From the Crewe Collection: Wilton Garden – ‘The greatest of English Renaissance gardens’

wiltongarden
Wilton Garden, ‘The greatest of English Renaissance gardens’ [ Strong, The Renaissance garden in England (1979)]
In the early 1630s Isaac de Caus created at Wilton near Salisbury a formal garden for the sophisticated, learned and hugely wealthy Philip Herbert, fourth earl of Pembroke. De Caus, a French Huguenot exile specialised in the design and construction of grottoes and waterworks and Lord Pembroke had been part of the embassy sent to Paris by Charles I to accompany his prospective bride, Henrietta Maria, to England. While he was in Paris, Pembroke resided in the Palais de Luxembourg with its magnificent formal gardens which were probably the inspiration for Wilton, one of the earliest examples in England of a garden in the French style.

Nine and a half acres of garden were enclosed by a wall and divided by a broad path. The garden with waterworks, statuary and parterres de broderie , flanked by arbours was some 400 feet wide and a thousand feet long. The River Nadder which ran across the site was included in the garden scheme and enclosed in a “wilderness” and the river provided water for the many fountains. The garden was studded with statues and a magnificent grotto at the far end of the garden was entered through a classical façade and contained spouting sea monsters, a table with hidden jets to wet the unwary, and hydraulically simulated birdsong. An elevated walkway from the grotto offered a view of the south façade of Wilton House.

Sir Roy Strong has described the garden at Wilton, as “a unique synthesis of the Renaissance Gardener’s art”, a “symbol of the halcyon days of the King’s peace” and “the greatest of English Renaissance gardens”.

The garden survived in this form until the 1730s by which time fashion had turned from the formal to the informal and a later earl of Pembroke had Lancelot “Capability” Brown sweep away the old garden and create a “natural” landscape in the English style.

The garden was illustrated in a set of engravings published by de Caus in the late 1640s. Entitled Wilton Garden the book is one of the rarest and most important books in gardening history. It is rare, because few copies are known to exist and important because it is one of a very few visual and contemporary records of an early garden scheme.

The copy of Wilton Garden in the library of Trinity College Cambridge is one of only four known copies in the United Kingdom. There are probably fewer than ten copies in the world. This book came to the library in 2016 as part of a substantial bequest of books by the late Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. The book contains the bookplate of the Duchess’s father, the earl, later the marquess, of Crewe which suggests that the book was owned by Lord Crewe before his elevation to the marquessate in 1911. Other than this there are no indications of provenance. The book has its original binding. The text is in French and it contains an introduction, a table of contents and 27 plates. Uniquely, it contains a plate of the south front of the house before the fire of 1648. This is not known in any other copy.

Wilton House, south front
Wilton House, south front

Wilton Garden is currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

From the Crewe Collection: Works by Richard Francis Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton by Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton, oil on canvas, circa 1872-1875, NPG 1070, © National Portrait Gallery, London
burton
Richard Burton (photograph pasted to the front flyleaf of First Footsteps)

The explorer Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was best known for his travels in Africa, Asia and the Americas.  His observations, which he recorded in numerous books and articles, provided a remarkable insight into the lives and habits of the people he encountered. There are five works by Burton in the Crewe collection, of which two are notable for their rarity.  The first is a copy of First footsteps in East Africa, or an exploration of Harar (1856), an in depth account of the customs, practices and way of life of the peoples of East AfricaRichard Burton was a personal friend of Richard Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton) and this copy includes a handwritten letter from Burton, addressed to ‘My dear Milnes’ explaining that he has found the ‘original copy’ of appendix 4.  Appendix 4 describes the practice of female circumcision in the East Africa region.  To circumvent the censor, it was translated into Latin, but the cautious publisher left it out of all but a few copies of the book.  A website devoted to Burton and his work (burtoniana.org ) tells us with regard to appendix 4 that ‘Spink & son (1976) estimated that no more than 6 of these were printed, presumably for Burton’s personal use.  Appendix IV contains 4 pages, on two leaves, numbered as pages 593-6.  Most known copies with Appendix IV have only 1 leaf, that is two pages’.  The Crewe collection copy has two printed pages of the appendix, the rest of it (another two pages) has been completed in manuscript by an unknown hand but is tempting to think it was completed by Burton himself.

The second book is Stone Talk (1865).  Burton’s lifestyle and attitude often brought him into conflict with the mores and values of the society of the day and by the 1860s his career in the army was faltering.  It was these circumstances which gave rise to this bitter satire on Victorian society. The book was written in verse under the pseudonym Frank Baker.

stone-talk

Referring to the publication of the book, his wife Isabel writes in her ‘Life’ (London: Chapman & Hall, 1893), ‘When I showed it to Lord Houghton, he told me that he was afraid that it would do Richard a great deal of harm with the “powers that were.” And advised me to buy them up, which I did.’

burtoniana.org tells us that ‘Stone Talk has been hard to find ever since it was first published. Burton … only had 200 copies printed. The majority of these (128) were for distribution to his friends and the press, and  most of the remainder were soon bought back by his wife Isabel and destroyed, ostensibly because she thought the book might damage his career’.

