14. Two Books of Swan-Marks, on Vellum

Two Books of Swan-Marks, on Vellum

 page from 49 2601 v 1                          lwl swan marks vol 2 page 1

by Susan Odell Walker, Head of Public Services, The Lewis Walpole Library

Horace Walpole kept his most highly prized books in the “Glass Closet” in his library at Strawberry Hill. Among the books kept in that special case were “two books of swan-marks, on vellum: extremely rare” (Walpole, Description, 51). These books probably date to the sixteenth century, making them among the oldest in the Lewis Walpole Library’s collection. Neither volume bears any annotations by Walpole, and where Walpole himself obtained the books is unknown. They do not appear in the manuscript catalog of the Library, but Walpole makes of point of mentioning them in both of his editions of the Description of the Villa.

The volumes were sold at the 1842 sale of the contents of Strawberry Hill on day 6, lot 8, to Boone for £8.8.0 for Lord Derby of Knowsley Hall where they remained until they appeared at a Christie’s auction on the 19th October 1953, as lots 98-99. Maggs, the dealer who had prepared the Knowsley auction catalogs, bought the volumes for Lewis at the sale. They were among a couple of large groups of books Lewis acquired at the Knowsley Hall sales, and he resisted subsequent and repeated offers from another collector to buy these two volumes from him. A.R.A Hobson wrote in 1957 about the second volume’s binding, but the contents of both remain unexplored in any detail.binding LWL swan marks vol 2

As W.S. Lewis (1969, lviii) wrote about Walpole’s library, “In the Glass Closet and E were the books that he liked best, his manuscripts and drawings and English antiquities. They had the quality that he valued above all others in his reading: They inspired visions.” Among the treasured items kept in the Glass Closet were antiquarian and genealogical manuscripts, the kinds of materials that appealed to Walpole for their historical associations. The Swan Marks books represent links to the long English tradition of prominent individuals keeping and marking mute swans, a privilege granted by the crown. The Walpole family, like many in Norfolk and the Fens, kept swans in times past, and in the second volume on page 45, row 1, position 3, is a swan mark labeled “Wallpoole.” 
LWL Swan marks v 2 Wallpoole

While Walpole doesn’t mention keeping swans himself, any visions inspired by the swan mark books would have been supported by the prospect from his window at Strawberry Hill where “Swans. . . are continually in view” (Walpole, Correspondence, 25:532).

The marking of the bills of mute swans to signify ownership of those birds found in England’s waterways dates back centuries, and the marks were registered with the crown. Swan marks books, registers, or rolls record the unique markings and owners’ names for identification. The marks themselves would have been cut or branded (MacGregor, 49) into the upper bills of the swans owned by eligible persons. The tradition of “swan upping” and annual census continues today, led by the Queen’s Swan Warden, the Swan Warden of the Worshipful Company of Vintners and that of the Worshipful Company of Dyers, although the birds are now marked with a leg band instead of cuts in the beaks.

A summary of the laws pertaining to marking and owning of swans, corresponding to those appearing in A New Law-dictionary: Containing the Interpretation and Definition of Words and Terms Used in the Law, can be found at the beginning of the second volume of swan marks in the LWL collection:

“No person may have a Swan Mark except he have land to the yearly value of five marks, and unless it be by grant of the King or his officers lawfully authorised or by prescription. Stat 22 Ed 4 c6

LWL Swan marks vol 2 laws

“Swan (cygnus) is a Noble Bird of Game: and a person may prescribe to have game of Swans within his manor as well as a Warren or Park. 7 Rep. 17 18

“A Swan is a Bird Royal, and all white Swans not mark’d, which have gained their natural Liberty, and are Swimming in an Open and common River, may be seized to the use of the King by his Prerogative. But a Subject may have a Property in white Swans not mark’d; as any man may have such Swans in his private Waters into an open and Common River he may retake them: though it is otherwise if they have gained their natural Liberty and Swim in open Rivers–without such Pursuit. Game Law par. 2 p. 152

“Stealing Swans marked and pinion’d or unmarked if kept in a Mote, Pond, or private River and reduced to Tameness, is Felony. HPC 68

“He that steals the Eggs of Swans out of their nests, shall be imprison’d a year & Day, and fined at the King’s pleasure. 11 Hen 7 C17

“Swanherd The King’s Swanherd, magister de ductus cygnorum. Pat. 16 R. 2

“No Fowl can be a Stray, but a Swan. 4 Inst. 280.” (Swan Marks, v. 2)

These passages appear in later cursive script on laid paper bound in before and after the main body of the book (49 2601 vol. 2) which otherwise consists of 67 pages of swan mark designs in black ink within stylized drawings representing swan bills, vertically oriented. Names of owners, written in secretary hand, appear above the marks. 54 pages contain designs, appearing in three rows of five designs per page. The remainder of the pages show the bill drawings without marks, presumably awaiting later additions. A comparison of the marks and names on pages 26 and 27 of this volume correspond precisely to those in the swan mark book in the collection of the British Library (Harley 3405).

