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La Femme Bibliophile
Female Book Collectors
in An Age of Bibliomania
Title page of The bibliomania : or, Book-
madness; containing some account of the
history, symptoms and cure of this fatal
disease, in an epistle addressed to Richard
Heber, esq. / By Thomas Frognall Dibdin, F.S.A.
1809. Source:
http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/pwp/browse.php
?p=001
"Bibliomania is the term of Art
used for the particular
phenomenon of the late
18th century to the early 19th in
which very rich men spent
unfeasibly large sums
of money on books which they
had no interest in reading“
Caroline Murray, ‘Bibliomania’,
Cambridge Library Collection
Blog, 2013
1775-1830 – The Age of Bibliomania
Portrait of Sophia
Banks by Nathaniel
Hone I Source:
National Gallery of
Ireland.
Male Collectors:
• Formed homosocial groups
• Eroticised their books by
comparing them to women
or binding them in women’s
clothing
• Positioned books against
women
Women as collectors
Female Collectors:
• Were seen to collect
decoratively, sentimentally,
not understanding the true
value of what they had
• Had their collections
subsumed into the contents
of the household
• Were excluded from
institutions and social
groups
"The New Woman may develop
into a genuine book-lover; it
is certain that the old one will
not. The Chinese article of
belief that women have no
souls has, after all, something
in its favour."
W. Roberts The Book Hunter in
London
William Roberts – Foremost Expert on Female Collectors?
Front cover of The Book Hunter in London / by
Williams Roberts 1895. Source:
https://www.adelaide.edu.au/library/special/min
or/hague/
"You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you,—and full as much heart!"
- Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre
The Femme Bibliophiles
Frances Mary
Currer
Richardson
(1785 -1861)
Portrait by John James
Masquerier. 1807. Source:
North Craven Building
Preservation Trust.
Lady Frances
Vernon Harcourt
(1805-1872)
Portrait by Henry Collen. 1839.
Source: Artnet
Lady Sydney
Morgan
(1778-1859)
Portrait by René Théodore
Berthon. Source: National
Gallery of Ireland.
?
Miss Margaret
Bothwell
Drummond
(1795-1862)
David Pearson’s Framework for Studying Private Libraries
Contents
Acquisition
Design and Storage
Motivations
Destruction and Loss
Subject Percentage of
Collection
Religion 3%
Jurisprudence 1%
Philosophy
(Including Science)
9%
Arts 3%
History (including
Geography)
43%
Literature 41%
Physical Feature Number of
Books
On Large Paper 75
In Black Letter 3
Proofs on Normal Paper 2
Proofs on India Paper 17
Manuscripts 28
Language Make-Up of
MBD's Collection
Latin
French
English
Spanish
Italian
German
Chinese
Location PrintedEngland
Scotland
France
Ireland
Italy
Other European
Locations
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
Non-Dated 16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century
Date Printed
Miss Margaret Bothwell Drummond (1795-1862)
Lady Frances Vernon Harcourt(1805-1872)
Subject Percentage of
Collection
Religion 8%
Jurisprudence 0%
Philosophy
(Including Science)
18%
Arts 12%
History (including
Geography)
44%
Literature 17%
Physical Feature Number
of Books
On Large Paper 3
In Black Letter 0
Proofs on Normal Paper 0
Proofs on India Paper 4
Manuscripts 0
Location Printed
England
Scotland
France
Germany
Italy
Other European
Locations
Outside of Europe
0
20
40
60
80
Non-Dated 16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century
Date Printed
Language Make-Up of FVH's
Collection Latin
French
English
German
Italian
Lady Sydney Morgan 1778-1859
Subject Percentage of
Collection
Religion 3%
Jurisprudence 1%
Philosophy
(Including Science)
9%
Arts 3%
History (including
Geography)
43%
Literature 41%
Physical Feature Number
of Books
On Large Paper 4
In Black Letter 0
Proofs on Normal Paper 0
Proofs on India Paper 1
Manuscripts 1
Language Make-Up of SM's
Collection
Latin
French
English
Greek
Italian
German
0
20
40
60
80
Non-Dated 16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century
Date Printed
Location Printed
England
Scotland
France
Ireland
Italy
"Oh the happy, splendid and
spiritual hours I have passed
with this book in my hands-with
Him beside me - and all that
was sublime in nature and art
around me. Alas, alas! &c. 1845,
Sept. 3d.“
-- Annotation in Lady Morgan’s
copy of Itinerario Istruttivo di
Roma, 1819.
