The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Tag: carnarvon

Concerning Bookplates

When browsing through used books, undoubtedly one will come across a name of ownership and/or inscription, along with a date and, if gifted, “To:— From:—.” Many of these are of interest to both collectors and casual readers, as they offer a personal glimpse into the previous owner’s life. However, the art of inscribing in books is, of course, not new to today’s modern readership, and in fact was more elaborate in past centuries.

Bookplates, or ex-libris, were especially common during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. These displayed a pictorial representation of ownership, sometimes marking heraldry, sometimes portraying the owner themselves. These pictures were paired with either a name, an inscription, or both. Inscriptions were commonly phrases, such as family mottos, or general statements (for example, an insert statement may say something along the lines of “don’t steal my book”). According to King’s College, Cambridge online, simple bookplates date back to the Middle Ages, with the earliest known printed bookplates dating to the 15th century. The Jacobean period to Edwardian era saw a shift in elaborating these bookplates, incorporating “engravings and etchings known as ex-libris (‘from the books of…’)” into the plates.

Over the span of several centuries, numerous styles emerged. For example, and according to the Bookplate Societywhich also provides a comprehensive list of all of the British styles, along with detailed written and pictorial descriptions of each type, Heraldic bookplates dated from 1580-1680; Early Armorial bookplates dated from 1680-1715; Jacobean Armorial dated from 1715-1745; Chippendale Armorial plates dated from 1740-1770; Festoon, Wreath and Ribbon, and Spade Shield Armorial plates dated from 1770-1810; Landscape and Pictorial dated from 1780-1820; and Plain Armorial dated from 1800-1900. To view examples of famous bookplates, both American and European, dating from the 18th-20th centuries, you can click here.

Because of the artistic and historic value of each unique plate, these have become collectible and highly valued today.  As mentioned, there is great artistic value in these unique items; so great was the artistic value, that creating bookplates was a profession for some artists. For example, even a quick glimpse through A Directory of Bookplate Artists edited by Alfred Fowler from 1919 will imply the desire, or at least the high competition, of bookplate artists. You can even still contact modern bookplate artists to commission your own, unique plate.

To learn more about bookplates and to view other examples of bookplates throughout history, you can visit the Bookplate Society and the American Society of Bookplate Collectors & DesignersTo read more about American bookplates specifically, I recommend American book-plates, a guide to their study with examples by Charles Dexter Allen.

All in all, the next time you come across an antique book, be sure to give the plate a second glance—you never know the story it will tell. Below, you will find a couple from my own collection that tell their own stories. Note: these are posted only for educational purposes.

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This plate comes from the collection of Robert Apthorp Boit, author of Eustis: A Novel. The plate dons the “ex-libris” statement, and the artist’s name, L. S. Ipsen, can be found in the bottom right corner of the plate. Because Boit lived from 1846-1919, this clue gives me reason to, naturally, believe it dates to the late 19th century, early 20th century. Do you have any ideas of its specific plate period? Please feel free to comment below!



FullSizeRender-1This plate comes from William Herbert, Dean of Manchester. (See this similar one from Yale.) The artist is identified as Cole, although I am unsure as to whom this artist may be. It bears the Carnarvon motto, “Ung je serviray” (“I will serve but one master”), and represents the Carnarvon crest. Because of the Rococo-esque style of this plate, I deduce it is of the Chippendale Armorial period. Although Herbert was born in 1778, eight years after the end of this period, it likens most to this style, and is unlike the Festoon, Wreath and Ribbon, or Spade Shield Armorial styles. Again, what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

“Woman” by William Herbert

Mr. Herbert was commonly known to the public as the Honourable and Very Reverend William Herbert, as well as being the son of Henry Herbert, the 1st Earl of Carnarvon. He was a botanist, classical scholar, and ornithologist. To us on this blog (i.e. Ann) he is most well-known for being the father of sportswriter Henry William Herbert.

I will expand upon Mr. Herbert’s biography at a later date; however, please accept my brief snippet as an introductory piece, as I will be introducing several of his poems on my blog.

Below, you will find a charming ode to Woman, which, despite having a contradicting tone between the first and last sections of the piece, remains to be a poem of merit in its own right.

