More than just a print collection
Melbourne University Doctoral candidate Louise Voll Box writes in her newly published article that there is much to be revealed by examining the “lives” of the Baillieu Library’s Northumberland print albums.
Albums were the norm for displaying prints in the second half of the 18th century, when collectors organised their prints in book-like volumes. These albums would contain not only the prints themselves, but also annotations and descriptions that could give insight into the stories behind each work such as provenance, as well as insight into the collector of the album himself/herself. Today, prints are generally viewed as individual pieces, rather than part of a library. Further, there is an overall focus on the preservation and quality of the print itself, rather than the information that can be gained from its physical state. This makes the Baillieu Library Print Collection’s albums quite valuable, as “rare survivors”. As Louise discusses in her article, examining the physical characteristics of the albums—that is, the annotations, bindings, adhesions, foliation and signs of use—can be extremely useful in determining the “identity and agency” of the albums and collector. These characteristics however are often removed by institutions when exhibiting print albums due to conservation and display reasons, with institutions often choosing to focus solely on the print itself.
The Print Collection features nine print albums that originally belonged to Elizabeth Seymour Percy (1716-1776), 1st Duchess of Northumberland, an English aristocrat, arts patron and collector. These albums were purchased by the University of Melbourne in 1962, and may be grouped into the following two categories: the “Oxford” albums which are from the collection of the 1st and 2nd Earls of Oxford, of which there are seven, and the “De Vos” albums, of which there are two. In her article, Louise analyses the “De Vos” albums, which feature prints by the Sadeler family (sixteenth-and early seventeenth-century Flemish print makers), after Flemish painter Maerten de Vos (1532-1603).
Louise Voll Box, “Marks and Meanings: Revealing the Hand of the Collector and ‘the Moment of Making’ in two 18th-Century Print Albums,” Journal 18, Issue 6 Albums (Fall 2018)