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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Dead men talking: Conference in Belgium 21-23 October

The Three Living and the Three Dead

De Lisle Psalter; London, British Library Arundel 83, f. 127. ‘The three living and the three dead’. Image made available under a Creative Commons Licence.

Not so much a post about books this time, as a plug for a conference I’ll be speaking at in October. Before I turned to antiquarian cataloguing, I researched medieval attitudes towards the dead human body, so this is a brief foray back into the world of funerary contexts, socio-political and religious expressions, and cultural signification.

The conference is hosted by the museum of the Abbey of the Dunes and focuses on the results of research undertaken on a large number of burials from the monastic cemetery. It seeks to develop a comprehensive methodology for the future study of human remains and the life course in medieval Western Europe.

The conference programme can be downloaded from the museum website or here.

 

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

Hatfield House Library Survey (4)

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

Material Evidence in Incunabula – a CERL project

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Underneath the heading for ‘De lollio’ (lollium temulentum, i.e. darnel), an early reader has written: ‘onkruijt dat in die tarw wast’ (weed that grows among wheat). Image taken from a copy of the Ruralia ([Speyer: Petrus Drach, ca. 1490]) in the Edward Worth Library, Dublin.

 A short post this time… (because I’m on holiday and haven’t had a chance to sort through my images from Hatfield House yet!)

Looking at the incunabula at Hatfield recently (and of course finding that ‘Crescentius’ manuscript) reminded me of a German printing of the Ruralia ([Speyer: Petrus Drach, ca. 1490]) I was asked to have a look at a few years ago. The volume in question is in the Edward Worth Library in Dublin (worth – forgive the pun – exploring as a library), and I was particularly interested in how it could have ended up in Edward Worth’s collection as well as in how it had been used before he purchased it (perhaps during his time on the Continent).

It was therefore terribly exciting to come across a blog-post from the University of St Andrews Special Collections team about their contributions to a new CERL project which aims to record material evidence in incunabula (MEI).

Led by Dr Cristina Dondi, the project aims to map all evidence of interactions with the contents of books printed before 1500, which will give us a valuable insight into how incunabula were read and used as resources, or collected; patterns of ownership; distribution and geographical networks; ways in which provenance was marked and even how some books were stored. The data is linked to ISTC and the CERL biographical and place name thesauri. Records can be searched and downloaded in MARC format into local OPACs. According to the introductory page, they are hunting for contributions from libraries, so spread the word!

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

Counting books

I’m taking the easy route over Easter and will be blogging about removing mould from books in the next instalment. However, here’s an interesting short post on “counting books” in a library collection as part of the nation-wide effort to update the Directory of Rare Books and Special Collections, edited by Karen Attar, Rare Books Librarian at Senate House Library in London. Although in this case the quantification of the collection was limited to what has already been catalogued, it is also a very useful tool to pull together, relatively quickly, a statistical breakdown of items in a collection that still await cataloguing (so-called “hidden collections“).
Two years ago, I did a report for the Angus Library in Regent’s Park College, Oxford, which concentrated on their hidden collection of several thousand books. They were not entirely sure how many uncatalogued items they had, from what period the books dated and where they had been printed. In addition, I recorded languages, provenances, interesting bindings and checked pre-1800 books against national STCs. The advantage of looking at each book was that I could also make some general observations about the physical state of this part of the collection.
Without cataloguing the individual items to antiquarian standards (which is what is currently happening), I was able to present a relatively detailed overview of the Angus’s hidden holdings.

Chronological collections (1)

IMG_2365This little volume can be found on the shelves in the Library at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, owned by the National Trust. The Hall was built by Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Lord Scarsdale,between 1759 and circa 1790, and it contains some of the most complete, unaltered, and stunning, Robert Adam interiors in the world. The book was actually catalogued by my colleague James Fishwick a few years ago, and because it does not have a title page or anything else obvious to identify it, he added the title from the spine to the catalogue record.

I came across it a couple of years ago, when I was preparing for a Library Open Day at Kedleston and doing some research into the 1st Lord Scarsdale’s family. Looking through the catalogue for provenance information, I found this book, Chronological collections. It had the following inscription on the back of the front flyleaf: “Carolina Curzon, June the 28th, 1756”.

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Carolina, or Caroline, married Nathaniel Curzon in 1750 when she was sixteen years old. She was the daughter of Charles Colyear, the earl of Portmore, one of Nathaniel’s horse racing friends.

Since my initial interest was in Caroline’s education (Robert Adam designed a wonderful bookcase for her private apartment at Kedleston, which was unfortunately sold by the Curzon family in 2002), I decided to investigate this book a bit further. Almost by chance (which is why I love historical research!), I happened to find another copy of the same work in the Special Collections held at the University of Leicester’s David Wilson Library. The Leicester copy similarly lacked a title page, but had the same binding as the item in Kedleston’s library. It also had an inscription, which helped me to identify the contents of the book, as well as the possible author:

The gift of Lady Curzon, widow of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, who abridged Mr. Jackson’s chronology for the use of her sons. Twenty copies only were printed.

Therefore, Chronological collections would appear to be an abridgement of John Jackson’s Chronological antiquities, which was published in 1752 in three volumes (ESTC T136688). The name Curzon does not show in the subscribers’ list, but a copy was in the family’s possession soon after it was published, if the provenance information in the Kedleston copy is correct. It was certainly in the library at Kedleston by 1765.

According to his dedication, Jackson aimed to bring together the histories of all major civilisations in antiquity and to reconcile recorded events with the story of the Old Testament – a very ambitious project, which came in for some criticism the year after it was published.

The author of the abridgement, named as “Lady Curzon, widow of Sir Nathaniel Curzon” in the Leicester copy, could only have been Mary Assheton, Lady Curzon (1695-1776). The item itself looks to be a piece of vanity publishing with a very limited print-run, for distribution among members of the family and perhaps close friends.

Future posts will talk in more detail about Chronological collections and about Mary Assheton.