BL Harley 3405 ff. 18v-19

BL Harley 3405

LWL 49 2601 v 2 26-27

LWL 49 2601 vol. 2

The first, and smaller Walpole volume (49 2601 vol. 1) includes 30 pages of swan marks in black ink on orange-colored stylized drawings of bills, oriented horizontally, five to a page. There are four pages of manuscript waste bound at the front and back of the volume.

mss binding waste

The first page of swan marks in volume 1 begins with one labeled Rex and one Regina. Subsequent designs are labeled with the names of other notable owners, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Abbot of Waltham, and more, as well as secular individuals.

LWL swan marks vol 1 page 1 page spread LWL swan marks vol 1

A few of the relatively many extant examples of swan mark books are ones that can be found in collections of the British Library, The National Archives (UK), the Royal Society Archives, the Norfolk Record Office, the Bodleian Library, Chetham’s Library, and at the Society of Antiquaries of London. The Society of Antiquaries also holds N.F. Ticehurst’s archive on the history of swan marks.

Interest in books of swan marks and the tradition of swan upping predates Walpole and has continued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to today. Articles, observations, and inquiries about swan marks and swan upping in journals like  Archaeologia and Notes & Queries, as well as in local history publications, are now joined by web pages, blog posts, and images on Pinterest boards.

Bibliography

Bromehead, J.M. “Memoir on the Regulations Anciently Prescribed in Regard to Swans,” in Memoirs Illustrative of the History and Antiquities of the County and City of Lincoln: Communicated to the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Held at Lincoln, July, 1848, with a General Report of the Proceedings of the Meeting, and a Catalogue of the Museum Formed on that Occasion, Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 296-305. Lincolnshire: Office of the Institute, 1850.

Hobson, A.R.A. “Note 291. Bindings with the Device of a Pelican in its Piety.” Book Collector. Winter 1967. 16: 509-10.

Jacob, Giles, and John Holt. A New Law-Dictionary: Containing the Interpretation and Definition of Words and Terms Used in the Law …. London: Printed by H. Lintot (Assignee of Edward Sayer, Esq.), for R. Ware, A. Ward, J. and P. Knapton, 1744.

Lewis, Wilmarth Sheldon. “Horace Walpole’s Library.” In A Catalogue of Horace Walpole’s Library, by Allen T. Hazen. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969.

MacGregor Arthur. “Swan Rolls and beak markings. Husbandry, Exploitation and Regulation of Cygnus olor in England, c. 1100-1900”. Anthropozoologica, 22: 39-68.

Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.“Memoir on the Regulations Anciently Prescribed in regard to Swans.” In Memoirs Illustrative of the History and Antiquities of the County and City of Lincoln: Communicated to the Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Held at Lincoln, July, 1848, with a General Report of the Proceedings of the Meeting, and a Catalogue of the Museum Formed on that Occasion, 296-310. Lincolnshire: Office of the Institute, 1850.

Walpole, Horace. A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole, Youngest Son of Sir Robert Walpole Earl of Orford, At Strawberry-hill, Near Twickenham: With an Inventory of the Furniture, Pictures, Curiosities, &c. Strawberry Hill: Printed by Thomas Kirgate, 1774-[1786].

———. “Letter to Horace Mann, Thursday, 30 September 1784.” The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, edited by Wilmarth S. Lewis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937-1983. 25.

2. Pedigree showing descent of Lord and Lady Pomfret from King Edward I, circa 1750

From a Gothic Villa to a Gothic Pineapple?

by Peter N. Lindfield, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Stirling

Horace Walpole (1717–97), son of Sir Robert Walpole, first Earl of Orford and Britain’s first ‘Prime Minister’, was a prolific Georgian letter writer, art historian, aesthetician and wholehearted supporter of what he termed ‘venerable barbarism’ (HW Corr. 20, 372)—Gothic design. Creating his own ancestral seat in the Gothic style from 1748, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, Walpole was at the forefront of a select antiquarian subset of the broader mid-Georgian movement to domesticate medieval architecture and architectural forms and to make them fit for polite Georgian society. The Lewis Walpole Library (LWL), given its peerless collection of Walpole’s printed and manuscript material, together with objects and furniture from Strawberry Hill, is a fundamental research library for anyone working upon Walpole, his villa, the Gothic Revival, and almost any aspect of eighteenth-century life that Walpole engaged with.

