Last spring or summer, I bought a batch of bookplates and one item stood out among the rest--an engraving of William Hogarth's crest. I started to write about it here, but got stumped and set it aside for later.
Later has arrived, but I'm still somewhat stumped.
The look and feel of this item, the Latin abbreviations, the engraver--all these things required a bit of thought and research, some of which I presented to Lew Jaffe, the Bookplate Junkie, to see if he could shed any light on what exactly I had. He couldn't, except to say with certainty that it was not a bookplate.
So what kind of paper item, ephemeral or otherwise, have I got here? Is it even book-related (a negative would exclude a post about it here)? And how did it get mixed in with the bookplates? It certainly looks like a bookplate at first glance. Some of what follows is from what I wrote to Mr. Jaffe. I've added some history discovered since that correspondence.
I've learned some of the Latin abbreviations used for old engravings, such as Inv after Hogarth's name. It relates to designed. The Fect after Barlow's name denotes made by. So it appears this is a Hogarth design for which Barlow created an engraving.
Hogarth lived from 1697-1764. He is well-remembered and revered as a painter, designer and printmaker. His work is highly collectible, originals being museum pieces. Many prints, books, and references about him can be found on the Internet.
The crest with the word Cyprus in the cone design was designed in 1782, by Richard Livesay, according to information found in an 1883 Hogarth biography by Austin Dobson, via online archives at this site.
Dobson describes the same crest I have:
It consists of a scroll-work design enclosing the word Cyprus, and surmounted by the Cyprian cone. Beneath, on a ribbon, is the word Variety.
Ah, but it's Barlow's name on the engraving as the engraver. Barlow was also a bookplate designer, which led me to believe this might be an ex libris.
But I can't find out much about Barlow or when and where he lived. I have found references to a 1791 book with his engraved plates in them. Also, in the book, English Furniture Designers of the Eighteenth Century, by Constance Simons (1905), J. Barlow is listed with others as having worked for Thomas Sheraton, cabinetmaker and upholsterer. Barlow and several others are singled out as also having been bookplate designers. I'm not sure how those two occupations connect, but he was with Sheraton nonetheless.
There is some doubt as to whether Sheraton actually made the furniture he designed (Wendell Garrett, Sack Heritage Group), but as a designer and artist, it is quite likely he would have employed other designers, such as Barlow. All this helps to identify Barlow and the date the time in which he lived.
Evidently, Barlow engraved the Hogarth Crest in the late-1700s, possibly early 1800s. I'm curious as to why Livesay and later Barlow would engrave the same image. If it were for a book about Hogarth, why not use the original--Livesay's engraving?
Whatever the reason, it's irrelevant to what this item is, or isn't. I don't think it's cut from a plate in a book because the paper quality seems inconsistent with what you typically find in old books. Still, it could be. I just don't know.
The what and why of this piece are as ephemeral as the piece itself may have been intended. But it has provided for some interesting study and a sliver of education on a couple of 18th-century engravers, though the intent of this engraving in my possession will likely remain unknown.