This is Hannah Moxon Her book
You may just within it Look
You had better not do more
For old black Satan’s at the Door
And will snatch at stealing hands
Look behind you ! There He stands.
(In an old New England book.)
A GLANCE at a good collection of early American book-plates shows, to one somewhat familiar with the history of our country, the names of many famous families and distinguished individuals. The number of known and listed plates of the colonial and early statehood periods is now well over one thousand, and as the researches of the ardent collector are further and further extended, it may well be that this number will constantly increase. To turn the pages of the album holding these memorials of a time not so very far back in history is to recall to the mind the conditions of life in those days, the ways and means employed by our ancestors in their domestic economy, the amusements which were permitted, the manners and customs which obtained, and the quiet serenity with which for long periods in many sections of the country these worthies could look out upon life, enjoy its quiet blessings, and cultivate their simple tastes. Political and religious history, with its strife and woe, as well as the quieter sort of the home and the plantation, is vividly recalled as one turns from one plate to another, remembering the story of the life of its original owner, the progress of events around him, the persons he came in contact with, and the position he took in different scenes which were epoch-making.
Here, for instance, as one turns the page, comes into view the plate of George Washington, and what memories it stirs ! There rises before the mind the picture of the intrepid young Virginian surveyor, the General of the army, the first President. The career of this truly great man is brought to mind, and many stories about him will quicken into life. If Napoleon was the Man of Fate, Washington was the Man of Providence. To hold in the hand a book once the property of General Washington, having the well-known signature in its accustomed place at the right-hand upper corner of the title-page, and the book-plate pasted within the front cover, is for the book-lover, to gain a double sensation of delight, a double thrill of pleasure.
The plate is one which of itself would not attract attention, being merely a modest design in the prevailing style, and bearing no ornamentation beyond what is common to thousands of others. This is true of the book-plates of many famous men. It is not the plate itself, it is its association which endears it, which makes it of value and importance to the collector. The plate was engraved in England, probably between the years 1765 and 1775. It has been counterfeited, so that the collector has need of caution in accepting what may be offered as the genuine plate. The plate is so important, and the location of the volumes from General Washington’s library is so well known, that should a copy come into the market it would cause something of a sensation among collectors, and it is quite likely that if sold in open auction, and undoubtedly genuine, it would bring two hundred dollars. As one strolls over the grounds at Mount Vernon, or walks through the house which once saw the state in which the rich Virginian lived, which witnessed elaborate dinners served to foreign dignitaries, which covered with its protecting roof many a party in which vivacious maidens and courtly youths were present in the splendid attire of the period, and during all which occasions of pleasant intercourse the library must have been sought by some at least, he peoples the place with these bygone faces and forms, hears again the sound of merrymaking, sees the impressive person of the President, and lingers in fancy over these scenes with delight unspeakable. But the book-plate awakens these memories as readily, and one sees the shelves on which the books rested, witnesses the entrance of some seclusion-seeking couple, who, to escape from the light and the immediate presence of company, have stolen into the dark library now lighted only by the moon. With these rows of calf-bound utterances for background, with the sound of the distant dance and viol, not too strongly borne in, and with the weird light of the moon falling upon objects not well known, how delicious the moment, how favorable the opportunity for confidences ! ‘Tis thus with books. They have that about them which begets confidences.
Somewhat similar to the plate of General Washington is that of his nephew, Judge Bushrod Washington, to whom the estate of Mount Vernon was left. A trifle later, one would say, in execution, it is still Chippendale in treatment, with ornamentation of a more pretentious character than is seen upon the other. A fork-tailed griffin with barbed tongue guards the upper side with fierce and threatening mien, while roses entwine the carved woodwork of the frame. The library which this plate graced must have been principally of books of law, — solid and necessary, yet a bit too heavy and ponderous for so dainty a plate to ornament.
There were other Virginia gentlemen who had libraries in which they used book-plates, and as their names will bring many historical facts to mind connected closely or remotely, as the case may be, with General Washington, and the events with which he was concerned, we will mention here a few of them. Of the Fairfax family we know the plate of Bryan, the eighth and last baron, between whom and Washington there existed a close affection, in spite of the loyalty of the latter to England. The family motto, Fare fac, is given on the plate. This, too, is of English make, and it may well be that the plate of Washington was ordered from England along with this or with that of his closer friend, George William, who undoubtedly had such a popular and convenient possession, even if it be unknown to-day. Then there were the Randolphs, — Peyton, first President of Congress, and after him John of Roanoke, whose fiery tongue made friends of foes and foes of friends, and whose will, it must be remembered, manumitted some three hundred slaves. William Stith, brother-in-law of Peyton, who was President of William and Mary College, and who wrote a history of Virginia, and John Marshall, of whose talents Washington thought so much, who became Chief Justice of the United States, and who wrote so memorable a life of his friend, were among those who used the armorial book-plate in their books. George Washington Parke Custis, the last of the General’s family, used a plate in which the engraver unfortunately omitted the final e from his third name. Other names which should be recorded here as of those linked in one way or another with the history of the state are as follows: Archer, Armistead, Beverly, Boiling (descendants of Pocahontas), Cabell, Gary, Dove, and Fitzhugh. Two governors of the old colony figure in the book-plate collector’s album : Francis Fauquier, who immediately succeeded Dinwiddie and whose plate is a neatly engraved Chippendale design, and before him John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, descendant of the house of Stuart, whose attitude towards the colonists was insufferable. One thinks of him with satisfaction as he flees to his ships after exciting the populace; but with extreme disgust as he burns the city of Norfolk, and carries on his predatory warfare. It was really a handsome bit of designing he used in his books, with all its marks of aristocracy, with the supporters and the crown of an English earl.
