When looking to identify a book as one’s own, the discerning bibliophile will opt for a book plate. Book plates range from lighthearted and fanciful to historic and dignified.

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Book plate including family arms of the Fifth Earl of Lonsdale.

Here at NSLM, we have thousands of books with the plates of collectors past. Many enshrine the book owner’s love of turf and field sports.

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Book Plate of Harry Worcester Smith.

Book plates have been considered collectible items since the 1950s, with whole organizations devoted to the collecting of plates. We recently came across a collection of draft book plate designs by Robert Ball. Ball’s completed book plates are gorgeous, contemplative pieces, and many of the rough drafts in the book are sketched out on wax paper.

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Finalized book plate in memory of Frederick Sprague Barbour for The Norfolk Library.

 

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A copper plate of a draft book plate for Jerome Marks Rich. Mr. Rich rejected this design and the plate was sold in 1970.
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Positive draft book plate for Jerome Marks Rich.
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Robert Ball drafted a book plate for Henry Ford. This pencil sketch is on wax-lined tissue paper.
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A draft book plate for the NSLM? We were surprised to stumble across this piece. To our knowledge, the plate was never completed and NSLM has no books with the plate.

More to come as we see if we can research the history of the NSLM book plate by Robert Ball. It would be wonderful if we could identify a completed version!

Thank you to all our readers for a great 2016! Staff will be out of office next week for holidays, and we’ll update the blog again on our new Tuesday schedule beginning January 3.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

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This year, the NSLM is fortunate to have received numerous gifts of art from several generous donors. One such gift is a rare set of 22 hand-colored aquatints from 1807 and 1808, Orme’s Collection of British Field Sports: Illustrated in Twenty Beautifully Coloured Engravings from Designs by S. Howitt – an impressively long name for an impressive set of works on paper. Published by Edward Orme of London (who proudly labeled himself as “Printseller to the King”)  the series features scenes of hunting, shooting, and racing. The works were recently donated to the NSLM by George and Susan Matelich and Family.

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(after) W. M. Craig (English, c. 1765-c.1834), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Orme’s Collection of British Field Sports: Illustrated in Twenty Beautifully coloured Engravings from Designs by S. Howitt (Title Page), Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, image: 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.01)

Originally housed in a large folio case, the prints are now framed individually. Yet all 20 plates, plus the title page, list of plates, and the original illustrated folio cover are still together. Oftentimes, these types of works are broken up and sold separately, never to be reunited. Full sets are rare.  Another complete set that is still bound as a folio can be found in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art.

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822) Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Horse Racing Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.04)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Horse Racing, Published by Edward Orme, January 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.04)

Samuel Howitt was an artist known for his images of hunting, animals, and equestrian scenes. This set includes some of his best works and was a prized collection piece. Often described as a highly important set of English sporting images, these prints are excellent examples of the popular sporting art being produced at the beginning of the 19th century.

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822) Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800-c.1820) Stag Hunting 1 Published by Edward Orme, March 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.07)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by James Godby (English, active 1790-1820) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800-c.1820), Stag Hunting 1, Published by Edward Orme, March 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.07)

The engravings are titled in both English and French. They are in excellent condition, with colors that are still vibrant – no small feat for fragile works on paper that are 210 years old. Deep reds and blues are usually the first to fade.

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Detail of Stag Hunting 1, showing the fine condition of the blue and red colors

Each are numbered and feature the name of the artist, printmaker, and engraver in small script along the bottom edge.

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“Sam’l Howitt del.”

For those of you who have prints hanging on your walls at home and have wondered what the abbreviations stand for, here is a quick Latin lesson:
del. is short for delineavit, meaning  “Drawn By”
excudit means “Printed by” or “Published by”
sculp. or sculpt. is short for sculpsit, which means “Engraved by”

(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Shooters Going Out in a Morning Published by Edward Orme, March 25, 1808 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.03)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Shooters Going Out in a Morning, Published by Edward Orme, March 25, 1808, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.03)

The List of Plates includes a charming image of a hare. The same hare can be found in the collection of the British Museum in London.

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(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by J. Swaine (English, 1775-1860), Hare, Published by Edward Orme, March 9, 1808, 24 x 32 cm, British Museum, Donated by Nan Ino Cooper, Baroness Lucas of Crudwell and Lady Dingwall, In Memory of Auberon Thomas Herbert, 9th Baron Lucas of Crudwell and 5th Lord Dingwall, 1917 (1917,1208.3170)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820) Pheasant Shooting 1 Published by Edward Orme, June 1, 1807 hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.13)
(after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1765-1822), Engraved by John Clark (English, active 1775-1825) and Henri Merke (Swiss, active c.1800 – c.1820), Pheasant Shooting 1, Published by Edward Orme, June 1, 1807, hand-colored aquatint, 13 ¼ x 17 ⅜ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George & Susan Matelich and Family, 2016 (2016.04.13)

These works are now part of the growing collection of prints and drawings in the NSLM art collection and we look forward to putting them on view soon. You can see other works on paper from the permanent collection in the special exhibition Picturing English Pastimes: Sporting Prints at the NSLM, currently on view in the Museum. Curated by visiting John H. Daniels Fellow Jennifer Strotz, this installation of late 18th and early 19th century prints focuses on the British print market and equestrian subjects.


Nicole Stribling is CuNicole Stribling is Curator of Permanent Collections at the NSLM. She has worked at the NSLM since December 2012. As Curator of Permanent Collections, she catalogs and cares for the fine art collections and manages the registrar duties for the collection and loans, coordinating packing, shipping, and insurance arrangements. Prior to the NSLM, Nicole worked at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, in the American and British Paintings Department and in the Exhibitions Department. She earned her BA in Art History from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and is currently pursuing her MA in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University.rator of Permanent Collections at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM). She catalogs and cares for the art collection, which includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and decorative arts ranging from the 17th through 21st centuries. Have a question about the NSLM collections? Contact Nicole by email.

Occasionally, the connections of the sporting world are documented in “ephemera,” the fancy archival word for “paper-based miscellany.” This week, while finishing up our reprocessing of foxhunting books, we happened across a copy of Letters from an Old Sportsman to a Young One by A. Henry Higginson.

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“Gun Metal, A. Henry Higginson up. December 1, 1913.” National Sporting Library & Museum, A. Henry Higginson Scrapbook Collection (MC0012), Middlesex Hounds Photographs, 1909-1914.

Higginson was an influential foxhunting gentleman in his day, serving as president of MFHA from 1915 to 1930. He also wrote several books on foxhunting. In 1934 he took up residence in England, where he spent the rest of his life.

Our copy of Letters from an Old Sportsman was owned by Lester Karow.

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Copy owned by Lester Karow, 1929.

Lester Karow was one of the four founders of the National Sporting Library & Museum. Originally from Savanah, Georgia, he spent much of his time in Virginia.

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“Lester Karow, undated photograph.” Photograph courtesy of Charles Mackall, Karow’s nephew.

Pasted into the front endpapers is a clipping of Karow’s comments on the book from a 1942 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.

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Higginson, on seeing this, took the time to write a letter of thanks to Karow. The letter is also pasted onto the endpapers of the book.

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letter2

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It’s fitting: a letter from an old sportsman to a young one. And we can read it today because Karow donated it to our Library in 1957, shortly before Higginson died in 1958.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail