The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Identifying a leather bookplate

As became clear in the robust conversation around this month’s crocodile mystery, what we’re looking at is a leather bookplate—a circular, good-tooled leather bookplate stamped with the initials “E. H.” and a rose. While the object itself might have been easy to recognize, working out what the specifics of it were revealing was a bit harder. As Erin noted, the bookplate looked as if it had been cut down from a larger piece, leaving jagged edges rather than the smooth circle one might expect from a die-cut bookplate. On the other hand, the other books bearing this bookplate at the Folger show the same jaggedness. Whoever used this bookplate clearly had a number of them made, but also appears to have had them cut down to size.

On the left, the original bookplate for the crocodile mystery (144- 489q); on the right, another example of the same bookplate (STC 11905)
On the left, the bookplate used for the crocodile mystery (from 144- 489q); on the right, another example of the same bookplate (STC 11905) (click this and other images to enlarge)

So, who is this EH? I came across this bookplate when a student was working on a book with it, and there was no indication of who it belonged to in our records. But it got under my skin—I was certain that since we had others with that mark, and since it was clearly not an inexpensive bookplate, it had to be connected with an owner that could be traced. And so I began what was (in retrospect) a slightly roundabout way of working out who it was. 

My first step was to look through books and databases of 19th-century book collectors for anyone with the initials EH. Actually, my first step was to do a quick browse of bookplate collections to see if I could find any matches. In a moment of great insight and then spectacular Google-fu failure, I remembered about the great collection of bookplates that Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks gave to the British Museum (that is, the British Library) that serves as a standard reference source for identifying bookplates. But since I was working from home that morning, I needed to find an online resource I could look at, and I utterly failed to find the catalog of Franks’s bequest. Instead, I ended up with the sales catalog for the auction of duplicates that were not part of the bequest. That wasn’t a bad place to start, though it did prolong my search—I went through and looked for people with the initials EH and then tried to find further descriptions or images of the bookplates they used if the catalog description seemed like it might match.

From there, I wanted to read through W. Carew Hazlitt’s A Roll of Honour, a catalog of British book collectors, but there wasn’t an online edition I could browse. In my frustration, I turned to Hazlitt’s The Book Collector, which was readily available as a digital facsimile—and there in the index, was Edward Hailstone. Hazlitt didn’t provide any information about Hailstone, but the initials fit as did, I soon realized, his collecting period for the style of the bookplate. When I searched for images of his bookplate, however, I found not our circular EH but another circular bookplate, a fancier armorial one with his name spelled out in full.

Edward Hailstone's armorial bookplate (STC 6937)
Edward Hailstone’s armorial bookplate (STC 9367)

Even at first glance, the style of the two bookplates seemed similar, enough to make me think that they both belonged to the same man. Particularly enticing was the rose crest on the armorial plate, which looked a lot like the rose on my mystery bookplate, although the number of petals differs. And that’s where I left my project, turning my attention back to grading, where it belonged, leaving this mystery behind until this month’s crocodile.

Erin’s suggestion that the bookplate belonged to Hailstone, however—totally unprompted by me!—gave my search new momentum, and this time my searching skills were sharper. My first step in tracing over my previous work was to uncover a digitized copy of all three volumes of Franks Bequest, the catalog of all the bookplates that Franks left to the British Museum. And there, just as I’d hoped, was the confirmation that I was on the right track:

screenshot of Hailstone's entries from Franks Bequest
screenshot of Hailstone’s entries from Franks Bequest

The description of Hailstone having two sets of bookplates was consistent with other signs that I’d been seeing, linking the EH plate to Hailstone (see, for example, the Folger’s catalog record of Glanville’s Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie (the red bookplate shown above on the right) and the National Library of Medicine’s record for A compleat treatise of urines).

But I like to be a completist about these things, so my next step was to look in the catalog for Hailstone’s sale to see if I could find the EH books listed there. Luckily, the Catalogue of the Interesting Contents of Walton Hall, Near Wakefield: The Property of the Late Edward Hailstone, Volumes 1-3 has been digitized and is searchable through Google Books, because reading through the entire two volumes devoted to Hailstone’s library would have been tedious.

And putting in “Moscovia” as a search term—the book that sparked my curiosity was Milton’s A brief history of Moscovia—I get the confirmation I’d been hoping for! There, part of lot 2641, is my book:

a match in the catalog of the Hailstone auction
a match in the catalog of the Hailstone auction

And because success for one book isn’t enough, I searched for matches for the other Folger books with EH bookplates: Tryon’s Wisdom dictates (Hamnet; Hailstone), Tate’s A present for the ladies (Hamnet; Hailstone), Baratti’s Late travels (Hamnet; Hailstone), Shakespeare’s second folio (Hamnet; Hailstone), and a sammelband of 1685 almanacs (Hamnet; Hailstone). I didn’t find all of the Folger’s EH books in the sales catalog, but it’s possible my search skills didn’t anticipate all the variants of how they were listed (I could only find the almanacs by searching “1685,” for example). But given the presence of the bookplate, I’d wager that the Folger’s copy of Glanville’s Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie also came from Hailstone’s sale (the EH bookplate shown above on the right came from this book). The Folger also has a copy of Coles’s The art of simpling with the same bookplate, and although I found other Coles books and books on agriculture in Hailstone’s catalog, I didn’t see this one.

