H Blairman and Sons

Bookcase

Designer / Maker

Designed by William Beckford (1760-1844)

and Henry Goodridge (1797-1864)

The manufacture attributed to Robert Hume Snr

Detail

Oak, parcel-gilt

224 x 92.5 x 40.6 cm

English (London), circa 1824

Provenance

William Beckford; Messrs English & Son, 20, Lansdown Crescent, Bath,

24 July 1848, and 8 following days, day 6, lot 99

Notes

Bet McLeod has identified several letters from the cabinet-maker Robert Hume (the dates of whose partnership with his son, also Robert, are uncertain) relating to the manufacture of bookcases. For example, on 16 September 1824 he wrote: ‘For the 2 Oak bookcases we have all the mouldings prepared ... if you will be pleased to decide the width ... and depth I will put them in hand immediately’ (Bodleian Library, MS Beckford, c. 22, f. 52). On 20 November 1824 Hume wrote: ‘The 4 Bookshelves for the gallery will be finished next week and by Xmas the two bookcases.’ (Bodleian Library, MS Beckford, c. 22, f. 53).

Beckford moved to Lansdown Crescent following the 1822 sale at Fonthill Abbey; see Sidney Blackmore, ‘The Bath Years: 1822–44’ in Derek Ostergard (ed.), William Beckford 1760–1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, New Haven & London, 2002, pp. 263–77.

The bookcase, sold from the Back Parlour, would seem to be one from the ‘pair of Riga oak bookcases, of elegant design, 3 feet wide and 7 feet 4 high, enclosed by single doors, in the upper parts of which are plates of glass, the lower parts panelled, with Latimer cross and cinquefoil ornaments, and carved cornice.’ The use of oak, set off with gilt mouldings is a frequent feature on Beckford’s furniture from the post-Fonthill Abbey period; see, for example, H. Blairman & Sons, Furniture & Works of Art, 2003 (no. 6), 2004 (no. 5) and 2007 (no. 7).

As with so much of Beckford’s specially commissioned furniture, the principal decoration comprises reminders of his heraldic emblems, in the form of the Latimer Cross and cinquefoils (here restored). Another, wider bookcase from Lansdown Crescent is in a private collection; see Ostergard, op. cit., fig. 15–6.

A full report by Bet McLeod is available on request.

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