Monthly Archives: January 2014

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.

 

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Filed under Bindings, Eighteenth century, Female authors, Historic Libraries, Kedleston Hall, National Trust, Provenance Research

Do I need to wear gloves in the archives? A helpful flow chart

To glove or not to glove… Although this funny chart comes from an archives blog, it touches upon a contentious issue in the world of historic and special collections libraries as well: the use of the “white glove”. For an article on common misperceptions about the use of these gloves, see http://archive.ifla.org/VI/4/news/ipnn37.pdf

Derangement and Description

Feel free to print this out for your archives or send a copy to every journalist you know. Click through for a high-res version.

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January 17, 2014 · 11:38 am

Famous authors – or not (1)

Image of the front cover of Douglas Adam's Skating

And here I was, thinking that the answer was “42”. Evidently not.

This is a book on ice-skating, or rather the art of figure-skating, first published in 1890 (the image is of this edition). Although it has a very dapper looking chap on the front cover, it also contains chapters on skating for ladies (in which is described “the beauty of hand-in-hand skating”, p. [v]) and a chapter on speed skating by a “well-known Fen skater”. Mr Adams himself was a member of the National Skating Association and the Wimbledon Skating Club. The book appeared at a time of some controversy in the figure skating world. International competitions favoured a particular style of skating, which was not the “English style” advocated by Adams in this book (incidentally, he maintained that the best skating outfit for men was the tweed suit). Apparently, Adams competed in a European figure skating competition in 1905 and was placed last…

This  is not a great image, because it was taken with the camera on my phone, but you can still see the discolouration of the spine and the stains on the cover. The bleached spine is probably sun damage, but I like to think that the stains are a sign that Godfrey Mosley, who signed the book in 1891, used it to learn how to skate! The book is now at Calke Abbey, in Derbyshire. Mosley married Hilda, the eldest daughter of Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe, 10th and last baronet, and a large number of Mosley’s books and those of his family are now in the bookstores at Calke.

Sources:

  • Oliver Garnett, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. New edition. London: National Trust, 2000.
  • Douglas Adams, Skating. London: George Bell & Sons, 1890.

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January 13, 2014 · 12:00 am