(right) Edward VI, King of England. Hampton Court 1537 – 1553 Greenwich, England Iniunccions geven by the moste excellent prince, Edward the sixte. London: Richard Grafton, July 1547. 20.3 x 15 cm. Athenæum purchase, Kathleen L. & Peter A. Wick Fund, 2003.
Bound in England in 1548 in brown calf with a single gilt-line border on both boards; upper board lettered in gilt Thome Wottoni et Amicorum, 1548 with a gilt central medallion of Tarquin; lower board lettered in gilt The Kinges Invinctions, Thome Wottoni et Amicorum, with a central gilt medallion of Lucrece; all edges gilt; spine divided by five raised bands into panels decorated by seventeenth-century gilt decorations; later red leather lettering-piece
Provenance: Thomas Wotton, of Boughton Malherbe, Kent (1521-1587); James Bindley, Senior Commissioner of Stamp Duties (1737-1818), with his bookplate; Rev. John Russell (1814-1884), with his signature; Lord Amherst of Hackney (1835-1909), with remnants of his bookplate; Mortimer L. Schiff (1877-1931), with his bookplate; J. R. Abbey (1894-1969), with his bookplate
(left) Peter Martyr Vermigli, 1499-1562Tractatio de sacramento eucharistiae. London [R. Wolfe] 1549. 20.2 x 14.7 cm. Gift of Charles Butler Brooks in memory of his father Francis Augustus Brooks, 1920; formerly in the libraries of Increase Mather (1639-1723); Mather Byles (1706-1788); Elijah Dunbar, Jr. ( 1773-1850); Edward Everett (1794 (1865).
Wotton Binder C (fl. 1540-1563), binding in brown calf in paste-board; tooled in gold with interlacing ribbon and open and hatched tools; decorated with black paint; coat of arms of Thomas Wotton tooled in silver in center of both boards.
Thomas Wotton was an English bibliophile and ardent Protestant when religion was an all-important qualification for advancement in government. His fortunes rose under Edward VI, fell under the Catholic rule of Mary, and rose again under Elizabeth, when he became Sheriff of Kent. His position in history was secured by his decision to have his books bound in handsome bindings tooled with the Latin phrase Thome Wottoni et Amicorum, which let the world know that these books were for the use of Wotton and his friends. While a number of sixteenth-century collectors chose to put a similar inscription on the covers of their books, the most famous was Jean Grolier (1479-1565), one of the Treasurers of France, who created a famous collection of beautifully bound books. The similarity of the style of their bindings and the mottoes has caused Wotton to be called the “English Grolier” and his books have been prized for centuries. Scholars recorded the location of all known volumes from Wotton’s library and grouped them according to the nationality and identity of their binders.
For fifty-five years, the Boston Athenæum quietly housed one of Wotton’s books before it was added to the census that was published by the British Library in 1975. Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Tractatio de sacramento euchariste (London: [R. Wolfe], 1549) had been given to the Library in 1920 by Charles Butler Brooks in memory of his father, Francis Augustus Brooks. It had been part of a larger group of valued possessions from which the donor made daily gifts to the Athenæum during the last two weeks of his life. “He could not bear the thought that they might pass after his death into the hands of strangers,” wrote Athenæum Librarian Charles Knowles Bolton in his annual report for 1920. In his letter of appreciation to Mr. Brooks for his gifts, Bolton stated that “the members of your family have been associated with the Athenæum for almost all of the institution’s history,” implying that it was as though the books were staying in the family.
The Library’s annual report for 1920 listed numerous books from the gift and noted twenty famous people associated with the books, but failed to mention Thomas Wotton or his book. It did mention that one of the books was associated with Increase Mather (1639-1723), and, indeed, Wotton’s book was owned by Mather. He presumably purchased it during on one of his trips to England, but how it had become separated from the bulk of Wotton’s library is a mystery. Increase Mather left many of his books to his grandson, Mather Byles (1706-1788), who was the pastor of the Hollis Street Church in Boston and, like his grandfather, signed the title-page of Wotton’s book. It was later owned by the famous orator, congressman, and president of Harvard College Edward Everett (1794-1865), who married into the wealthy Brooks family.
The Tractatio was bound in Paris in an elaborate style, with painted strap work surrounding the Wotton coat of arms that was stamped in silver in the center of both the front and back covers. It does not carry Wotton’s famous motto. The other volume from Thomas Wotton’s library that the Athenæum purchased in 2003 is quite different. It is one of only four known that were bound in England for Wotton. The other three are also Protestant works and remain in England at Cambridge University Library and the British Library. Two of them carry the same medallion portraits of Tarquin and Lucrece that adorn the Athenæum volume.
Stanley Ellis Cushing, Stanley Ellis Cushing and David B. Dearinger, eds., Acquired Tastes: 200 Years of Collecting for the Boston Athenæum (2006): 76-78. Copyright © The Boston Athenæum.
Miriam M. Foot, The Henry Davis Gift: Collection of Bookbindings (London: The British Library, 1978).
50 Books, no. 4.
Boston Athenæum Report for the Year 1920, 7.
BA Letters 1920 (A-F).
The acquisition of this book brought attention to the Wotton binding that had been in Boston for three centuries and gave a unique opportunity in America to compare the two styles of bindings that were made for one of history’s most famous book collectors