Lee, Lightfoot, Ludwell, McKenzie, Mackay, Mercer, Murray, Page, Parke, Power, Skipwith, Spotswood, Turberville, Tucker, Waller, Wormeley of Rosegill, and Wythe are names among which students of history will find many that have been raised to places of eminence in the state of Virginia by the representatives of these families, who were distinguished in various professions and prominent in varying circumstances. Old Colonel Byrd, who was such a patron of arts, science, and literature in Virginia, used a very interesting book-plate, and, as one notices the air of grandeur and hospitality worn by his spacious house, he feels that the books were well housed and often read. Indeed, evidence of this, and of many a quiet yet important conference in the library at Westover, can be found.
Other plates there were in the mansions of old Virginia, — plates which the collector would gladly possess, but which are beyond the reach of his preserving hand. To consider those large estates, with their substantial manor-houses, their immense parks, their elegance of furnishing and ornamentation, to see the shining plate, the retinue of servants, the silks and taffetas imported from London, and the fields of tobacco which supported this luxury, is to be assured that life in the new country was not wholly lacking in those enjoyments which the socially inclined find need of, or the opportunity for retirement and study which some among the number of the household were likely to care for.
But not all the fine houses were in Virginia. Maryland, New Jersey, the Carolinas, Delaware, Kentucky, and Georgia had their wealthy families as, of course, had the more northern states. Among the interesting plates of Maryland are those of John Leeds Bozman, the historian; the Hon. William Carmichael, who was born in the state, and who was a delegate to Congress, 1778-1780; Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, who signed the Declaration of Independence in such a manner as to leave no doubt of his identity;
Samuel Chase, another signer of that immortal document; General Forman, whose estate “Rose Hill” was so delightful a spot; and Anthony Stewart, of Annapolis, whose plate was one of the handsomest of any used at that time. Others there were of the families of Calvert, Chalmers, Duvall, Kerr, McTavish, Maxcy, and Sprigg, who used book-plates which are to-day prized by the collector.
Over in Delaware the plates of the Bayards and the Fishers were good of their kind, and are now among the desiderata. In New Jersey was that intrepid soldier, Major Joseph Bloomfield, who fought in the war of the Revolution and was Governor of his state, an officer in the War of 1812, and a member of Congress after that. David Brearly was another soldier of the Revolution from this state, and he used a plate which is thought to have been engraved by Vallance, an engraver who was associated with Thackara, in making plates for Dobson’s Encyclopedia. Of others who in this state used plates which are prized to-dav, should be mentioned William Edgar, Peter Kemble, Charles Read, Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration, Lieutenant Trenchard of the navy, and the Hon. Joshua Maddox Wallace of Burlington.
In North Carolina the plates of Isaac Edwards, William Hooper, signer of the Declaration, Colonel Innes, James Iredell, the jurist, and the plate of the University of North Carolina, are among the few which have been discovered to swell the collector’s list.
The South Carolina list is much longer, and includes such names as Richard Beresford; Jacob Drayton ; John Walters Gibbs; Thomas Hall, first postmaster under Washington, in Charleston ; Isaac Hayne, the patriot, who was hanged by the British in the same city in 1781 ; Thomas Hayward, a signer of the Declaration; Alexander Inglis, who employed a poor engraver and one who little understood heraldry ; Robert Johnston of Turkey Island; Peter Manigault, who studied law at the Inner Temple, and whose very beautiful book-plate was engraved in London in the year 1754; John Izard Middleton, second son of Arthur Middleton, the signer of the Declaration, born at Middleton-Place-on-the-Ashley, and who was himself an author of no mean abilities, and who spent the last twenty-five years of his life in Paris, where he was an intimate friend of Mesdames De Stael and Recamier; Thomas Pownall, who was Governor not only of this state, but also and previously of New Jersey and Massachusetts, and who, after returning to England, entered Parliament; Thomas Shubrick, Colonel in the Revolutionary War; Thomas Waties, an eminent judge; and Dr. J. B. Whitridge, whose emblem of Hope makes a very pretty plate, as well as an appropriate one, for a physician.
An interesting plate from Georgia is that of James Wright, Esq., the last Royal Governor of the colony, he who was such an able executive, but whose loyalty to the king cost him his liberty for a time, and finally the confiscation of his estates.
One of the early American plates around which historical memories gather is that of William Penn, Esq., Proprietor of Pennsylvania as the name and address appear upon the plate itself. This plate shows the arms of the Penn family, one of distinction in England, with the motto, Dum clarum rectum teneam, ” May I keep the line of right as well as of glory.” There have been a number of books in auction sales within a few years having this plate in them; and as there is some reason to doubt the authenticity of many of these, the collector is warned to be careful lest he purchase what may prove a disappointment instead of a treasure, While it is not probable that the Penn plate was ever forged in the manner of the George Washington plate, it is possible that an engraver took some prints from the old copper, before altering it to suit the needs of Thomas Penn (as was done), and that the prints thus produced are about. Or it may be that a second plate will some day come to light. Certainly, the incentive to forgery to the extent of so careful a reproduction on copper of the really genuine design as this supposed fraudulent plate is, is too little to admit of the theory. There is no demand for the books of Penn as there is for those of Washington ; and in the case of the Washington forgery, the plate from which the deceptive prints were made was not a careful reproduction, although those who purposed using it may well have wished it to be such. The two Penn plates coincide exactly in so many particulars as to leave no doubt of their being printed from the same copper. Some retouching the plate had, of course, to account for the very slight differences; but that there was ever a deliberate purpose to forge the plate of William Penn seems quite improbable. There is, in the rooms of the Pennsylvania Historical Society in the city of Philadelphia, the Bible used by Hannah ‘Callowhill Penn, the second wife of William Penn; and the plate, undoubtedly genuine, is pasted within its cover. When the plate was made over for Thomas Penn, he was styled First Proprietor of Pensilvania, which title seems hardly justifiable, and the spelling of the last word rather bungling.
