The bookplates pasted into the rare books in Special Collections are being documented as they are found and the information added to the Catalogue records. Some will also feature in an online exhibition.
Bookplates can serve broad scholarly interests, including researchers examining the transmission of texts, print and art historians, biographers, library historians and bibliographers.
These ownership labels give a fascinating glimpse into the history of individual copies of books, revealing the identities of some previous owners. However, not everyone left traces of ownership, such as bookplates, signatures or inscriptions, and sometimes those who came after erased those signs.
In this case, John Wilson (173?-1791), who died “a martyr to the gout”, stuck his bookplate over another 18th Century plate in the two-volume Athenae Oxonienses. It was only on close inspection that the shadow of the bookplates underneath became apparent (click image to enlarge). When enhanced, the images revealed a `bookpile crest’ design and snippets of text: ‘William Cooper’, `DD’, `…RS’, `vicar’, `Yorksh’ and `1778’. This fits the description of a bookplate for William Cooper (? -1786), Archdeacon of York (Franks 6797).
Also stuck to the front pastedowns of both volumes of this 17th Century work was a third bookplate, for William John Lushington Esq. (1774?-1845). His obituary in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1845 states that Lushington’s wife Barbara was the daughter and co-heir of James Wilson. Whether John and James Wilson were related has not yet been researched, but if so, that might explain how the books entered Lushington’s library. A descendent, Charles Hugh Lushington, settled in Auckland in the 19th Century.
Jo Birks, Special Collections