Bookplates (2): Charles Pinfold (1709-1788) and Calke Abbey Library

In provenance research – the study of evidence of previous ownership of items – bookplates and other ex-libri can be a great resource. Taking into account that these plates could sometimes be recycled or added considerable time after a book had entered a collection, the identification of the individuals behind the bookplates can nevertheless be really rewarding. This is especially the case when plates turn up unexpectedly in unrelated collections or when we know for certain that the owner’s collection was dispersed.

This week, the bookplate of Charles Pinfold, a governor of Barbados in the mid-eighteenth century, which I found in an edition of Suetonius’ works printed in Leeuwarden (Netherlands) in 1714-15. The two volumes were at Calke Abbey by the nineteenth-century, when a small die-sinker style shield bookplate was pasted underneath Pinfold’s armorial plate.

Title page of Suetonius' works (1714-15)

Title page of the 2-vol. works of Suetonius, printed in Leeuwarden (Friesland, The Netherlands). This image is from the copy held at Universidad Complutense de Madrid via Hathi Trust Digital Library.


Bookplate of Charles Pinfold and Calke Abbey LibraryThe top bookplate, a fairly standard Chippendale style armorial with an empty motto ribbon, belonged to Charles Pinfold (1708-1788), who was governor of Barbados between 1756 and 1766. This is the second of two known plates, the first omitting the title. Incidentally, this is listed in C. D. Allen’s American Bookplates as ‘Governor of Barbadoes’ (684). Pinfold’s life is briefly described in Sketches of the lives and characters of eminent English civilians (1804).

Presumably, this plate dates from his time in the West Indies. In 1766, Pinfold returned to Britain and appears to have practiced the law in London, dying in Bloomsbury Square in October 1788.

The second plate is a small die-sinker style shield displaying the red hand of Ulster with two badges – one a crown with a gambe (or paw), the other a boar statant, representing the Harpur Crewe baronets of Calke Abbey. The lettering ‘Calke Abbey Library’ is interesting in that it renders the individual owner anonymous, in contrast to the elaborate plate above it. Instead, it echoes institutional marks of ownership (such as the stamp of Madrid University above). Perhaps the intention was for this and other, similarly marked items in Calke’s library to be made available to interested readers?

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