Who owned me? – rare book provenances

Inscription from Hunterian Bo.3.5

The latest display in the foyer of the Special Collections Department features four items from our collections with a notable provenance or ownership history.

We are always interested in discovering the provenance of the books in our care in order to establish their history prior to arriving in Special Collections.

We can do this by studying the book for evidence of autographs, handwritten notes and stamped bindings. This can help us to trace how copies of books have changed ownership over the years, and how different generations of readers may have used them.

Famous figures from the past who have previously owned our books include the explorer David Livingstone, the writer Oscar Wilde and the physicist Marie Curie. A web exhibition looking at some of these books in more detail is currently in preparation. In the meantime, the four volumes now on display, previously belonging to the novelist Charles Dickens, the courtier Madame de Pompadour, the writer Jonathan Swift and the royal tutor Roger Ascham, give a good idea of the fascinating ownership history of many of the books now in our collections.

Title page of Hunterian Bo.3.5

Title page of Hunterian Bo.3.5

The images shown here are from a six-volume set of his works presented by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) to his friend Richard Mead (1673-1754). His presentation inscription is written on the flyleaf of the first volume. Mead was a physician and renowned collector of books and art. The posthumous auction of his books in 1754-5 was a great event; it was attended by William Hunter who acquired many volumes now in the University of Glasgow Library.

Come and see our display any time the Special Collections department is open.



Categories: Special Collections

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