Among the most famous men of his times was Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was born on the banks of Poquestion Creek, not far from Philadelphia, and who rose to a distinguished position in his native land, and received substantial proof from foreign lands of the esteem in which he was there held. Successful in his profession, he was attacked by enemies, who suffered the defeat they merited. It is said that during a scourge of yellow fever he saved not less than six thousand persons from death. His position in the government of the state and the nation was conspicuous. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His plate still exists, but in poor condition and in a very limited number; it is supposed because he destroyed all copies of it he could lay his hands on. The exact reason for this is not known; but it will be surmised that it was due to his intense patriotism during the events of 1875 and 1876, when so much feeling against the British was shown in his city, and when, to him, the use, even within the covers of his own books, of armorial bearings granted by England, may have been distasteful.
Another doctor of medicine whose useful life added to the fame of his native city was John Morgan, one of the founders of the American Philosophical Society, a strong patriot and a physician of an uncommon education and experience. He used a book-plate of the Chippendale style, which, from its appearance, one is inclined to think was engraved by Henry Dawkins. Dr. Morgan married the beautiful Mary Hopkinson, and has left a letter in which he speaks most courteously of her. It is written to the mother of Mrs. Morgan, and in the letter the doctor says :
” She is an excellent companion at all times, but if possible excels herself on the road. It would delight you to get a glimpse of us just now, Colonel Kirkbride at the violin and she at the harpsichord and sings most blithely and most sweetly.”
That good old Dr. James Abercrombie, of Philadelphia, who was the rector of two important churches in the city, Christ and St. Peter’s, is the subject of a story which shows him to have loved the good things supplied in this world, while travelling through it to a higher. The story, as told by Mr. George Ord, a raconteur of no small ability, was to the effect that, having occasion to visit a small town in New Jersey, the good doctor was cheered with some choice old Madeira wine, which not expecting to find in that sparse country, he was mightily pleased. His appropriate text for the sermon of the following: Sabbath was from that verse in the Acts of the Apostles in which it is recorded that ” the barbarous people showed us no little kindness.” In his books, this genial soul pasted a book-plate on which was the motto, Vive ut vivas, the spirit of which may be variously understood. Francis Hopkinson, skilled in an astonishing number of accomplishments, a wit of no mean order, able to make music, to paint, to compose popular airs, and to discuss the weighty affairs of government, the latest developments in science, or the intricacies of politics, used a very delightful book-plate, the design of which is very similar to that of Bushrod Washington. It has the same horrid griffin hissing from behind the roses, and the same arrangement of flowers and ornamentation is observed. This plate was done by Dawkins, that scamp of tried ability whose very talent landed him in prison, and from which his wit likely enough released him. John Adams liked Francis Hopkinson, but he left a saying about the latter’s head which cannot be forgotten. He declared it was not larger than a good-sized apple ! He was a member of the Philosophical Society, married Ann Borden, and was, of course, prominent in all the social gatherings of the day. One little adventure is worthy of record. He was one of the three young men who, by means of a rope ladder, released pretty Miss Shewell from the high room her brother had confined her in to prevent her taking the ship which would carry her to London to be the wife of the painter Benjamin West. Fate was against the brother, and the wedding took place in the chapel of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields.
Joseph Hopkinson, who wrote Hail Columbia, and who was the son of Francis, used the same copper that his father before him had used, only having the first name erased and his own substituted. The work was entrusted to a poor engraver, for the name Francis can be plainly seen under the Joseph, even in the prints.
The only armorial book-plate of the early days known to have been used by a lady, was used by Elizabeth Graeme, daughter of Dr. Thomas Graeme, whose lovely estate, ” Graeme Park,” situated a score of miles from Philadelphia, was a very favorite meeting-place of the cultured people to whom its hospitality was warmly extended. Miss Graeme was quite literary in her tastes, and among her accomplishments was the translation of ‘Telemacbus into English, the writing of many original poems and no small amount of prose which, according to the judgment of Dr. Rush, showed ” strong marks of genius, taste, and knowledge.” She married Hugh Fergusson, the British Commissioner of Prisoners, which union seems, unfortunately, not to have brought her much happiness, so that she occupied herself much with those literary occupations she loved so well.
Conspicuous among the early Pennsylvanians and coming to be known as the greatest of American botanists, was John Bartram, whose fine gardens were planted near to Gray’s Ferry. In this delightful spot was that study over the window of which those two lines were painted which testified to his faith in the Almighty. The books in this little secluded spot were marked with an armorial book-plate of the Chippendale style of ornamentation, which bore the mottoes Foy en Dieu and J’avance. The home of Bartram, which was near to “Woodlands,” the residence of Alexander Hamilton, still stands surrounded by some of the trees beneath which Jefferson and Adams, Wistar, Rush, and Rittenhouse have reclined and conversed with the royal botanist.
Eiias Boudinot (the wealthy and studious President of Congress who was a bit surprised at the dance which he saw at the Macomb House in New York, upon the occasion devised by the Comte de Moustier in 1778, to celebrate the French alliance) used in his books a simple but well-engraved plate, the work of Maverick, the famous New York engraver, who came to America from his native land just before the Declaration of Independence separated the two countries forever.