Lady Sydney Morgan 1778-1859
Frances Mary Richardson Currer1785-1861
Subject Percentage of
Collection
Religion 14%
Jurisprudence 2%
Philosophy
(Including Science)
8%
Arts 4%
History (including
Geography)
45%
Literature 28%
Physical Feature Number
of Books
On Large Paper 301
In Black Letter 84
Proofs on Normal Paper 50
Proofs on India Paper 17
Manuscripts 23
Language Make-Up of
FMRC's Collection
Latin
French
English
Spanish
Italian
Other 0
20
40
60
80
Non-Dated 15th Century 16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century
Date Printed
Location Printed
England
Scotland
France
Germany
The Netherlands
Other European
Locations
Frances Mary Richardson Currer1785-1861
Currer’s Bookplate. Source:
http://anguslibraryandarchive.blog
spot.co.uk/2012/06/leading-
female-book-collector.html
Lithograph of the Library at Eshton Hall.
Source: A Catalogue of the Library
Collected by Miss Richardson Currer at
Eshton Hall / by Charles James Stewart
and Frances Mary Richardson Currer.
1833.
Photos of the same room today. Source:
http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-
sale/property-31438870.html> [Accessed
1st of July 2014].
• [regarding books in the Heber sale]"most valuable to many
Bibliomaniacs, but not much in my style of books"
• "Moderate notoriety is by no means desirable for a woman"
• [in response to Dibdin's request for her portrait for his
Reminiscences] "I don't doubt the Book will be an amusing one -
and to have the Portraits of Gentlemen in it is very proper, but I
don't think it would be pleasant for me to be in the Gallery - the
only Lady- so very conspicuous!"
• " I must feel flattered by all you are pleased to say of me, though I
am perfectly sincere when I tell you I had rather it had been less
laudatory - I feel I don't deserve it & I fear others will be of the same
opinion. The more Euphemia keeps her veil down, the better, or she
may chance to be laughed at.“
• "with regard to me I have no objection to the dedication - I have
only one request of matter & that is that as little may be said as
possible - to do otherwise would only bring evidence to ill natured
remarks upon me."
Frances Mary Richardson Currer1785-1861
What Did I Learn?
• Female book collectors of this
period are interesting.
• Collect one thing, collect lots of
things.
• The display’s the thing.
• Family is important.
• It’s not what you know, it’s who.
Where do we go from here?
• Further research into the listed
collectors
• Digitally reconstructing Currer’s
library
• Subscription publishing
• Book collecting amongst more
typical women
Questions?
lucysaintsmith@gmail.com
@LucySaintSmith
Questions?
lucysaintsmith@gmail.com
@LucySaintSmith
Questions?
lucysaintsmith@gmail.com
@LucySaintSmith

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La Femme Bibliophile: Female book collectors in an age of bibliomania - Lucy Saint-Smith

  • 1. La Femme Bibliophile Female Book Collectors in An Age of Bibliomania
  • 2. Title page of The bibliomania : or, Book- madness; containing some account of the history, symptoms and cure of this fatal disease, in an epistle addressed to Richard Heber, esq. / By Thomas Frognall Dibdin, F.S.A. 1809. Source: http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/pwp/browse.php ?p=001 "Bibliomania is the term of Art used for the particular phenomenon of the late 18th century to the early 19th in which very rich men spent unfeasibly large sums of money on books which they had no interest in reading“ Caroline Murray, ‘Bibliomania’, Cambridge Library Collection Blog, 2013 1775-1830 – The Age of Bibliomania
  • 3. Portrait of Sophia Banks by Nathaniel Hone I Source: National Gallery of Ireland. Male Collectors: • Formed homosocial groups • Eroticised their books by comparing them to women or binding them in women’s clothing • Positioned books against women Women as collectors Female Collectors: • Were seen to collect decoratively, sentimentally, not understanding the true value of what they had • Had their collections subsumed into the contents of the household • Were excluded from institutions and social groups
  • 4. "The New Woman may develop into a genuine book-lover; it is certain that the old one will not. The Chinese article of belief that women have no souls has, after all, something in its favour." W. Roberts The Book Hunter in London William Roberts – Foremost Expert on Female Collectors? Front cover of The Book Hunter in London / by Williams Roberts 1895. Source: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/library/special/min or/hague/
  • 5. "You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you,—and full as much heart!" - Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre The Femme Bibliophiles Frances Mary Currer Richardson (1785 -1861) Portrait by John James Masquerier. 1807. Source: North Craven Building Preservation Trust. Lady Frances Vernon Harcourt (1805-1872) Portrait by Henry Collen. 1839. Source: Artnet Lady Sydney Morgan (1778-1859) Portrait by René Théodore Berthon. Source: National Gallery of Ireland. ? Miss Margaret Bothwell Drummond (1795-1862)
