An interesting article caught my eye in The Independent on Sunday on 21st October: Byron Treasure Found in Gift to Used Bookshop.
The secondhand bookshop in question is a relatively new one set up last year in a redundant building in the grounds of Harewood House. I’ve been a frequent visitor at the house and love to walk around the terrace gardens, woodland and the walled garden and, if it’s open, browse the book shelves.
The Augusta Leigh Display at Harewood
The article in question tells the story of a member of the volunteer staff at the shop discovering amongst donated books some inscribed “Augusta Leigh, St James’ Palace”.
With no idea who the Augusta was Audrey Kingsnorth began an investigation that lead her to the Byron connection. Not only was Augusta Lord Byron’s (mad, bad and dangerous to know) lover, she was also his half sister, the result of the liaison between John (Mad Jack) Byron and Amelia Osborne. The books had been acquired by the donor (now in her 80s) following the purchase of a London House; the bookshelves of which were to large to move.
Close-up of the Display
“[One] of the donated books, Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories, is inscribed by Augusta to one of her children: “Henry Francis Leigh from his dear Mamma on his birthday, January 28th 1828″. Henry Francis died at 33, leaving a widow, Mary, and a daughter; Mary remarried and had another daughter and a son. Augusta had seven children, one of whom, Elizabeth Medora, is thought by many to be Byron’s lovechild.”
Valued recently at around £2500 the books will put up for auction at a later date. As the books are currently still on display in the shop I thought I’d pop along and have a look at this valuable donation to the Harewood Bookshop.
The List of Donations
A Copy of The Golden Treasury Open at a Poem of Byron’s
I could spend hours in that bookstore. I also went to the Harewood House website via the link and it looked strangely familiar. After a bit of investigating, it turned out that Harewood House and its terrace were used in the wonderful BBC miniseries “Lost in Austen”. YEAH!!!
Well, EEE I have watched Lost in Austen – in fact I have the DVD. Must watch again. Thank you for pointing this out.
How amazing and lucky too – especially as the volunteer didn’t recognise Augusta’s name. It backs up my instinct to follow up every name and note I find on old books and belongings (so easy via the internet).
Notes to self:
1) Visit Harewood as soon as possible.
2) Acquire Lost in Austen DVD.
You have an excellent instinct, Nilly, which I would expect of you with your experience of antiques.
How fantastic to find something like that – I only hope this little collection will end up on public display, where it can be seen and appreciated by everyone, and not disappear into someone’s private collection.
It’s good that it’s on display at Harewood House for the moment. I truly hope it will stay together and in the public realm. It’ll be a nice little earner for the education fund which the bookshop supports.
How wonderful, I love stories like that. It just shows how many treasures are still out there to be discovered. Nice to know that the education fund will benefit too.
I agree, Lyn, what other treasures are lurking on people’s shelves, in their attics, cellars, old trunks and chests? Lovely how they emerge and are picked up by someone whose interest is piqued. Unfortunately sometimes things are lost too ….