Those old dwellers in the City of Brotherly Love, Quakers though many of them were, and so, to our thinking, of necessity somewhat distant toward gaieties of the “world outside,” had their good times, lived upon fine estates, and enjoyed life as fully as did their far-away neighbors at the lower end of Manhattan Island, There was old Isaac Norris, who directed the placing of the motto upon the Liberty Bell. He was a Quaker, and he lived in a delightful old home going by the name of ” Fair Hill,” which lay between Philadelphia and Germantown. A student he was by nature, and he gathered a good-sized library in which he pasted a neat but small book-plate bearing heraldic devices. Ultimately his books went to Dickinson College in the city of Carlisle, Penn.
When General Washington came to the city of Philadelphia in 1790, the house of Robert Morris was considered the fittest for his use within the city, and so it was placed at his disposal. It is related that the house of the Morris family had more of the luxuries than had any other house in America. Indeed, in all the appointments of his estate, even to his equipage, this brilliant financier and statesman was fond of the best and had it; and yet in his old age he was imprisoned for debt. There is a small and exceedingly interesting book-plate which bears the inscription Rob. et. Tho. Morris fratres, Philadelphia, which has rather recently come to light, and which is regarded by collectors as of the highest interest on account of the position of its owners, as well as by reason of the unique manner of recording the fact of common ownership in the books the plates were destined for. It was Robert Morris who persuaded old Mr. Head, the Quaker, whose conscience would not let him do anything active towards the support of the war of the Revolution, to pass into an adjoining room while he, Morris, left alone with key to the strong box, should take from it such an amount as was needed at the moment. Then, too, it was at the elegant home of Robert Morris that the Prince de Broglie drank twelve consecutive cups of tea, not knowing how to refuse the different ladies who offered him the thin beverage! Books there must have been in plenty among the furnishings of this attractive house whose very hospitality had that quality of abundance which is well-nigh a luxury. The kindly and earnest face of Mr. Morris is well known from his portraits, and one can easily picture him in his elegant home entertaining the President, always an imposing figure, with round them a little company of delegates and men of affairs.
Edward Shippen, a descendant of the first mayor of Philadelphia and the father of the Misses Shippen, who were quite the gayest of the gay young ladies of the ” Neschianza,” used the old book-plate which his father before him had used in England. This plate belongs to a style not used very much in America, in which the shield of arms is surrounded with elaborate mantling.
Among others who used book-plates and who made for themselves a name in the affairs of Pennsylvania were William Augustus Atlee; Dr. John Beatty; Robert Aitkin, who printed the early and historic American edition of the Bible; Bancker, the merchant, who instead of the arms used his old “merchant-mark,” a figure 4, upon the shield of his book-plate; Albert Gallatin, who rejected the family motto, and adopted for himself the one word Persevere; William Hamilton, who became the owner of the fine estate “Woodlands,” which is now the Woodland Cemetery of Philadelphia; old William Keith, the Governor of the colony in the early part of the eighteenth century, and who was so ” desperate an intriguer”; Lynford Lardner, grandson of the Councillor ; Morgan Lewis, who was on the staff of General Gates; Joseph Priestley, theologian, chemist, and philosopher; Sir John St. Clair, a British soldier associated with Braddock, but who had a book-plate engraved by Turner; and Joseph Wood, a colonel in the revolutionary army.
Another Pennsylvanian of distinguished name was James Logan, founder of the Loganian Library in Philadelphia, and who was first persuaded to come to the colony by his friend, William Penn. His plate was made in England, and is a very graceful design, of the Chippendale style. Mr. Logan was strict in some of his ideas, agreeing with Penn as to simplicity in religious forms and customs. He was a friend to the Indian, was prominent in the government of the colony, and was possessed of uncommon ability united to great wisdom and a singularly dignified disposition. He had a charming seat, ” Stenton,” to which the Indians came in such numbers that they were encamped upon its spacious lawns a good share of the time, and he had a goodly collection of books in his comfortable library. He left about two thousand volumes of a valuable character, for the use of the public. This bequest was the beginning of the library which bears his name.
Early in the present century, Henry Troth came to Philadelphia, and engaged in the drug business. He was a man of enterprise, forethought, and executive ability; and it is owing to his efforts that the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy was established. He was a member of the Orthodox branch of the Society of Friends, and was active in numerous charities, as well as prominent in the advancement of scientific researches. During the first quarter of the present century, his book-plate was engraved by Samuel Tiller, an engraver of whom little is known, the design being Mr. Troth’s own. It is a library interior, and represents the student in his book-room, deep in thought. In its use of serious reflections as a motto, it resembles the Village Library plate (Farmington, Conn.), but it is said that the line of thought they indicate is a correct reflection of the habitual attitude of the owner’s mind. The plate is one of uncommon beauty, and the collector will regret the meagreness of information concerning its engraver. Tiller was in partnership with a man named Winship in 1832; and in that year they engraved a portrait of Washington, and sorrfe bits of ornamentation for use on a silk badge commemorating the celebration in honor of the centennial anniversary of Washington’s birth. Subsequently, he was in business with his own brother, and finally dropped out of sight in Mexico. His work is so good that one hopes other bookplates by him will come to sight.
Among other interesting plates which are worthy the attention of the collector are those of the Apprentices’ Library, the Carpenters’ Company, and the Library Company, all of them numbering among the early semi-public libraries of the city of Philadelphia, and each of them having an interesting history.
