Waxing lyrical at Calke…

Mme Tussaud's wax works exhibition catalogue (ca. 1890)

“How could you be so stupid?” King Alfred looking sheepish after burning those cakes…

Phew, it’s been hectic since I lasted posted an entry in August (yes, I know…) – I’ve been kept rather busy with Kedleston’s Pleasure Grounds and have only recently started another round of book cataloguing. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been storing up some interesting nuggets for you!

So, are you ready to continue exploring the world behind the spines? This time, we’re off to Calke once more for a visit to Madame Tussaud’s wonderful wax works exhibition. Continue reading

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 …
Continue reading

The ‘dead cities’ of the Zuiderzee


Map showing the Zuiderzee area. Appears under a creative commons licence at http://www.henkvanheerde.nl/vollenhove/visserij/visserij15eeeuw.htm.

Continuing on the theme of travel, in this post I concentrate on a book with the curious title The dead cities of the Zuyder Zee which I found at Erddig. Before the construction of the Afsluitdijk in 1932, the IJsselmeer was open to the sea – although by the time it was closed off, much of it had begun to silt up, leaving the communities which depended on the sea for their livelihood completely destitute. However, during the Dutch Golden Age, cities like Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Volendam, and Stavoren had thrived as bustling trading and fishing harbours. Where siltification was less pronounced, such as at Kampen, the sea still provided some source of income, while Amsterdam benefited greatly from the construction of the Noordzee Canal and trade with the Dutch colonies. Continue reading

A cruise to the North Cape

Lithograph (colour) showing Tromso

A few weeks ago, I touched upon the travels of Richard Fynderne Harpur Crewe (1880-1921), the only son of the last baronet at Calke Abbey. In this post, we’ll explore a cruise to the North Cape he appears to have taken in ca. 1913. Continue reading

Calke Abbey: Children’s books

This time, some images from the School Room at Calke Abbey in winter. By now, the house has reopened of course and all the tissue has disappeared to display the books in all their glory.

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Music at Calke


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