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Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Hustler's Bookplate


Here is the bookplate of James Hustler. More precisely, James Hustler of Acklam in Cleveland in the North Riding of the County of York, Esq. The bookplate is dated 1730, which I think makes it the oldest in my small collection.



It's affixed to the backside, or verso, of the title page of a slim 51-page volume, sans covers, titled A Sermon Preached Before the Learned Society of Lincoln's-Inn. The title page allows that the sermon was preached on January 30, 1732, by a Layman. The price of the book was one shilling.

All that's left of the book's binding is the spine--a thin strip of cracked leather, with remnants of gilt and raised bands, clinging tightly to the leaves by antique threads (I wish the covers' hinges could have boasted the same durability!). But the ex libris of the distinguished Hustler fares well almost a score shy of three centuries.

Jose Vicente de Braganca has already written about Hustler and this bookplate on his blog Ex Libris//Bookplates. I'll add that Hustler was High Sheriff of Yorkshire, the earliest year of service on record being 1736. He didn't live much past 1739, the male line of the family expiring with him. (Source: The Topographer and Genealogist, Vol. 1, 1846)

de Braganca refers to another Hustler bookplate with the same inscription, but in Jacobean style. I wouldn't know Jacobean from L.L. Bean, but I can see the differences between the two bookplates. I'm unclear if Jacobean refers to the typeface of the inscription or the overall design of the bookplate.

I'm borrowing a copy of de Braganca's Hustler ex libris to display alongside my copy so the differences between the two may be more apparent. I am no scholar of ex libris, as is de Braganca, so I'll refrain from attempting to describe what I see. I urge anyone interested to visit the de Braganca post to learn more.

My copy top - de Braganca's copy bottom

What the two versions have in common are the dog, birds, the three fleur-de-lis, and the inscription. The inscription is positioned in a slightly different manner, but the same words are all there. What's different is what is missing on each. My copy includes a shell-like emblem just above the inscription; de Braganca's copy does not. And de Braganca's copy includes, just below the dog, the head gear of a suit of armor; my copy does not. Both copies include a decorative border, but they are noticeably different.

The book that bears James Hustler's ex libris infers that James Hustler belonged to the Society of Lincoln's Inn, one of the Inns of Court in London where barristers of England and Wales belong when they are called to the bar. This historic Inn of Court traces its history through official records back to 1422. Armorial bearings decorate, as well as commemorate, past members of the society. There's no mention of James Hustler on the society's Web site, but I have to think his would be included.

Some of the society's better-known members are mentioned on the Wikipedia entry on Lincoln's Inn
Names famous in the law naturally feature among its benchers and members, such as Sir Matthew Hale and Lord Mansfield, Chief Justices of the King's Bench in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries or, more recently, Lord Denning, but it has also served as a training ground for those whose achievements were in other fields. Fifteen Prime Ministers, from William Pitt to Tony Blair, have been benchers. In about 1979, a portrait of several members of the Inn, including Margaret Thatcher and Lord Hailsham, who at the time each held one of the great offices of state or high judicial office, was commissioned and is on display in the Inn. The names of the novelists Charles Reade, Charles Kingsley, Wilkie Collins, Rider Haggard, and John Galsworthy are all found in the membership records. The poet and preacher John Donne was Preacher to the Society and laid the foundation stone of the present Chapel, built in 1623. Thomas More, the author, humanist scholar and statesman, was admitted as a student in 1496 and went on to become a bencher of the Inn.
James Hustler is in some pretty impressive company. The mention of John Donne being Preacher to the Society prompted a quick check of his life span to see if he could have been the preacher at the time of the sermon that comprises my book with the Hustler bookplate. No such luck, Donne died in 1631. But I did find a list of Preachers of Lincoln's Inn, a clerical office in the Church of England, whose past members include, in addition to Donne, William Warburton, Henry Wace, Derek Watson, and Edward Maltby. Of these four, William Warburton fits the timeframe for having preached at Lincoln's Inn at the time of the book's publication.

Although the author of the sermon is indicated as a Layman, sometimes there was a reason for anonymity. The National Library of Australia has a copy of the sermon that credits Thomas Gordon as the author (Cato's Letters).

So amid some uncertainty over the sermon's author, there's little doubt that James Hustler owned a copy of it and his bookplate is all the proof necessary for that conclusion.

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