In the city of New York, during the last quarter of the last century, lived and worked the famous engraver, Peter Rushton Maverick; and to his skill in the art of engraving on copper must be laid, to a considerable degree, the large number of bookplates which that period of the history of the city reveals. He was a rapid worker and a skilful. It seems to have been quite the thing to have a bookplate by Maverick; and so the richest of the city’s citizens employed him; and, not to be outdone by those above them in social grade, some of those whom fortune had not so plentifully blessed used plates by this noted copper-plate engraver. Among these was a very popular hairdresser.
The richest man in the colony of New York was Frederick Phillipse, who carried on so profitable a trade with the Five Nations, and whose ships sailed to the East as well as the West Indies. Perhaps his wealth was in some measure due to the fortune his wife must have had; for she, who had been the widow of the rich trader, Rudolphus de Vries, had, during the period of her widowhood, carried on with considerable sagacity the business her late husband had built up. Just how much Mr. Phillipse inclined to books, we do not really know; but he had a book-plate of an early style of ornamentation. It was his daughter Mary who, tradition says, had the honor of being an early love of George Washington, and it was at the old’ Phillipse Manor that these two met. In this interesting spot the family for many years exercised jurisdiction over immense estates lying in three counties. They were known among their tenants as the Junkers (pronounced as if spelt Yonkers), and around their homestead grew up the village now going by the name of Yonkers. But the charming Mary finally married Colonel Roger Morris, who built a noble house on the banks of the Harlem River, which has passed through many hands and has had several names, and which still stands upon its wooded height. Long known as the Roger Morris house, it passed, after the war of the Revolution, into various hands, before it was bought by Stephen Jumel, and was known as the Jumel Mansion. At the age of seventy-eight, the still gallant Aaron Burr married the widow of the French wine-merchant, when the place became known as the residence of Aaron Burr; and, as is well known, it was not very far from its site that Alexander Hamilton received his fatal wound. This house is one of the most interesting in New York history, and its appearance has been preserved by the Society of Iconophiles, of New York, in an excellent engraving by Edwin D. French. Colonel Morris used an interesting book-plate of the popular Chippendale pattern; and so did Lewis Morris, brother of Gouverneur, whose fine estates were destroyed by the British. The great estate of Morrisania, in Westchester County, was founded by an ancestor of these patriots in the seventeenth century. Another daughter of Frederick Phillipse married the dashing Colonel Beverly Robinson, who was so stanch a loyalist, and whose estate was the headquarters of Arnold while negotiating with the British officers in the matter of his contemplated treason. Colonel Robinson had a son of the same name, who was an officer in the English army; and this family was one of the largest losers by reason of its loyalty. The book-plate bearing the name of Beverly Robinson was probably used by the son.
Old Cadwallader Colden, the friend of Benjamin Franklin (and what a pity no plate of the latter has ever been discovered), was a man of powerful intellect, from whom his son, Cadwallader David, must have inherited no little ability. The son was a great friend of De Witt Clinton, and was active with him in pushing numerous improvements in the city and state of New York, notably the Erie Canal.
Colden’s book-plate was a plain armorial, while Clinton’s was in the height of style, and was engraved by the fashionable engraver. Maverick, in the simple but elegant Ribbon and Wreath arrangement.
In looking over the names of the families in whose homes there were enough books to induce the possession of a book-plate, one comes across many which have been familiar since the days when the study of United States history was a school task. In some cases, the plates themselves are of interest, but the collector values them mostly for their associations. For instance, the plate of Van Cortlandt is not particularly striking; but who that knows something of the story of the old manor-house at Croton can look at this plate, with its military emblems surrounding the shield, and not consider it a bit of most interesting memorabilia?
Then, too, there was the Van Rensselaer family, which held its rights as patroons until well into the present century, a long-lived relic of the West India Company, and before the door of whose manor-house stood the cannon whose loud intonation was only heard when a new member of the family was ushered into the world, or when one of them departed this life. Numerous book-plates were used by members of this noted family, and Kilain K. Van Rensselaer had a handsome design in the Ribbon and Wreath style by Maverick. Probably no family in the country had so many or such interesting plates, taken collectively, as had the Livingstons: Brockholst Livingston, the scholar and lawyer, Edward, Maturin, and Judge Robert R., who had plates by Maverick, and Walter, William S., and Robert R., the Chancellor, who had plates by the same engraver.
Many and interesting are the anecdotes of this extremely interesting family, which has been of such prominence in the history of their state and the nation. The British destroyed the old home of Judge Robert R. in the year 1777 ; but not until from it had come a notable family of sons and daughters. It was the Chancellor who was sent to the court of Napoleon, and to whom was given the snuff-box with the portrait by Isabey painted upon it, and it was the deafness of this distinguished man, and the inability to speak French of his brother-in-law, General Armstrong, who succeeded the future Chancellor as minister to France, that caused Napoleon to make the celebrated remark, ” What strange people these Americans are ! First they send me a deaf man, and then one who is dumb!”
When old Philip Livingston died, in the year 1749, there was a funeral of a most aristocratic nature. Some account of it is still preserved, and among the noteworthy facts recorded in a contemporary journal are that spiced wine was passed to the eight bearers, who were presented not only with gloves and handkerchiefs, but also with mourning rings and monkey spoons. It is also stated that the cost of this function must have reached the tidy sum of £500. Samuel Provost, the first Bishop of New York, used a book-plate which was engraved by Maverick, and which, in addition to the arms and mitre, carried the motto Pro libertate. This learned churchman had a rural retreat at East Camp in Dutchess (now Columbia) County, and there he enjoyed not only his literary pursuits, but the garden and farm there pleasantly located. The Bishop was a lover of books, and had among his treasures some fine specimens of the printing of Baskerville, a rare Venetian Dante of 1547, Rapin’s England,, in five noble folios, a collection of Americana, and one of Elzevirana, as well as some notable specimens of incunabula, among the last a Sweynheym and Pannartz imprint of 1470. He was a remarkable man in a good many ways, and, being heartily in sympathy with the American patriots, he resigned his position at Trinity Church, and betook himself to the country seat mentioned above, where he spent some years. Upon the departure of the British from New York in 1783, he came out from his retirement and was made Bishop. He was chaplain to the Continental Congress in 1785, and to the United States Senate in 1789. He died in 1815.
