Album of autographs and ephemera curated by William Harrison Davey (1825-1917), Dean of Llandaff 1897-1913.
Over the course of Dean Davey’s life and career, which spanned the reigns of George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII and George V, he accumulated a mass of autographs, ephemera and correspondence from notable persons of those eras. He was personally known to Victorian Prime Ministers Gladstone and Disraeli, and corresponded with other notables of the period in his role as Dean of Llandaff.
The Dean was a prolific collector of autographed items from his famous contemporaries - it could even be suggested that he wrote to some of them in order to receive a signed reply! He studiously curated these pieces within this album, alongside photo clippings, biographical notes, newspaper cuttings, sketches and other items of historical context. The album includes both personal and official letters and documents, as well as ‘clipped’ signatures and envelope fronts amounting to approximately 100 autographed items.
One of the earliest inclusions is a 1727 letter from George II (written by Talbot Yelverton, 1st Earl of Sussex), to General John Leslie, 10th Earl of Rothes, commanding him to attend the 4th October 1727 coronation of George II and Caroline of Ansbach (Sussex presided over the ceremonies). It is signed to the top by George II, and also has a cut-out of George III’s signature verso. The coronation was actually postponed by a week because of the danger of the River Thames bursting its banks at Westminster, and eventually took place on 11th October that year.
Another early document of particular historical interest relates to the American Revolutionary War. It is a 1779 military remittance notice signed to the top by George III authorizing the payment of £19,193.6.10 to Benjamin Smith, William Fitzhugh and Simon Halliday for supplying provisions to the British troops, and is signed by these three verso. It is further signed by Lord North (Prime Minister), Viscount Beauchamp and 2nd Viscount Palmerston (Commissioners for the Office of Lord High Treasurer of England). These three men, amongst many other merchants, were paid “for provisions delivered into our stores at Corke for the use of the forces serving in America”. Due to Cork being the last docking point for ships sailing to America, the war led to a huge increase in trade in the area by merchants supplying the British military with essential supplies. However, this in turn caused growing calls for Irish independence or at the very least freer trade with England.
Of further military interest are two documents relating to the Seven Years War signed by Augustus Keppel (Royal Navy officer and politician) and Admiral George Bridges Rodney respectively, and an 1803 military commission appointment notice signed to the top by George III with royal seal attached.
Elsewhere in the album and away from the field of action is an 1813 invitation from the Princess of Wales (later Queen Caroline) to Lady Perceval as she “would wish to see you a moment alone”. Lady Perceval was the widow of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was assassinated on 11 May 1812 (the only British PM to have been assassinated). The letter is black-edged to denote mourning. Caroline was rejected by her husband, the Prince Regent (later George IV) shortly after their marriage, however she was otherwise popular and soon gathered a mini-court around her. This included Spencer Perceval, who defended her in court and helped to secure her apartments in Kensington Palace. Princess Caroline was also godmother to the Perceval’s youngest child.
Pasted-in 'clipped' and envelope front signatures include those of the renowned novelist Charles Dickens, pioneering Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale, Prime Ministers Robert Peel, Horace Walpole and William Gladstone and other politicians, Edward VII and author Walter Besant. There are also cheques signed by Arctic explorer John Franklin and botanist William Jackson Hooker, as well as an 1824 passport signed by the Prince de Polignac (Ambassador to Great Britain and later French Prime Minister) issued to English lawyer and author Francis Ludlow Holt.
Alongside all this celebrity ephemera is a range of newspaper clippings regarding important current events, amateur sketches and engravings, as well as hand-written explanatory notes and biographical details.
This album is an absolute treasure trove; with almost every page providing a snapshot into the private and official worlds of eminent Georgians and Victorians. It is also a wonderful example of the Victorian mania for collecting autographs - in fact Dean Davey has pasted articles regarding collecting autographs onto the inside of the album front board. The album has stayed within the family since the Dean's death in 1917.
The catalogue description can be seen here along with many images. Further images are available upon request.
The auction will take place on Saturday 11th December, with viewing on Thursday 9th and Friday 10th 10am-7pm.