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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Private Libraries

Jean Grolier

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[Iliad; Odyssey. — Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1504]. 2 volumes.

This two-volume edition of the works of Homer by the great Venetian printer, Aldus Manutius (1450–1515), was probably acquired by Grolier while serving as treasurer-general in French-occupied Milan from 1509 to 1512. The first page of text is illuminated with Grolier’s arms and device, the shield surrounded by the phrase, “Jehan Grolier Conseillier du Roy, Tresorier.”  On the right, a painted device with the motto “Aeque difficulter,” a quote from Livy, one of Grolier’s favorite classical authors. 

Purchased from the Nichols Fund, 1940.

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Pope Nicolaus I.

Nicolai Primi Pont. Maximi Epistolae. — Rome: Francesco Priscianese, 1542.

Jean Grolier employed several of the best Italian and French binders during his lifetime of book collecting. The binding on this edition of the letters of Pope Nicolaus I (ca. 800–867), one of the Grolier Club Library’s most valued possessions, is a beautiful example of the work of the so-called “Cupid’s Bow” binder, the Parisian binder or workshop that executed many of Grolier’s commissions in the late 1540s. The front cover bears Grolier’s generous bibliophile motto, “Io. Grolierii et amicorum” (“for the use of Jean Grolier and his friends”). 

Purchased from the estate of Lucius Wilmerding, 1951.

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Document on vellum signed by Jean Grolier as Treasurer-General of France, May 22, 1550.

Arthur Capel, Earl of Essex

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A catalogue of ye library of Arthur Earle of Essex, at Cashiobury, made an. 1681, 1682, 1683 [manuscript].

Arthur Capel (1631–1683), Earl of Essex, served as statesman in various capacities during the reign of Charles II and died in the Tower of London after being implicated in the Rye House plot. During his lifetime, Capel amassed a great library at his estate in Cashiobury. John Evelyn wrote that “the library is large … but there are no manuscripts.”  He seems to have overlooked this manuscript catalogue of Capel’s library, the earliest such inventory owned by the Grolier Club.

Purchased in 1910.

Charles Maurice le Tellier

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Dubois, Philippe.

Bibliotheca Telleriana, sive catalogus librorum bibliothecae … Caroli Mauritii Le Tellier. Paris: Imp. Royale, 1693.

The catalogue of the private library of Charles-Maurice Le Tellier (1642–1710), archbishop of Reims, was primarily intended to aid visitors to his 50,000-volume library, which was open to the public. Scholars quickly adopted the catalogue as a useful universal bibliography, and it became one of the most frequently consulted catalogues of the eighteenth century. The collection now forms part of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris.

Gift of Waters S. Davis, 1938.

Sir Robert Bruce Cotton

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Smith, Thomas.

Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum bibliothecae Cottonianae. — Oxford: E Theatro Sheldoniano, 1696.

Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1571–1631), a founding member of the Antiquarian Society, began collecting manuscripts while still in his teens. His collection eventually included the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica, and King Alfred’s translation of Orosius’ Historia universalis. A fire destroyed or damaged a large portion of the manuscripts in 1731, but the remaining items were acquired by the newly formed British Museum in 1753.  

Purchased from the Jaffray Fund, 1932.

Madame de Pompadour

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Catalogue de la bibliothèque de feue Madame la marquise de Pompadour. — Paris: J.-T. Hérissant & fils, 1765.

The library of Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour (1721–1764), was auctioned on February 12, 1765. The library of Madame de Pompadour, the ambitious paramour of King Louis XV of France and host to one of the leading Parisian salons of the day, included a great many novels and volumes of French poetry, but it was also strong in history, biography, philosophy, and music, and there were substantial numbers of manuscripts and prints. 

Purchased from the Harper Fund.

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Catalogue de la bibliothèque de Madame la marquise de Pompadour: écrit suivant l’ordre des cartes remises par M. de la Garde [manuscript], 1764–1770.

This unique manuscript inventory of the library of Madame de Pompadour was probably prepared after her death at the direction of her librarian, Philippe Bridard de la Garde. The catalogue lists many titles not included in the 1765 auction of Madame de Pompadour’s library, and it was probably prepared independently of the printed auction catalogue. The book has had an interesting life: an ink stamp on the front flyleaf identifies it as coming from the personal collection of Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden.