Colonel William Duer (who had been aide-de-camp to Lord Clive in India, and who married Catherine, daughter of Lord Stirling, and was thus with his wife able to lend quite an aristocratic and English flavor to the polished gatherings of the day) used a simple book-plate with the crest of his family for design, and the motto Esse quam videri. What munificent entertainments, what charming society, what rustle of silks and laces, what titterings between the lovely young ladies, what gallantries on the part of the perfectly dressed beaux these names recall! The wedding of Colonel Duer and the bright Lady Kitty, whom John Quincy Adams, with the proper amount of polish, referred to as ” one of the sweetest-looking women in the city,” was a very celebrated event; and, as it occurred while General Greene had his headquarters in the house and there were plenty of soldiers about, it took on a decidedly military character. The bride was given away by the Commander-in-chief himself, the loud calls of the soldiers for a sight of the lady were listened to, and she stepped upon the lawn to receive the ringing cheers and hearty congratulations of the throng. Surely the old manor-house of Lord Stirling held never a gayer company than this.
Christopher Mildeberger, who was of the family once owning the land on a part of which the Fifth Avenue Hotel now stands, used a small pictorial book-plate.
William Constable came of a family owning large tracts of land near the city of Utica, and he used a book-plate evidently made by an engraver who was not an expert. Myles Cooper, who was the second President of King’s College (now Columbia), used a very handsome Chippendale book-plate. The story of the hasty flight he was obliged to make through a window of the college buildings to escape rough handling at the hands of those who were infuriated at his Loyalist inclinations, is well authenticated. Among other families of New York using bookplates in the earlier days were the Cuttings, the Cuylers, the De Peysters, the De Witts, the Duanes, the Fishes, the Fraunces, the Goelets, the Gracies, the Harisons, the Hoffmans, the Jaunceys, the Jays, the Kips, and the Kissams. Among them, too, were such names as Ogden, Paulding, descendants of the captor of Major Andre, Pierce, Pintard, Popham, Roome, Rutgers, Schuyier, Sedgwiek, Smith, Stewart, Stone, Ten Broeck, Tomlinson, Van Berkel, Van Buren, Van Ness, Varick, Wall, Watkins, Wetmore, Wisner, Wynkoop, and Yates. The collector who desires to make a specialty of the early plates of the city and state of New York has a rich field to work in, and one that in historical interest almost surpasses any other our country offers, As one looks back to those old families and visits the old manor-houses, he can picture the scenes there enacted, can hear the hum of voices, see the bright faces of the ladies and richly colored velvets of the gentlemen, hear the clink of the glasses, see the smoke rising from fragrant cigars towards the beams of the ceiling, and may, now and then, see the Continental uniform, hear the harsh word of command, and witness the march of troops, the skirmish, or the battle itself. The study of the times and the people brought to mind by a good collection of book-plates will carry the enthusiastic student into many lines of research, will unravel some difficult things, will lead him into many unsuspected pleasant spots, and cannot fail to increase his interest in the history of his country, whatever it may happen to be.
Just off the coast of Connecticut, and lying in a snug position, is Gardiner’s Island, once known as the Isle of Wight. In a graveyard of New London may be seen a stone bearing the following inscription: “Here lyeth buried ye body of his excellency John Gardiner, Third Lord of ye Isle of Wight. He was born April igth 1661 and departed this life June 25th 1738.”
It was in the year 1686 that this island was set off to old Lion Gardiner, the founder of this most interesting estate, by Governor Dongan of New York. Lion Gardiner came to America under the patronage of Lord Saye and Sele and the younger John Winthrop, for whom he was to build a fort at the mouth of the Connecticut River; and he it was who gave to this first stronghold erected in New England, outside of Boston, the name of Saybrook. The old manor-house on Gardiner’s Island, as it is now called, remains to this day, and the few visitors who get to it are shown the relics of long-ago times, including uniforms, furniture, and the various small possessions which are usually included in such lists of memorabilia. The graveyard, with its table monuments bearing the Gardiner arms cut in the stone, the old weather-beaten windmill, the house itself behind its closed gates, the open space called ” the Common,” where the sheep graze, and, indeed, all the surroundings, speak with force to the historical student. One of the treasures kept with great care is the Geneva Bible (1599) in which is the record of the coming of old Lion Gardiner. Several of the lords used book-plates, and they are of the greatest interest to the collector, possessing the charm of those old times when this American lordship was maintained in the style it deserved.
