Treasure's description

Southey’s library

Southey’s library

The Bristol-born poet, Robert Southey, spent a lifetime in pursuit of books, and would deny himself new clothing for the pleasure of augmenting his store. ‘Talk of the happiness of getting a great prize in the lottery! What is that to the opening of a box of books!’ he wrote to Coleridge. Four titles in the Library’s collections have so far been identified as having been in Southey’s possession: an edition of Froissart published in Paris in 1574, and acquired by him in Lisbon in 1801; a copy of Thomas Smith’s ‘De republica Anglorum libri tres’, which, interestingly and appropriately, once belonged to John Lilburne; Gerard Boate’s ‘Irelands naturall history’; and the work here illustrated, which has been charmingly personalised by his daughters, of whose industry he wrote in a letter to John May, written in 1836: ‘One room is almost fitted up with books of their binding: I call it the “Cottonian” library; no patchwork quilt was ever more diversified’. It was presumably also the ladies who worked round the edges the design of the armorial bookplate, which was created by Thomas Bewick. The motto nicely sums up the pleasure which Southey took in his bookish labours. Southey’s library was dispersed after his death, mostly by auction. The ‘Chevalier Bayard’ appears as lot 135 in Sotheby’s catalogue of the sixteen day sale.