Having just finished another round of cataloguing at Calke Abbey, I thought I’d show you some of my highlights. With the books in the main library fully catalogued (and in the process of receiving conservation treatment – see my last post), I am concentrating on the stores, where there are another ca. 5000 books. Being Calke, when the National Trust took on the property in the mid-80s, there were books everywhere. Some of the spirit of the chaos still permeates the house (posing an interesting conservation challenge of showing a country house in a frozen – permanent – state of decline). There are books in other rooms, most notably the Gardner Wilkinson collection, but most of them have been gathered together from all over the place and are now kept neatly on shelves in two store rooms. They have received some stabilising treatment thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers trained by Caroline Bendix, the Trust’s advisor on historic libraries.
Because these store books have not been a priority for further investigation, there are surprises at every corner. Some, such as this lovely printed French Book of Hours (ca. 1505) from the Gardner Wilkinson collection, and the Whole Booke of Psalmes (1627) [ESTC S90762] were known about, but occasionally an unassuming binding turned out to have some wonderful contents!
But a real highlight was the rather ordinary eighteenth-century calf binding which contained quite a rare little fable in the tradition of the “parliament of fowls” from 1640, entitled The Pleasant History of Cawwood the Rooke [ESTC S117294] and a rendering of the tales of Reynard the Fox, “purged from all grossness in phrase and matter” [ESTC R24532?]. This is the first part; the second part (published 1672), carries its own title page [ESTC R4861].
A nineteenth-century Calke Abbey Library bookplate appears on the front pastedown, and is associated with Sir George Crewe, 8th Bt (1795-1844) or his son, Sir John Harpur Crewe, 9th Bt (1824-1886). The texts themselves are accompanied by some wonderful woodcuts (those of the Reynard are frequently signed “EB”, i.e. Edward Brewster), including on the title pages.
The Reynard is actually an interesting one: it contains a publisher’s advertisement dated 1676, which identifies the imprint as Edward Brewster’s [ESTC R184136], yet the earliest occurrence of this collective title page is 1694 according to the ESTC. It seems therefore likely that Part 1 is a re-issue of the 1676 edition with a cancel title page to accommodate the addition of Part 2 (1672) and the tale of Reynard’s son, Reynardine, first published by Edward Brewster in 1684 (ESTC R40614; not in the Calke volume). Because it was rebound (and as you can see, there’s no imprint), it is not quite possible to identify the right issue without further comparison with other copies (another candidate is a 1701 issue with a similar title page).