Samuel Bard, eminent physician, author of medical works of value, and a skilful horticulturist, used a book-plate in the Chippendale style. His life was an eventful one, and shows him to have been an interesting man. He was educated in Edinburgh, and, on his passage thither from this country in 1761, he was captured by the French; and after five months was released through the efforts of Dr. Franklin, He organized a medical school upon his return to New York, which was united to King’s College, and he ultimately became dean of the faculty. He married his cousin, had a lucrative practice, was President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and while the seat of government was in New York he was the family physician of General Washington. Going up to Connecticut next, the collector will find in that land of steady habits many interesting book-plates used by the good people who gave the state its good name. Of the men who fought in the Revolution, there was John Chester, who commanded the elite corps at the battle of Bunker Hill, and whose home was in Wethersfield; Jacob Sargeant, who was a noted maker of watches and tall clocks, and who was one of the last of the ” gentlemen of the old school.” He was seen upon the streets of Hartford, in which city was his home, attired in breeches and hose long after their use was generally discontinued. Alsop, the wit and poet who lived down the river at Middletown; Deacon Bull, who was perhaps the busiest man in the village of Farmington; Goodwin, who was at one time the publisher of the Hartford Courant, the oldest newspaper in our country; Isaiah Alien of Enfield, who used a simple device engraved by a relative; Ingersoll of New Haven; Jarvis of the bishop’s family; Lord of East Haddam; Musgrave of New Haven; Reed of East Windsor; Thomas Robbins, whose library served as the foundation and beginning of the library of the Connecticut Historical Society; Waldo, the “fighting parson ” who suffered such cruelties while confined in the New York Sugar House; and Oliver Wolcott, sometime Governor of the state, and long before that a signer of the Declaration,— are among the names to which the book-plate hunter attaches importance. Beside the plates of individuals, Connecticut is rich in the plates of early libraries which the industrious inhabitants contrived to support. Among these, the plate of the Theological Institute with its representation of an old pulpit; the East Windsor Literary Association; the three plates of the Farmington Library, and the smaller but no less pleasing library interior used by the Village Library of the same town ; the Guilford Library plate, very probably engraved by Doolittle; the old engraved label of the Hartford Library Company, and the Social Library of Wethersfield, which is signed by Doolittle,—are perhaps the best. Besides these, there are the exceedingly interesting plates of Yale College Library, and the curious plates used by the various literary and social societies supported by the students and the alumni, the Brothers in Unity, and the Linonian Society.
In the year 1686 the city of Boston had four book-sellers, and from the old records it appears that they were men of some wealth and position in society ; while the most successful of them all, Mr, Usher, left an estate of some ^20,000. When we read that New York had but one book-shop in 1719, we feel that the literary ascendency of Boston is no new thing, no empty claim, and as the collector of book-plates gathers together the plates of the book-owners of Boston and other towns in the state of Massachusetts, he finds that they equal those of New York in number, and surpass them in at least one point of interest. The plates of the aristocratic New Yorkers were engraved by Maverick, who was an importation from England; while the wealthy and book-loving people of Boston and vicinity employed such engravers as Nathaniel Hurd and Paul Revere, who were not only self-taught in the art of engraving on copper, but were native-born Americans, To the collector of book-plates, these examples of the early American engravers are of surpassing interest. It is true that in comparison with some of the plates by Maverick they suffer, and that they have not the excellence of finish noticed in the plates done by the professional copper-plate engravers of London, which were used by many American families, particularly in the states and cities south of New York.
Hurd did not engrave as many plates as Maverick did, but his career was much shorter, as he died in 1777, while Maverick lived some thirty years longer. But all the work which Hurd did showed him fitted by nature to excel in the line of work his enterprise led him to take up, and, had he been spared to continue the development of the art of the book-plate, he would undoubtedly have made many which would have stood the most careful comparisons. At the present time, the collector knows nearly fifty plates which were made by him; and among his customers were such men as Theodore Atkinson, who was a person of no small importance in the colony of New Hampshire, holding various offices which the Revolution deprived him of, and who at his death left £200 to his church, the interest to be spent for bread to be given to the poor; Francis Dana, a statesman and jurist of distinction, who served his country in many offices, and was Secretary of Legation when Mr. Adams went to Paris in 1779, and who was a founder of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and whose son, Richard Henry Dana, the essayist and poet, was a member of the club which started the North American Review. Francis Dana married a daughter of William Ellery, and Ellery Street in Boston was so named to commemorate her family. And there were Dr. Samuel Danforth, who practised until he was eighty years of age, and whose judgment was so highly thought of that in every difficult medical case he was appealed to with the feeling that his opinion reached the limit of human skill; Philip Dumeresque, who was one of the founders of old Trinity Church in Boston, yet in whose home on Summer Street Peter Pelham, who is known to-day as the earliest engraver we have any account of in New England, taught not only writing and arithmetic, but dancing; Benjamin Greene, a wealthy Boston merchant; Robert Hale of Beverly, a leading man in the province, and commander of a regiment under Pepperell at Louisburg; Harvard College, for which Hurd made several plates; the Rev. William Hooper, father of the signer of the Declaration, from North Carolina; Hon. Jonathan Jackson, who dined with General Washington upon the occasion of that visit to Boston when Governor Hancock acted with rudeness to the President, and who at the table discussed the matter, freely condemning the Governor for his action; Robert Jenkins, who collected the money to buy the chime of bells which hung in the steeple of Christ Church, Boston; Peter R, Livingston, of the family for whom Maverick made several plates; John Lowell, who inserted in the ” Bill of Rights ” the phrase ” all men are born free and equal, ” with the express purpose of suppressing slavery; Joshua Spooner, whose plate must have been intended to convey a pun on the owner’s name, as it shows two doves billing and cooing; Andrew Tyler, a goldsmith of Boston; and the Wentworths of New Hampshire.