The LWL has numerous other cognate gems, not least the Pomfret Pedigree (Quarto 498 P77 MS) —a pedigree tracing the lineage of Henrietta Maria, Countess of Pomfret, and her husband, the Earl of Pomfret, back to the two wives of Edward I. Made in 1750 in the style of a richly illuminated manuscript, with a pineapple plant—a derivative of the family name—supporting their ancestors’ arms, the document illustrates how Gothic design was

interpreted and harnessed by competing Gothicists. Courtesy of this manuscript, which Walpole knew and wrote about to Sir Horace Mann on 1 September 1750 (HW Corr. 20, 180–81), the Countess emerges as an even more connoisseurial supporter of the medieval beyond the creation of a Gothic cabinet (c.1752–53) for the family seat at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, and her London town house, Pomfret Castle, Arlington Street, London (1755–61) (Lindfield, 2014). The LWL collection is quite remarkable and replete with equally important manuscripts that propel our understanding and examination of Britain’s Georgian architectural, intellectual, social, and material past.

Bibliography

 MS

Farmington, Lewis Walpole Library, Quarto 498 P77 MS.

Secondary Sources

Lindfield, Peter N. ‘The Countess of Pomfret’s Gothic Revival Furniture’. The Georgian Group Journal XXII, 2014: 77–94.

Walpole, Horace. The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, edited by W.S. Lewis et al. 48 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1937–83.

1. Drawings and designs by Richd. Bentley, only son of Dr. Bentley, Master of Trinity-College, Cambridge

Choice 5*: Richard Bentley’s Drawings for Strawberry Hill

by Wilmarth S. Lewis

W.S. Lewis wrote Rescuing Horace Walpole in 1978, the result of a fantasy he described in the beginning of that book:

The Fantasy

Two years ago the Almighty called me into His office and said, ‘I am going to destroy every object in your house except one, and you have twenty minutes to choose it.”

I replied, “Lord, I don’t need twenty seconds. I’ll take Bentley’s Drawings and Designs for Strawberry Hill.”

The Almighty nodded solemnly. “For that answer you may save twenty-five more objects.” After a pause He added, “You seem a little dazed, but I know you’re not very good at arithmetic.” In a louder voice He explained, “Twenty-five and one make twenty-six, and what I’m telling you is you may save twenty-six objects.” He paused to see if I understood. Then he continued, “I don’t care what they are–books, manuscripts, pictures, furniture–anything you like.”

I managed to say, “Sir, I hope I may have more time to choose them.”

“How much time do you want?”

“At least a year.”

“A year!” His voice was terrible.

“I think, Sir, I can make the choices fairly quickly, but I would like to write them up as I go along.”

And that’s the end of the fantasy and the beginning of this book.

___________________

Lewis began his chapter on Richard Bentley’s Drawings for Strawberry Hill by reminding us that “This is the book that the Almighty agreed is the most important object in my house.” Lewis purchased the album of drawings in May,1926.

“The drawings are pasted in a calf-bound folio scrapbook with gray leaves. Walpole probably did the pasting himself; certainly he had the title-page printed at the Strawberry Hill Press, the sole copy known.”

“It is mentioned in the first Common Place Book…’I have a large book of [Bentley’s] drawings,’ Walpole wrote, ‘and his original designs for Mr Gray’s poems…. He drew the ceiling of the Library at Strawberry Hill, designed the lanthorn, staircase, north front, and most of the chimney-pieces there; and other ornaments.” Walpole annotated many of the drawings, stating if they were not executed; Bentley initialed a few and gave some dimensions. Thirty of the drawings are for Strawberry Hill, fifty are for other buildings and objects.” (p.53)

“Why do I value Bentley’s drawings and designs for Strawberry Hill so highly? It is because of their primary importance in the Gothic Revival and the light they throw on Walpole himself.” (p. 57)

Click here to read Lewis’s entire chapter on Richard Bentley’s Drawings for Strawberry Hill.

Mentioned in: first Common Place Book(49 2616 I)

Bibliography:

Bentley, Richard. Drawings and designs by Richd. Bentley, only son of Dr. Bentley, Master of Trinity-College, Cambridge. [Strawberry Hill, ca. 1760]

Lewis, Wilmarth S. Rescuing Horace Walpole. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.

To see the cover, title page, “Fantasy” and “Problem” from Rescuing Horace Walpole, download or expand the link here: 

To see the full chapter from Rescuing Horace Walpole called “Choice 5*: Richard Bentley’s Drawings for Strawberry Hill,” download or expand the link here: 

*Lewis explains in his preface, “The order in which the Choices of Rescuing Horace Walpole will appear follows Walpole’s life more or less chronologically and is not the order of my preference for them.” (p. 11)