Fife, Scotland: 1839-1866. Contemporary morocco embossed in gilt and blind. Patterned endpapers. Top edge gilt. Measuring 255 x 205mm and comprised of 41 bound or tipped in manuscript pages in varied hands plus one manuscript page laid in loosely, 16 pieces of artwork bound or adhered to pages, and 1 piece of artwork laid in loosely. A beautiful compilation created across more than 20 years and highly valued in a fine binding.
Helen Maria Imrie, born in 1820 in Ferry-on-Craig, began this commonplace book at the age of 19 and continued it through her courtship, wedding, and marriage with William Welch. Despite the swath of time the pages cover, there is something consistent and comforting in the quality and content of the literary and visual work they contain. Most pieces are copied or written out by Helen herself; some are contributed by friends both male and female. Of the literary pieces, there are several cheeky political commentaries (including Character of Napoleon Bonaparte, a Character of Lady Madame de Stael as Drawn by Lady Morgan of France, and Character of James the First of England -- most particularly political). Other pieces are copies or translations, many by popular poets such as Byron although some of the pieces about love and friendship appear to be original. Perhaps most notable is the range of visual artwork. In addition to some lovely hand-colored florals are two drawings of pheasants, several portraits including a woman reading, and a diagram of Ancient Shoes and Boots by Jane Stutzer. Some of these pieces predate the 1839 note on the ownership page and were pasted in later.
Further research could certainly be done into Helen's life, education, and class status as well as into her husband and their social circle. References to boarding school and paleographic and artistic skill suggest but certainly don't confirm answers to these questions. Additional work could be done into the sources of some of the pieces, and into which pieces can be confirmed as altered or original. (Item #5016)