‘With the passage or loss of time, old books are no longer text and binding alone but also what their former readers have left in them over the years, marks, comments, exclamations, profanities, photographs, dedications or ex libris, a letter, sheet of paper or signature, a waterspot, burn or stain or simply their names as the books’ owners.’
Dark Back of Time by Javier Marias p.286, Chatto & Windus 2004.
The collection at Shandy Hall is the most complete of editions of Laurence Sterne’s writings – Tristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey; The Sermons and the author’s Letters. The majority of these editions show evidence of having been part of Kenneth Monkman’s collection – his owner stamp can be seen on the inside front board. However the books also record the identities of the libraries and individuals who owned them before they found their way to Shandy Hall, occasionally marking every step of their journey of over 250 years.
ARMORIAL BOOKPLATES tell us who the owner was in the most exact way.
Heraldic language is universal and the meanings behind the crests, supporters and impalings ensure that the identity of the owner of the book is unquestionable. The quality of the printing of the armorial plate might move the owner further up or down the ladder of status but otherwise there is little indication of the personality of the owner.
All the heraldic research on the collection at Shandy Hall has been conducted by Mr Hugh Murray of York and the Trust is grateful for his diligence, accuracy and enthusiasm.
BOOKPLATES created for individuals (ex-libris) may tell us more. The choice of designer of the bookplate, the connection with the creative arts, can lead us in the direction of a certain artistic sensibility, but it is the owner’s signature which brings us closer to the person, allowing us to wonder about the personality that flourished the pen and made their mark.
BOOK STAMPS and BOOK LABELS
The book stamp or book label will tell us even less about the owner. There is no clue to family connection – marriage, birth and connections are not listed– and often the address of the owner goes unrecorded.
The LIBRARY (whether public, circulating or subscription) leaves its marks and rules and conditions within the book. Owned by the organisation, but then often liberated to turn up in the second-hand bookseller’s stock ‘with usual library stamps’.
And then the BOOKSELLER, the second-hand, used or antiquarian dealer. In the collection we can identify the tiny labels that some of these merchants left by way of identity – J. Lake, Falmouth printer of guides of the town; D. Morrison, Perth; John Todd, York (probably John Todd, Bookseller, The Elder 1757); the large bookstamp of Richard Mancklin, Coney St, York who was selling books in the early 1720′s; A Swindells, Hanging Bridge, Manchester – a member of a long tradition of Swindells in that city. And of course the price, often preserved by the purchaser as a reminder of a successful bargain or for insurance.
Please find below a selection of different examples of book provenance. To find a specific item in the Shandy Hall Collection search the Catalogue.