Such interest, however, clusters about the name of Paul Revere, the stanch patriot of Massachusetts, that the few book-plates he made are esteemed of the highest importance, ranking in the collector’s regard next to the plate of General Washington. There are four plates which bear the signature of Revere as engraver, and one of them, the Epes Sargent, is quite rare. The others belonged to Gardiner Chandler, David Greene, and William Wetmore, all members of families whose names are well known in Massachusetts, although these individual owners may not themselves have earned enduring fame. There is another plate, bearing the name Paul Revere, which was Revere’s own, and which was in all probability his own handiwork, although it is not signed. This little group of five plates, with one or two others which are sometimes attributed to him, complete the list of known book-plates by this celebrated man. He attained a rough proficiency in the art of engraving on copper, and his bookplates are engraved with more care and finish than were the cartoons and historical scenes from his graver. In connection with the Epes Sargent plate there is an interesting story: For a long time only one copy of this plate was known, and, as it bore the signature of Revere and was considered unique, it was practically above valuation. Early in the year 1895 I had a letter from a portrait painter living in the city of Providence, R.I., asking if the book-plate of Epes Sargent, engraved by Paul Revere, had any value. Realizing at once the importance of the “find,” and feeling that the plate should bring as much as possible, I communicated the news to a book auctioneer of Boston, who, after some correspondence with the writer of the letter of inquiry, bought the two volumes, with the plates in them, for something like thirty-five dollars. The painter, upon this happy conclusion of the matter, wrote me, saying he was pleased to have received so much for the plates, which some years before had cost him ten cents, and which he had bought simply because he admired Copley’s portrait of Revere, and, happening one day in an old bookstore in Boston to come across these two volumes containing examples of the work of Revere, was inclined to own them. One of the plates now adorns the collection of a Boston book-plate enthusiast, while the other, which was put up at auction, brought the handsome sum of seventy-five dollars. This is now owned by a lady collector who has one of the finest collections of really good plates in the country.
But when we have collected all the plates made by Revere or Hurd, the list of notable plates in Massachusetts is by no means exhausted. A few names will be recognized at once as of distinguished per-ons and families. There was John Adams, the sec-md President of the United States; John Quincy Adams, the sixth President; members of the Apthorp family — East Apthorp, the Episcopal divine, who was a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (which itself ad a curious pictorial plate), and who occupied a very elegant house which was dubbed “the palace of one of the humble successors of the Apostles ” ; Joseph Barrell, the rich Boston merchant and pioneer in the northwest coast trade ; Jonathan Belcher, Governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, 1730-1741 ; Hon. James Bowdoin, the benefactor of the college which bears his name ; Stephen Cleveland, whose pictorial plate showing a British man-of-war under full sail is very unusual and very pleasing, and who is said to have received the first commission in the United States Navy; Hector Coffin of Boston, a descendant of old Sir Isaac Coffin, and coming from the Pine Coffin family of England (of so suggestive a name); Richard Cranch, brother-in-law of John Adams, who lived in Braintree; Samuel Dexter, the Secretary of War, and later Secretary of the Treasury; Joseph Dudley, the Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts, whose plate bore the date 1702, and which is the earliest dated plate in America thus far discovered; Jeremiah Dummer, a goldsmith and father of the Governor; Rev. William Emerson, father of Ralph Waldo Emerson; Jeremiah Everts, father of the senator; Edward Everett, scholar and orator; Edward Augustus Holyoke, the eminent physician and surgeon, whose abilities did not fail at an advanced age; John Jeffries, another physician and surgeon, and one who rendered service to the British and was the man who recognized the body of General Warren at the battle of Bunker Hill; Minot, the historian; Timothy Newell, who used an elaborate wood-cut which was printed by Isaiah Thomas, and which represented the patriotic feelings of its owner in the military accoutrements displayed in the ornamentation; Andrew Oliver, eldest son of the famous stamp distributor under Hutchinson, and whose house was mobbed and he himself hung in effigy; James Otis, wrhose daughter Mercy married Jarnes Warren, sometime President of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, and his son of the same name, who was so distinguished an orator and patriot; Sir William Pepperell, grandson of the first Sir William, who assumed his name and was created a baronet Oct. 29, 1774, and whose vast estates were confiscated because of the intense loyalism of the family. This Sir William married Elizabeth Royal and died without leaving heirs, by which means the name became extinct in this country, the family being represented by Sparhawks, Huttons, Tylers, Snows, and others. A granddaughter of Sir William married a Colonel Williams, and upon her death the Colonel consoled himself with a second wife, and she dying before very long, a third consort was taken. The following spicy record of these matrimonial ventures was written by some witty friend:
” Colonel Williams married his first wife, Miss Miriam Tyler, for good sense, and got it; his second wife, Miss Wells, for love and beauty, and had it; and his third wife, Aunt Hannah Dickinson, for good qualities, and got horribly cheated.”
Thomas Handasyd Perkins was a rich merchant of Boston, who used an armorial plate; and, among others whose plates are interesting, on account of the prominence of their owners in one way or another, should be mentioned: Samuel Phillips, founder of the Academy at Andover which bears his name; Josiah Quincy, the Mayor of Boston in whose administration several important public works were completed; Isaac Royall, benefactor of Harvard College (afterwards of Antigua); Thomas O. Selfridge, who killed Charles Austin on State Street in Boston, in 1806, and who was defended at his trial by Samuel Dexter and Christopher Gore, and was acquitted, it being explained by some one that the cause of the dispute in which the two were engaged was owing to a misunderstanding about ” seven roast pigs and ten bushels of green peas.” The real cause was a political disagreement. For a long time this Monday of August was known in Boston as ” Bloody Monday.” James Swan, who was a member of the ” Boston Tea Party,” used an interesting pictorial book-plate which gave a clue to his Scotch descent, and John Barnard Swett of Newburyport used a plate which was full of emblems which no one could mistake, indicating the disciple of AEsculapius. As the early printers of Massachusetts hold a prominent place in the history of the state, the plate of Isaiah Thomas is one that the collector is glad to add to his list.