Bookplates (4): Nathaniel Curzon 1st Baron Scarsdale

nc-bookplateThis week’s post about bookplates owes much to the research James Fishwick undertook when he was cataloguing the main library at Kedleston for the National Trust a few years ago. My own interest developed out of research into Kedleston’s library in its wider architectural context, as part of my MSc dissertation.Nathaniel Curzon (1726-1804) inherited the ancestral seat at Kedleston in 1758 and immediately set about improving it. This basically involved wiping away the ‘old’ (i.e. out of fashion) Queen Anne red brick house and Charles Bridgeman designed gardens.

An ambitious young man, he’d married Caroline Colyear (1730-1812), eldest daughter of Charles, 2nd Earl of Portmore, in 1750. Surviving records show that he was already contemplating the future of Kedleston in the final years of his father’s life. Only a month after Nathaniel Curzon Senior’s death in November 1758, the younger Nathaniel employed Robert Adam, initially to design the grounds and built features. By early 1760, Adam also had sole responsibility over the design of the mansion.


The idea behind Kedleston

Kedleston south frontThe interesting aspect of this bookplate is that it fits with the wider picture Curzon hoped to convey to his guests and visitors. To what extent he had a hand in producing the vision for Kedleston or whether it was mostly Robert Adam’s, we don’t really know. However, even today we can see that everything was designed to be a part of the whole. From the intricate doorplates to the triumphal arch incorporated in the south front, and from the first meters into the old park to the sweeping views across the Backgrounds towards the mansion, Kedleston was created to celebrate the achievements and longevity of the family.

During the building project at Kedleston, Curzon was elevated to the fireplace in the Marble Hall at Kedlestonpeerage as Baron Scarsdale in April 1761. His social rise and claim to good taste is celebrated all around. One of the full-length paintings of himself and Caroline shows him on the threshold of a classical temple, entering from an Arcadian landscape. Moreover, the motto on the south front (N. Baron Scarsdale for my friends and myself) isn’t just a statement of hospitality, but signals his new status as one of the country’s elite. There are interesting parallels with the similar sentiments expressed by the likes of Jean Grolier on his book bindings.

The armorial design on the bookplate is echoed in both the furniture and the architecture, such as on this fireplace in the Marble Hall.

There are four different bookplates dated to after 1761 (Franks 7703, 7704 and 7705). The latter, designed by Peter Mazell (active between 1761 and 1797), exists in two states, which can only really be differentiated by the lettering of the motto and the shading around ‘SUAVITER’. The former two are signed by John Strongitharm (active between 1780 and 1839). James Fishwick created an initial finding aid to the bookplates, but more detailed work could be done perhaps to match the plates to the age of the books in which they are found and their occurence in the 1764 library catalogue.

All bookplates have the same basic design of the Curzon arms impaling Colyear under a baron’s coronet, with Prudence and Liberality (or perhaps Fortune) as supporters. Underneath is the motto ‘Recte et Suaviter’ (‘Properly and Pleasantly’).


British Book Trade Index:

  • (John Strongitharm)
  • (Peter Mazell)
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