Bookplates (1): Michael Begon et amicis

Procopius Historia Paris 1662

Title page of Procopius’ collected works (vol. 1), printed in Paris in 1662, now at Hatfield House. Reproduced by kind permission.

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’s bookplate turned up in the library at Hatfield House, pasted into an edition of the collected works by the 6th-century Byzantine scholar Procopius of Caesaria, printed in Paris in 1662-3 (fol., 2 vols.)

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Of gardens and gardening (1): Philip Miller’s Gardener’s Dictionary

Plate showing an amaryllis from Philip Miller's Figures (1760)

Amaryllis belladona, first introduced in Britain from South Africa in the early eighteenth century. One of Miller’s ‘uncommon’ plants.

 

Every self-respecting gardener in the eighteenth-century could not avoid to own, or have access to, a copy of Philip Miller’s hugely successful and comprehensive Gardeners dictionary. The edition, which is an adaptation of Miller’s Dictionary, held at Kedleston is particularly interesting for its luminous colour plates and the fact that it was published around the time Nathaniel Curzon was contemplating the contents of his new pleasure grounds… Continue reading

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 …
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Of hermits and hermitages

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Summer Hermitage from William Wrighte’s ‘Grotesque architecture’ (1767), from a digital copy of the 1790 edition at https://archive.org/details/grotesquearchite00wrig

For a while in eighteenth-century Britain, there was a real craze for ‘hermits in the garden’ among aristocratic landowners. Already before the early 1700s, it had been fashionable to add summer houses, gazebos and small ‘temples’ to landscaped country estates, but the hermitage added a new perspective to the mostly classical designs found in older gardens.  Continue reading

Music at Calke

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A recording has been made of this eighteenth-century piece of music being played on a contemporary harpsichord at Calke Abbey. Unfortunately, it is not the instrument the Harpurs would have played on, but a close relation… The recording will be played in the Museum Room at Calke to give visitors a flavour of the sound and style of music being played in the eighteenth century

 

Hatfield House Library Survey (4)

Hatfield HouseI thought today I might show some of the bookplates from the Hatfield House collection. Continue reading

Calke Abbey Highlights (2)

Previously, I mentioned some of the highlights of the stores collection at Calke. It is clear even at this relatively early stage (about 800 books have now been added to the Trust’s collections database and will be added in due course to COPAC), that the stores not only contain books from the final generations of Harpur Crewes, but also a substantial library from the family of Col. Godfrey Mosley (1863-1945), who married the last baronet’s eldest daughter, Hilda Harpur Crewe (1877-1949). Continue reading

Interesting bindings from the Angus Library

Angus 1In Spring 2012, when I did an assessment of the “hidden collection” in the Angus Library (Regent’s Park College, Oxford), I came across a number of interesting bindings. Although some of these books are in need of conservation, their current state gives us an insight into the materials bookbinders might use to cover books. In the first example (above), a piece of textile has been glued on to the centre of the spine – I’m not entirely sure about its purpose.  Was it to strengthen the text block or to hold it together before it was sewn? The thick cords would not have been visible once the spine cover was added. The spine cover of this “quarter binding” was made out of vellum reinforced with printer’s waste. The board covers are out of so-called “Buntpapier” (a German term for paper which is hand-coloured). The book is an eighteenth-century Leipzig publication and this is a contemporary binding.

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The second example (on the right) shows a book-length strip of manuscript waste which is used as a sewing support. Normally, it would have been invisible behind the pastedown, which is evidently no longer there in this seventeenth-century publication.

Angus 3Personally, I quite like this one: it is probably an eighteenth-century publisher’s (temporary) binding of felt over paper boards. The felt has evidently been subject to some insect activity and part of the spine cover is lost as a consequence.

The Angus Library was recently awarded Heritage Lottery funding to increase access to its collections. The Library maintains a blog, for which their Antiquarian Cataloguer regularly contributes information on exciting finds. The staff also occasionally mount small exhibitions of books from their collection. To find out more, follow this link. A selection of their treasures is also accessible via this online exhibition.

Chronological collections (2)

Front cover Chronological collections

Front cover of Chronological collections, written by Mary Assheton, Lady Curzon, ca. 1755

In an earlier post, I talked about a small quarto volume in the Library at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire. This book, an abbreviation of John Jackson’s Chronological antiquities, I believe was written by Mary Assheton, Lady Curzon (1695-1776). Mother of Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Scarsdale (who built the existing mansion), she has never received much attention beyond the fact that she created a rococo garden on the edge of Kedleston estate. However, Mary is gradually emerging as an intriguing character in her own right (Here she is posing as a shepherdess in an Arcadian landscape); I will get back to her in a future post in more detail.

Today, I want to reflect a bit more on the contents of the Chronological collections itself. It is one of those slightly ironic twists of historical research that the copy of Jackson’s Chronological antiquities which was at Kedleston in 1765, was sold at auction in June 1888, as part of a ‘tidying up’ exercise of the book collection. Neither do we have a record of the purchase of the book. Without further research (or more serendipity!), it is therefore impossible to know whether Mary or her husband, Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Baronet (died 1758), purchased the Kedleston copy of the Chronological antiquities, and whether Mary annotated it in preparation for her abbreviation.

What is so fascinating about her project, if we can assume the comment in the Leicester University copy of Chronological collections is correct, is that she wrote it ‘for the use of her sons’. Both Nathaniel and Assheton, his younger brother, were adults in 1755, and Nathaniel had been married for five years. So, Mary could not have written it for their personal education. However, both men (not untypically for their time) were keen to present themselves as well-educated connoisseurs of art, good taste, and fashions, in order to advance themselves in society. Since so much of eighteenth-century British culture relied on a knowledge of ancient history (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Hebrew), but also showed an interest in the exotic (that is, the Far East), Mary’s abbreviation can be read as a quick reference guide to the main civilisations of the past. We are beginning to see that she was a driving force behind the social aspirations of her sons, and that she took an active interest in her son Nathaniel’s building activities at Kedleston from late 1758 onwards.

Although there were two copies of her abbreviation in the Kedleston Library in the nineteenth century, when the National Trust took over ownership in the mid-1980s, only Caroline Curzon’s copy remained. It is possible that the second of the two copies was similarly the victim of the late nineteenth-century auction sales.