William Herbert

FAIREST and loveliest of created things,
By our great Author in the image form’d
Of his celestial glory, and design’d
To be man’s solace! Undefiled by sin
How much dost thou exceed all earthly shapes
Of beautiful, to charm the wistful eye,
Bland to the touch, or precious in the use!
His treasure of delight, while the fresh prime
Adorns his forehead with the joy of youth,
His comfort in the winter of the soul!
Chaste woman! thou art e’en a brighter gem
To him, who wears thee, than e’er shone display’d
Upon the monarch’s diadem ; a charm
More sweet to lull all sorrow, than the tint
Of spring’s young verdure in the dewy morn,
Or music’s mellow tones, which floating come
Over the water like a fairy dream!
Thou hangest, as a wreath upon his neck,
More fragrant than the rose, in thy pure garb
Of blushing gentleness. Thou art a joy
More sprightly than the lark in vernal suns
Pouring his throat to heaven, or forest call
By blithesome Dryads blown ; a faithful stay
In all the world’s mischances ; a helpmeet
For man in sickness, and decay, and death.
Thou art more precious than an only child
In weary age begotten, a clear spring
Amid the desert, an unhoped-for land
To baffled mariners, or dawn of day
To who has press’d all night a fever’d couch.
Oh, wherefore, best desired and most beloved
Of all heaven’s works, oh, wherefore wert thou made
To be our curse as well as blessing! lured
From thy first shape of innocence to become
A thing abased by guilt, and more deform’d
As thing original glory was more bright!

The Tragic Case of Henry William Herbert, America’s Unruly “Forester”-Part One

Frank Forester was not an uncommon name during the mid nineteenth-century. Forester, a dignified sportsman, known to his friends as being full of vitality and exuberance, published several accomplished volumes of literature, including manuals about Horsemanship and guides about the Warwick woodlands and field sports. Behind this steadily growing literary star, however, was the primary source of the Forester character-nay, pseudonym-an ambivert with a penchant for sorrow and cynicism—Henry William Herbert.

By the time Herbert’s Forester alter-ego began to emerge, Henry had faced several hardships, which had forced him, albeit slowly, into a sedentary life in New Jersey, eventually nearly being confined to the tranquil, morose solitude of his home, The Cedars. Life had been vastly different for the Englishman just two years before, especially more than a decade before; and although this turbulent figure had a temper to be unsurpassed, our sympathies lie with Henry—fate’s unscrupulous, demanding hold confined him to a prison of the mind and soul from which he never escaped.

Born in London, United Kingdom, April 7, 1807, young Henry found himself swathed and nurtured in the wealth of his aristocratic lineage, being the grandson of Henry Herbert, the 1st Earl of Carnarvon. According to Luke White, Jr., author of Henry William Herbert and the American Publishing Scene, Herbert, during his early years, “acquired that twin enthusiasm for books and the out-of-doors…” (5). Henry commenced with receiving a classical education, was enrolled at Caius college, Cambridge, and graduated with honors in 1830 (5). Upon graduation, he carried with him proper knowledge of the classical languages-which he would put to use while completing an eleven-year professorship as a teacher of Greek and Latin at the Reverend R. Townsend Huddart’s Classical Institute-as well as several debts due to gambling and spending lavishly, a habit that would follow him to the grave (5, 20). These overwhelming debts may have caused concern for his family, for between just 1830 and 1831 it is recorded that Henry left his home in London. It is also recorded, according to White, that “in answer to an inquiry, ‘the Herbert family, the late Earl of Carnarvon speaking through his secretary, said they were not aware of any Henry William Herbert in their family'” (6). This statement alone seems to lend credence and severity to the notion that Henry had brought shame to the family due to his erratic indulgences, and may have affected an implied estrangement from the family—let it be noted that Henry never returned to England, nor did he seem to remain close with his family, as far as lack of correspondences prove.

After his departure from London, he stayed briefly in France, either to take in the culture and language, as exaggeratedly evinced by Henry, or to (most likely) escape the debtors on his tail. France did not seem to provide either the security or needs that Henry needed however, and he set sail for America in 1831, carrying at his side money and letters of introduction for a gentleman in Canada. Thus began the beginning of Henry’s hopeful new life, and climb to literary fame—thus also began the downfall to his unforeseen and tragic demise.