Mystery Items (2)

 

What can the intrepid cataloguer do when she comes across mysterious fragments of books? This time, some leaves from the collection at Calke Abbey …
In a previous post on mystery books, I talked about some of the detective work antiquarian book cataloguers sometimes have to undertake to identify fragments or incomplete items. It’s a very exciting part of the job, but can also be immensely frustrating – we like to have certainty and to create the perfect catalogue record 🙂 Perhaps a topic for the future…

As I’ve mentioned on various occasions, one of the joys of cataloguing at Calke is the great variety of materials I encounter on a day-to-day basis. Working in the stores, I might be cataloguing a nineteenth-century sermon collection one moment, only to be diverted by a seventeenth-century bawdy retelling of Reynard the Fox the next. And then there are these really frustrating cases, when I’m confronted with only a fragment of something and no way of telling (without access to ECCO or EEBO) what I’m looking at.

Subscribers listWhat to make of this list of subscribers? It is kept with a miscellaneous collection of other fragments. There’s no sense which publication was subscribed to, other than that Lady Frances Harpur (1744-1825), wife of Henry Harpur 6th Bt, paid for six copies to be delivered Subscribers list (detail)to her London address. Sir Henry Harpur, on the other hand, only paid for one. It seems likely, that this Henry is actually the son (7th Bt), who inherited the title and estate after the death of his father in 1789. This would mean the book was published some time between then and 1825, the year of Frances’s death. Although I can’t be certain, my feeling is that this is an eighteenth-century list (more could be done to identify the other people of course), but that’s as far I could get…

Slightly less frustrating was this conjugate leaf (pp. 9-[12]). Again, if I had easy Fragment of Pyrrha by John Earl of Orrery (1741)access to the digitised collections of EEBO and ECCO (the downside to being a freelance antiquarian book cataloguer!), I would have been able to identify this with more certainty. Instead, I made do with Google to identify the poem as being a fragment of Pyrrha, composed by John Boyle, 5th earl of Orrery and Cork (1707-1762). The poem is an imitation of Horace’s fifth Ode from his first Book of Odes. It is probably a pamphlet printed in London for Robert Dodsley in 1741 with parallel English and Latin texts.

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