  • 6. David Pearson’s Framework for Studying Private Libraries Contents Acquisition Design and Storage Motivations Destruction and Loss
  • 7. Subject Percentage of Collection Religion 3% Jurisprudence 1% Philosophy (Including Science) 9% Arts 3% History (including Geography) 43% Literature 41% Physical Feature Number of Books On Large Paper 75 In Black Letter 3 Proofs on Normal Paper 2 Proofs on India Paper 17 Manuscripts 28 Language Make-Up of MBD's Collection Latin French English Spanish Italian German Chinese Location PrintedEngland Scotland France Ireland Italy Other European Locations 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Non-Dated 16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century Date Printed Miss Margaret Bothwell Drummond (1795-1862)
  • 8. Lady Frances Vernon Harcourt(1805-1872) Subject Percentage of Collection Religion 8% Jurisprudence 0% Philosophy (Including Science) 18% Arts 12% History (including Geography) 44% Literature 17% Physical Feature Number of Books On Large Paper 3 In Black Letter 0 Proofs on Normal Paper 0 Proofs on India Paper 4 Manuscripts 0 Location Printed England Scotland France Germany Italy Other European Locations Outside of Europe 0 20 40 60 80 Non-Dated 16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century Date Printed Language Make-Up of FVH's Collection Latin French English German Italian
  • 9. Lady Sydney Morgan 1778-1859 Subject Percentage of Collection Religion 3% Jurisprudence 1% Philosophy (Including Science) 9% Arts 3% History (including Geography) 43% Literature 41% Physical Feature Number of Books On Large Paper 4 In Black Letter 0 Proofs on Normal Paper 0 Proofs on India Paper 1 Manuscripts 1 Language Make-Up of SM's Collection Latin French English Greek Italian German 0 20 40 60 80 Non-Dated 16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century Date Printed Location Printed England Scotland France Ireland Italy
  • 10. "Oh the happy, splendid and spiritual hours I have passed with this book in my hands-with Him beside me - and all that was sublime in nature and art around me. Alas, alas! &c. 1845, Sept. 3d.“ -- Annotation in Lady Morgan’s copy of Itinerario Istruttivo di Roma, 1819. Lady Sydney Morgan 1778-1859
  • 11. Frances Mary Richardson Currer1785-1861 Subject Percentage of Collection Religion 14% Jurisprudence 2% Philosophy (Including Science) 8% Arts 4% History (including Geography) 45% Literature 28% Physical Feature Number of Books On Large Paper 301 In Black Letter 84 Proofs on Normal Paper 50 Proofs on India Paper 17 Manuscripts 23 Language Make-Up of FMRC's Collection Latin French English Spanish Italian Other 0 20 40 60 80 Non-Dated 15th Century 16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century Date Printed Location Printed England Scotland France Germany The Netherlands Other European Locations
  • 12. Frances Mary Richardson Currer1785-1861 Currer’s Bookplate. Source: http://anguslibraryandarchive.blog spot.co.uk/2012/06/leading- female-book-collector.html Lithograph of the Library at Eshton Hall. Source: A Catalogue of the Library Collected by Miss Richardson Currer at Eshton Hall / by Charles James Stewart and Frances Mary Richardson Currer. 1833. Photos of the same room today. Source: http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for- sale/property-31438870.html> [Accessed 1st of July 2014].
  • 13. • [regarding books in the Heber sale]"most valuable to many Bibliomaniacs, but not much in my style of books" • "Moderate notoriety is by no means desirable for a woman" • [in response to Dibdin's request for her portrait for his Reminiscences] "I don't doubt the Book will be an amusing one - and to have the Portraits of Gentlemen in it is very proper, but I don't think it would be pleasant for me to be in the Gallery - the only Lady- so very conspicuous!" • " I must feel flattered by all you are pleased to say of me, though I am perfectly sincere when I tell you I had rather it had been less laudatory - I feel I don't deserve it & I fear others will be of the same opinion. The more Euphemia keeps her veil down, the better, or she may chance to be laughed at.“ • "with regard to me I have no objection to the dedication - I have only one request of matter & that is that as little may be said as possible - to do otherwise would only bring evidence to ill natured remarks upon me." Frances Mary Richardson Currer1785-1861
  • 14. What Did I Learn? • Female book collectors of this period are interesting. • Collect one thing, collect lots of things. • The display’s the thing. • Family is important. • It’s not what you know, it’s who.
  • 15. Where do we go from here? • Further research into the listed collectors • Digitally reconstructing Currer’s library • Subscription publishing • Book collecting amongst more typical women