While I’m away… here’s a pretty binding.

Nineteenth-century binding with interesting leaf pattern

Short post again this time, I’m afraid! While I take a little holiday, I’ll leave you with a nice early nineteenth-century binding from Calke Abbey. The contents of the book are certainly not as interesting as the outside…

The binding is of a smooth calf leather to which, rather unusually, the binder has added some leaves during the mottling process to produce these delicate outlines.

Can anyone help me identify what plants these leaves may have come from?


At the sea side (Erddig)


Working at Sudbury’s Museum of Childhood has reminded me of other children’s literature I’ve come across over the years. One of the great features of country house libraries is the presence of books aimed at children that have survived the vigorous reading practices of the very young (not quite like the model child on the left, in other words). Continue reading

Bookplates (3): William A. H. Bass, Bart. (1879-1952)


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. Continue reading

Tips for tricyclists (Erddig)

Front cover of Tips for tricyclists by Professor Hoffmann

Front cover of Professor Hoffmann’s Tips for tricyclists. In publisher’s pictorial paper boards.


With summer (kind of) upon us and the Tour de France starting in about a fortnight, this week’s post features a wonderful little book from Erddig.

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

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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Hatfield House Library Survey (4)

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

Erddig, Wrexham (4): More children’s books

IMG_0758Going through the photographs of my cataloguing project at Erddig again over Christmas, I stumbled upon an image of this lovely rocking seat, originally located in the Nursery. As I mentioned before, Erddig is very similar to Calke Abbey: both houses are full of stuff! As with children’s books, much-loved children’s toys tend not to survive, but Erddig is very fortunate to have a large collection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century children’s toys and books. 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