Books from the Crewe Collection including First Footsteps are currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

Further Reading:

burtoniana.org

From the Crewe Collection: The Rossiad, by Lord Alfred Douglas

Oscar Wilde; Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas by Gillman & Co, May 1893, NPG P1122
© National Portrait Gallery, London

The Crewe collection contains a number of early editions of works by Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900). Wilde was known to the 1st marquess of Crewe when he was Lord Houghton and a fellow member of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt’s Crabbet Club. The collection also contains works about, and relating to, Wilde published after his death.

Robbie Ross by Elliott & Fry, circa 1914
Robbie Ross by Elliott & Fry, circa 1914, NPG x12885
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Lord Alfred Douglas (1870 –1945), a cousin of Blunt, was an author and poet but is better known as the friend, lover and instigator of the downfall of Oscar Wilde. Following Wilde’s death Lord Alfred’s behaviour became increasingly erratic and led to his involvement in several libel actions and much public controversy. His relations with Robert Ross (1869 –1918), an art critic, art dealer, friend and literary executor of Wilde became particularly bitter and inflamed. Lord Alfred vindictively pursued Ross and attempted on a number of occasions to have him arrested and tried for homosexuality. Another object of Lord Alfred’s bile was Edmund Gosse, a friend of Lord Crewe and a supporter and protector of Ross.

rossiad-noteIn 1916 Lord Alfred wrote and circulated The Rossiad, a polemic directed against Ross, a copy of which was sent to Lord Crewe through the Privy Council Office. This was accompanied by a letter from Lord Alfred suggesting improprieties on the part of Gosse.

Lord Alfred’s reputation was such that a civil servant sent a note to the marquess on official paper saying:

“Lord Crewe – I suppose it would be dangerous to send any form of acknowledgement”

To which Lord Crewe replied

“No reply, of course”

Books from the Crewe Collection including The Rossiad and works by Oscar Wilde are currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

 

The Crewe Collection

crewe-bookshelf

Yesterday we officially announced the arrival at Trinity of the Crewe bequest of over 7500 books. It is described by the Librarian, Dr Nicolas Bell, as ‘an extraordinary library – one of the most important private collections in Britain’ and is one of the largest bequests in the Library’s history. The collection includes major works of English and French literature, rare political pamphlets and several unpublished literary manuscripts, as well as first editions inscribed by Byron, Shelly, Wordsworth and Tennyson.

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Richard Monkton-Milnes

The books were bequeathed by Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe who died in 2014 and whose father, Robert Crewe-Milnes, and grandfather, Richard Monckton Milnes, both studied at Trinity before embarking on important political careers. The collection was built up between the 1830s and the early twentieth century. Many of the books were presented by their authors to Monckton Milnes, later Lord Houghton, who was a leading Liberal in Victorian politics as well as a writer and poet. At the time of the bequest the collection was kept at West Horsley Place, the Surrey house bought by Crewe-Milnes in 1931.

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Over the past year the collection has been transported to the Wren Library and the long process of sorting, classifying, cleaning and conserving the books has begun. The first few hundred volumes have been added to the Library’s online catalogue, selected volumes are on display during public opening hours and, by appointment, all of the books are available to researchers for consultation. A small first selection of books has been added to the Wren Digital Library.

You can read more about the collection here and here. For a family tree, click here.

 

 

Conservation of ‘Histoire Naturelle des Singes et des Makis’.

monkeyWritten and illustrated by Jean Baptiste Audebert, this large, 19th century French book includes 63 full-page engravings of beautifully represented monkeys and lemurs. The book recently arrived at the Wren Library as part of the Crewe collection, bequeathed by Mary Innes-Ker, Duchess of Roxburghe to Trinity College. The binding was in fairly poor condition and handling of the book risked further damage. Conservation treatment was requested by the Librarian.

The leather spine had fallen into pieces and the remaining leather and the covering marbled paper on the boards were both scratched and torn, especially along the edges. The boards were still attached to the text-block by the laced-in cords ; however, the missing leather along the joints and torn inside hinges made the attachment vulnerable.

The text-block was wavy and dirty along the top edges and several pages had large water stains.

The conservation treatment, which took place at the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Book and Manuscript Conservation Workshop, aimed to restore the accessibility of the book while considering its historical and aesthetical values.