I feel confident that the EH bookplates in these Folger books can be connected to Edward Hailstone—but who is Edward Hailstone? Hailstone (1818–1890), a solicitor in Bradford, UK, collected a vast number of books, including a large collection of manuscripts and books related to Yorkshire. On his death, he left his Yorkshire collection to the dean’s library, York Minster; the remainder of his belongs were sold at auction in 1891, with the books being handled by Sotheby’s over two multi-day sales. 1

I’d love to learn more about Hailstone when I have the chance to do a bit more poking around—but for now, I’m just thrilled with the excitement of a successful chase. Thank you, all, for playing along!


  1. There’s a brief entry for Hailstone in the DNB (Jack Morrell, “Hailstone, Samuel (1767–1851),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 [, accessed 9 July 2014]), and a longer one in James Raines’s A Catalogue of the Printed Books in the Library of the Dean and Chapter of York (Cambridge UP, 2013).


  • Thanks for the sleuthing! Soon, those Hamnet records will be updated with “former owner” links. I’m happy to report that the National Library of Medicine created an LC Name Authority Record for Edward Hailstone back in December 2001,, so that part of the work is already done. (For the cataloging geeks out there: I know it was December 2001 because of the first six digits of the record number, and I know where it was created because the MARC encoded version of that record has the line “040 __ |a DNLM” — “D” for “District of Columbia” and “NLM” for National Library of Medicine. Folger-created records are identified as “DFo”)

    Also, I can’t believe this didn’t occur to me sooner: the bookplate is the size and shape of a Hailstone.

  • Great sleuthing! But there’s another mystery — why is EH’s name on the larger plate spelled Edward Hailctone, instead of Hailstone?

    (If you search “Edward Hailctone” there are several hundred references to the bookplate.)

  • A wild guess, but perhaps he purchased the bookplates, started using them, but didn’t notice the typo for a while. Once he did, perhaps he ordered the hailstone-sized ones, and left the armorial ones in place? Pure supposition on my part.

    (At least Google knows who’s who; when I searched for “Edward Hailctone”, it helpfully asked, “Did you mean EDWARD HAILSTONE?”)

    • I suppose the only explanation that makes sense is plain mistake. I was thinking that maybe ctone was celtic or something for stone. 😉 But there are a lot of this larger bookplate around so EH must have used it for many books either not noticing the mistake or noticing and not bothering to have them reprinted. You’d think that he’d notice that his own name was misspelled on this emblem of vanity.

  • From the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 24
    HAILSTONE, SAMUEL (1768–1851), botanist, was born at Hoxton, near London, in 1768. His family shortly afterwards settled in York. He was articled to John Hardy, a solicitor at Bradford, grandfather of the present Lord Cranbrook. On the expiration of his articles Hardy took him into partnership. The scanty leisure of a busy professional life was devoted to botany, and Hailstone became known as the leading authority on the flora of Yorkahire. He formed collections illustrating the geology of the district, and of books and manuscipts relating to Bradford. He contributed papers to the ‘Magazine of Natural History’ (1835, viii. 261-5, 549-53), and a list of rare plants to Whitaker’s ‘History of Craven’ (1812, pp. 509-19). His valuable herbarium was presented by his sons to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, and is now in the museum at York. His brother was the Rev. John Hailstone [q. v.], the geologist. He married in 1808 Ann, daughter of Thomas Jones, surgeon, of Bradford. His wife died in 1833, aged 53. He died at Horton Hall, Bradford, on 26 Dec. 1851, aged 83, leaving two sons, John, a clergyman, and Edward, who is noticed below.

    Edward Hailstone (1818–1890) succeeded his father as solicitor at Bradford, and finally retired to Walton Hall, near Wakefield, where he accumulated a remarkable collection of antiquities and books, among them the most extensive series of works relating to Yorkshire ever brought together, which has been left to the library of the dean and chapter, York. Edward Hailstone died at Walton 24 March 1890 in his seventy-third year. He printed a catalogue of his Yorkshire library in 1858, and published ‘Portraits of Yorkshire Worthies, with biographical notices,’ 1869, 2 vols. 4to.

    [Bradford Observer, 1 Jan. 1852; Times 27 March 1890; Athenæum, 5 April 1890, p. 444.]

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)