"Collat. & perfect. p[er] J. Wright" • Who was "J. Wright"?

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wright.jpg “Feb. 6 1722/23 Collat. & perfect. p[er] J. Wright” on leaf facing title page of H. Grotius, Poemata (Leiden, 1545) Call number (ExV) 2949.411.

John Carter in ABC for Book Collectors states “When [one] pencils on the endpaper ‘collated and perfect’ (or simply ‘c. & p.’), he is using it in the special sense of ‘to examine the sheets of a printed book, so as to verify their number and order’. The operative word is ‘verify’. Verify by what? If no bibliographical description of a book is available and no other copy for comparison, collation in this sense can do no more than reveal obvious imperfections.”

Fair enough, but when did this practice begin? And who might have first used it? Perhaps the case of “J.Wright” will give some clues.

❧ Ten libraries report owning books marked with the “Collat.” formula signed and dated by J. Wright.

They are found on incunables at several libraries:

• University of Glasgow. Shelfmark: Bl9-g.25 “Feb. 10. 1723/4 Collat. & perfect. p[er] J. Wright.” [Image of inscription] and By.3.38“June 26. 1723 Collat. & perfect. p[er] J. Wright.” [Image of inscription]
• Houghton Library. Call number: Inc 4142.10 “June 27. 1723. Collat. & perfect. J. Wright”
• Bodleian Library. Shelfmark Auct. L 1.2-5. “Collat. & perfect Jan. 8 1724/25”
• Princeton. Call number: PTT 2865.341.007 “Jan. 25 1722/23 Collat. & perfect. p[er] J. Wright”

Then on later books such as the following at

•John Rylands Library: Livy (Venice, 1520) “Collat. & perfect. [?] J. Wright” JRUL copy at R213746
•Several examples listed in the ESTC for copies at Huntington, Folger, University of Wisconsin and Yale. Search the copy-specific notes for ‘Collat.’ and ‘Wright’ and six entries return; imprints dating between 1601 and 1689. Inscriptions:
“Feb. 5. 1722/23 Collat. & perfect [?] J. Wright”; “Mar. 1. 1723 Collat. & perfect J Wright; Fawsyde, Bervie, N.B.”; “Oct. 5. 1723. Collat. + perfect. J. Wright”; “Dec 2. 1723. Collat. perfect. P.[?] Wright”; “Dec. 2. 1723. Collat. & perfect. J Wright.” “Dec. 5. 1723. Collat. & perfect. J. Wright”
•Two are listed in the Hunt Catalogue by Allan Stevenson: 351 and 385 “Dec. 9 1723. Collat. & perfect. J. Wright.”
•Four others at Princeton: imprints dating between 1543 and 1706. Inscriptions: “Feb. 6 1722/23 Collat. & perfect. p[er] J. Wright.”; “Oct. 23 1723 Collat. & perfect. J. Wright”; “Oct. 29 1723 Collat. & perfect. J. Wright”; and “Dec. 10 1723 Collat. & perfect. J. Wright.”

[There’s even a Wright book on sale at Bibliopoly! “June 14 1723 collat[ed] & perfect p[er] J. Wright” (The Great and New Art of Weighing Vanity, Glasgow, 1672).]

❧ Inspection of these books shows frequently they contain another concurrent mark of provenance along side that of Wright’s inscription. Commonly, they carry “Dupplin Castle” (inscribed, together with shelfmark), or the armorial bookplate of the Right Honorable Thomas Lord Viscount Dupplin, Lord Balhousie, dated 1699, or the armorial bookplate of Thomas Earle of Kinnoull Viscount Dupplin Lord Hay of Kinfauns (motto “renovate animos”). In sum, many books Wright marked trace back to the seat in Perth of the Hay Earls of Kinnoull. A contemporary of Wright tells us that the coincidence of his name with that of Kinnoull is not an accident.

❧ So who was J. Wright? “Lord Kinnouls Library keeper,” John Wright, according to Humfrey Wanley (1672-1726), librarian for Robert Harley. In his diary, Wanley records meetings and transactions with Wright during the 1720s. The following summarizes Wanley’s diary entries:

“John Wright was described by Wanley on his first recorded visit to the library (8 February 1722-23) as ‘a Scots Gent’ and of him we know nothing more except that he is said, again by Wanley, to have been ‘my Lord Kinnouls Library keeper’. This was George Henry Hay, seventh Earl of Kinnoull, who had succeeded to the title in 1719 and was married to Robert Harley’s youngest daughter, Abigail. On his first visit Wright brought a small group of MSS and old printed books to sell; subsequent entries show that the printed books were rejected and that the prices he asked for his MSS were considered too high; only on his abatement of these prices did Harley buy them. Thirteen in number, they are listed by Wanley under 24 June 1723 in the addenda to the second volume of his diary.” [C.E. Wright “Manuscripts of Italian Provenance in the Harleian Collection in the British Museum: Their Sources, Associations, and Channels of Acquisition,” in Cecil H. Clough (ed.), Cultural Aspects of the Italian Renaissance: Essays in Honour of Paul Oskar Kristeller (Manchester, 1976), pp. 472]

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