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Revealed by ancient volumes....

The fusty shelves of an ancient library can be revelatory places when you are looking to discover the details and dynamics of past lives. Of 12,000 books in Tatton’s fine and prized library collection, around 8,000 reside in the historic Lewis William Wyatt designed Library of c. 1812. You might expect that everything is already known about this Library, but it continues to yield lovely details of past lives.

Tatton Park Library detail ©Tatton Park/Cheshire East Council, National Trust

Tatton Park Library detail
©Tatton Park/Cheshire East Council, National Trust

When Ed Potten, Head of Rare Books at Cambridge University, was putting together a new article on the Tatton Park Library, he discovered in the archive at John Rylands Library, Manchester, a gem of information about two fabulous volumes from the collection. Written by Pierre d’Harcanville and published in 1766-67 in Naples, they describe and illustrate the collection of Sir William Hamilton’s Etruscan, Roman and Greek vase collection. Hamilton was British Ambassador to Naples from 1764 to 1800, and is perhaps more widely known as the husband of the glamorous Emma Hamilton, lover of the heroic Nelson. Some of Hamilton’s vases eventually formed part of the  British Museum collection, and also proved inspirational to Josiah Wedgwood in his pottery designs.

Until now it could have been supposed that these two books came into the collection through any one of the family, perhaps when the Library at Tatton was completed for Wilbraham and Elizabeth Egerton in the early 19th century. This was very much the kind of  prestigious publication they would have chosen to grace their shelves. However, Ed’s discovery of a January 1775 receipt from a local Knutsford book binder, Samuel Leech (d. 1786) shows that it was Samuel Egerton, by then in his 60′s, who acquired this book  for his Library. It must have been the subject of great interest when this cosmopolitan publication, with it’s beautiful illustrations, arrived at the shop of a provincial Cheshire binder, giving him a rare glimpse of the art and culture of ancient Rome.

Samuel Egerton 1711 – 1780, by Bartolomeo Nazari ©Tatton Park/Cheshire East Council, National Trust

Samuel Egerton 1711 – 1780, by Bartolomeo Nazari
©Tatton Park/Cheshire East Council, National Trust

Read Ed’s full article here, courtesy of Apollo Magazine and the National Trust

Caroline Schofield

Mansion & Collections Manager, Tatton Park 

 

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