Firstly, the entire text-block was dry cleaned using a smoke-sponge. The two title pages were removed from the book and washed in warm de-ionised water. They were then left to dry under weight.

The visually disturbing water stains that covered some engravings were reduced by humidifying the stain edge and drying it immediately with a heated spatula through filter paper to avoid spreading the discolouration and distorting the paper.

The worn and delaminated vellum corners were repaired with new toned vellum and wheat-starch paste. The vellum was previously lined with paper which allows the piece of vellum to be moulded easily around the corner.

After removing the spine linings and any old adhesives, the spine was pasted, re-shaped slightly and lined with a strip of Japanese paper to consolidate the sewing. The board attachment was strengthened with a strip of aerolinen adhered onto the spine and extending onto the boards. The two title pages were then re-attached to the text-block by sewing them through the aerolinen.

New back-bead headbands were made with linen threads to reinforce the sewing structure.

A hollow back made of Heritage Archival paper was adhered to the spine and the book was re-backed with a piece of calf leather toned to match the remaining leather on the boards. Finally, the original leather label was pasted onto the spine and gold lines were tooled to imitate the original spine.

And finally, some full page images from the conserved book:

 

With thanks to Gwendoline Lemée.

Shelley and the Birth of Frankenstein

Two hundred years ago, Percy Bysshe Shelley made a tour of Europe with his lover and future wife Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and her step-sister Claire Clairmont, who was pregnant with Lord Byron’s child. Their sojourn in the Alps quickly become notorious for two reasons: one night in June, the group challenged each other to write the scariest horror story, and the first seeds of the novel Frankenstein were sown. And the following month, on 23 July 1816 Shelley caused a scandal by publicly declaring himself an atheist when signing the visitors’ book at the Hôtel de Londres in Chamonix. The offending page from that hotel visitors’ book has just resurfaced in the Wren Library as part of a new bequest.

Visitor book

The visitors’ book was ruled with several columns, allotted to date, name, place of birth, and the starting-point and destination of the visitor’s journey. Shelley entered his name on 23 July 1816, born in Sussex and travelling from London ‘à l’Enfer’ – to Hell. In the space for comments, where an earlier visitor has commented on the divine majesty of the Alps, Shelley writes, in Greek, ‘eimi philanthropos, demokratikos, atheos te’: ‘I am a lover of mankind, a democrat and an atheist’. A later visitor wrote beneath this a verse from the Psalms: ‘The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God’.

Visitor book close-up

Shelley’s public declaration of atheism in this book quickly became infamous, and many came to the hotel in order to inspect the book. Underneath Shelley’s name is written ‘Mad. M. W. G.’ – Madame Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the future Mary Shelley – and a further name, now crossed out, was Claire Clairmont. It was very likely to have been Byron who underlined Shelley’s name along with ‘the fool’ in the Greek text, in order to vent his frustration at Shelley’s outrage, and who crossed out Claire Clairmont’s name. A later visitor cut this page out of the visitors’ book, and it found its way into the collection of Richard Monckton Milnes, the remarkable Victorian MP and bibliophile whose library was recently bequeathed to Trinity College by his grand-daughter Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. Several very rare Shelley editions are included in the bequest, and this page had been pasted inside the front cover of his epic poem The Revolt of Islam.

Mont Blanc seen from Chamonix, from Narrative of an Ascent to the Sumhmit of Mont Blanc (London, 1828), by John Auldjo, a Canadian-born student at Trinity College who became a noted Alpinist.
Mont Blanc seen from Chamonix, from Narrative of an Ascent to the Sumhmit of Mont Blanc (London, 1828), by John Auldjo, a Canadian-born student at Trinity College who became a noted Alpinist.

Before they arrived at the the hotel in Chamonix, Shelley had taken Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont to visit Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, where he was staying with his personal physician, John William Polidori. On one night in June 1816, Byron challenged each member of the group to write a ghost story. Polidori’s efforts were later expanded into The Vampyre, the first vampire novel, and Mary Godwin’s story was published in 1818 as Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. This page shows the first appearance of Frankenstein’s monster, in the Alps.

Shelley returned to England in the autumn of 1816. The following year he began work on an epic poem inspired by his observations of the French Revolution. First published as Laon and Cythna, the work became better known in its revised version as The Revolt of Islam, and is a highly sophisticated parable of revolutionary idealism. Shelley drafted much of the text on a boat on the Thames near Marlow in Buckinghamshire. Trinity College Library houses one page from the neat copy which Shelley prepared for his printer, showing part of Canto IX. It forms part of a substantial collection of autographs, the Cullum Collection. Laon and Cythna was quickly withdrawn after publication, amid fears of prosecution for blasphemy, and was reissued with a new title and many altered lines in 1817.