volumes are elaborately decorated in the manner of illuminated manuscripts. Included are original works of art as well as copies of paintings and engravings, and hundreds of drawings of coins, some from Hawkins’ collection, and some accompanied by lengthy explanations of their origins. Also included are works of poetry and texts in foreign and ancient languages. Of the zoological, botanical, and historical artifacts depicted, some were described and drawn for Hawkins’ interest and/or inclusion in the scrapbook by traveling acquaintances.
A significant portion of The Casket is occupied by Hawkins’ collection of “autographs of eminent persons.” They appear in various formats: on pages printed for the purpose, on tickets to lectures of the Royal Society tipped into the book, and on elaborately decorated pages displaying the autographs of members of individual institutions. Hawkins requested of some contributors that they provide a brief theme in an area of their interests or expertise, and several take the form of personal tribute to Hawkins. One section is dedicated to autographs of his fellow numismatists. Many of the autographs are dated within the period from 1843-1845, suggesting that the bulk of the collection was the result of an intensive project, rather than a life-long hobby. Some notable items are pencil tracings of two William Blake sketches, a watercolour done by John Hoppner, autographs of royal personages from Henry VIII to Queen Victoria, and the autograph of Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby). Some of the drawings are thought to be done by Walter Hawkins himself, especially the coins and medals as these were of particular interest to him. But many of the drawings were done by other people. Each item in The Casket has a number assigned to it. This number directly corresponds to one of the indexes which identifies the creator or provenance of most items.