A Comment on Bookplates: Militar. Collection of the Hon. Lt. Gen.l G.L. Parker

Standard categories for bookplates, such as armorial, pictorial and others are commonly found in Franks. One norm of the vast majority of plates is that they declare ownership simply by stating the name of the owner. Sometimes added to the name may be the title of honor, honorific, and / or name and location of his estate.

Contrasting with these straightforwardly ‘nominative’ bookplates, there is a small minority that label the collection to which the book belongs rather than simply stating the owner’s name.

It is easy to provide 20th century examples of this sort of ‘collection‘ bookplate. See, for example, that for, Ellis Ames Ballard Kipling Collection, http://goo.gl/pO3dP

Franks gives a 19th century example, being that for the Bewick collection of the Rev. Thomas Hugo, F.S.A. (1820-1876).

However, when I recently came upon the bookplate illustrated at right I began to wonder: could this be the earliest example of a ‘collection‘ bookplate? The instance I came upon was that for the Militar[y] Collection of the Hon[orable] L[ieutenan]t Gen[era]l G[eorge] L[ane] Parker. [Bibliographical details in note 1 at end.]

Many books with this bookplate have been on the market in recent years because they all trace back to the library of the Earls of Macclesfield, the first portion of which was auctioned in 2004 and continued to 12 parts in all, the last being in 2008.

Edward Edwards in his 1864 description of the Macclesfield library states that Gen. G. L. Parker was the second son of the 2nd Earl and upon his death his collection of military books was added to the main Macclesfield stock in Shirburn Castle (ca. 1791). (Cf. Libraries and founders of libraries, Chap. X, p. 325 ff).

What are we to make of this bookplate, so unlike the normal ‘nominative‘ plate? If Gen. G. L. Parker added this plate to his books then his practice was perhaps indicative not only of the newly emerging trend in specialized collecting but it was also perhaps avant garde in his providing plates marking his collecting practice rather than just stating his name as possessor. I think this later hypothetical is a bit of a stretch.

An alternative possibility is that the plates were added to the books after their receipt at Shirburn Castle as a means of marking them out from the rest of the collection. I don’t know if this possibility has been noted before. I lean toward this later explanation for the following reasons.

Conventions about how a proper 18th century bookplate should look were fairly rigid. The norm was a two part arrangement: if armorial, then achievement of arms at center with name of owner set off below. This plate does not conform to this convention.

The visual convention of this bookplate is more that of the cartouche of an 18th map or the trade label of an 18th century craftsman. The title or name is worked into the overall baroque design. This style is the customary for naming what an object is, or what an artisan does, rather than just signalling a possessor.

Moreover, there was a antecedent at Shirburn for the “Militar.” case. Consider the case of another Macclesfield bookplate — that with the caption “Of the Collection of W. Jones, Esq.”

Arthur J. Jewers in his article on the Macclesfield bookplates says that the 2nd Earl had this bookplate “specially engraved for a valuable collection of books bequeathed to him by W. Jones, Esq., who died in 1749, thus giving us very nearly the date at which the plate was cut.” My conclusion is that the Jones bookplate is a model for the “Militar.” plate. (Cf. “Parker Bookplates” Journal of the Ex Libris Society (London, 1898-99), vol. viii, p. 180 ff. and vol. 9, p. 9 ff.) [See illustration at right.]

• A further particular about the copy in which this “Militar.” plate appears • Apart from the curious character of this “Militar.” bookplate, the Parker “Militar.” plate had been pasted completely over that of the book’s first owner, Alexander Dury.

When the book was first encountered, the Dury plate was partially visible as showthrough. Only the last few letters of Dury’s name were originally visible underneath the Parker plate. What’s more, stamped on the spine was an heraldic crest. No crest was listed in British Armorial Bindings as belong to the Earls of Macclesfield, so the question became “Whose crest is this?” Once the Parker plate was partially lifted by a conservator, then all was relieved: full name of the first owner, a display of his achievement of arms, including his crest, a demi-lion rampant.

Note 1: This bookplate is on the front pastedown of Voltaire, 1694-1778. Le siècle de Louis XIV : publié par m. de Francheville …Londres : chez R. Dodsley, 1752. Call number (Ex) Item 6357495q