Purchased in 1978.

Charles Spencer, Third Earl of Sunderland

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Catalogue of the incunabula in the library of Charles Spencer, third Duke of Marlborough [manuscript], ca. 1770.

The library of Charles Spencer, third Earl of Sunderland (1674–1722), was particularly strong in Bibles, first editions of the classics, and Continental literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The entries provide details regarding author, title, place of printing, printer, date, format, and whether printed on vellum. Tipped-in at the front is a one-leaf list of desiderata, headed “Wanted” and listing twenty-two incunabula, several of which are marked in pencil “got.”

Purchased in 2001.

George John, Second Earl Spencer

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Dunkarton, Robert after John Singleton Copley.

Right honourable George John Spencer, Earl Spencer, Viscount Althorp. London: Pub. & Sold by J. S. Copley, 1801.

Mezzotint engraving by Robert Dunkarton (1744–ca. 1811) of Earl Spencer in martial pose, after a painting by John Singleton Copley (1738–1815). 

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Dibdin, Thomas Frognall.

Bibliotheca Spenceriana, or, A descriptive catalogue of the … library of George John, earl Spencer. — London: W. Bulmer, Shakspeare Press, 1814–1815.

After nearly ten years in the service of Earl Spencer, Dibdin published his four-volume Bibliotheca Spenceriana, which scholar Seymour de Ricci called “the handsomest and most elaborate catalogue of a private library yet issued.” The Grolier Club copy of the catalogue includes an India proof portrait of the Earl by Francesco Bartolozzi (1727–1815), with a manuscript note in pencil signed by Dibdin. 

Gift of Samuel Putnam Avery.

Frances Mary Richardson Currer

Thomas Frognall Dibdin described Frances Mary Richardson Currer (1785–1861) as “the head of all female book collectors in Europe.” Currer inherited the library of her great grandfather, Richard Richardson (1663–1741), botanist and antiquary, and with additions made over the course of a long bibliophile career, her collection eventually totaled about 15,000 volumes. Most of her library was sold in July and August, 1862, realizing nearly £6,000. This first catalogue was printed in an edition of only 40 copies; a second catalogue, published eighteen years later, includes an engraved view of Eshton Hall. 
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Catalogue of the library at Eshton-Hall in the County of York. — London: Robert Triphook, 1820.

The Harper Fund, 1987.

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A catalogue of the library collected by Miss Richardson Currer, at Eshton Hall, Craven, Yorkshire. — London: [by J. Moyes], 1833.

Gift of Marshall C. Lefferts.

Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell & Harold Peirce

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Correspondence, 1897–1931.

This collection of over 500 letters between manuscript expert and antiquarian book agent Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell (1867–1962) and American collector Harold Peirce (1856–1932) perfectly illustrates the interplay of passion, scholarship, and business savvy in the building of a great library. After winding up the affairs of the Kelmscott Press after William Morris’s death in 1896, Cockerell became Peirce’s London agent in the purchase of books and other items relating to Morris; Peirce, an outstanding collector of the first decades of the twentieth century, was also interested in Americana, and first editions of nineteenth-century English writers. The letters on display tell of Cockerell’s 1908 appointment as director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, which prevented him from acting any longer as Peirce’s agent; but for nearly thirty years afterwards the two continued to correspond about subjects of mutual interest in the book world.

Purchased in 1998.

Henry Yates Thompson

A descriptive catalogue of … manuscripts from the collection of Henry Yates Thompson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898-1912. 4 volumes.

In the twenty years between 1898 and 1918, Henry Yates Thompson labored to assemble a collection of exactly one hundred splendid illuminated manuscripts. The evolution of the collection is described in this privately published catalogue, with descriptions by leading experts of the day, including Sydney Carlyle Cockerell. Yates Thompson’s decision in 1919 to sell his collection came as a particular blow to Cockerell, who had helped to build it, and he obsessively tracked the manuscripts until his death in 1962. This set of the Yates Thompson catalogues was heavily annotated by Cockerell throughout his life, recording additional, and sometimes confidential, information about the manuscript, as well as its movements following the Yates Thompson sales of 1919–1921. 

Purchased from the Harper Fund.