Important acquisitions

Holy Bible

Author
Title Holy Bible
Imprint London: Eyre & Spottiswoode
Date of Publication 1850
Language English
Notes This is an outstanding example of Victorian Scottish craftsmanship. The binding was specially commissioned for the 50th wedding anniversary of William and Agnes Renton on 7 July 1852. We know quite a bit about this couple, thanks to a book entitled 'Memorial of Mrs. Agnes Renton', privately printed in Kelso in 1866 for their family (NLS shelfmark OO.8/2). Agnes Renton was born into a merchant family in Edinburgh on 16 February 1781. William Renton was born in Edinburgh on 7 January 1774 and was also a merchant; he married Agnes on 7 July 1802, and their marriage seems to be have been particularly happy and fruitful. Agnes is portrayed in the Memorial as a strong, intelligent and devout woman, and extracts from her letters confirm this impression. The Memorial describes the anniversary celebrations, which culminated in the presentation of this Bible (pp.26-9): 'On the completion of the fiftieth year of her married life an interesting celebration of it took place, at which all the members of her family in this country were present, including four sons, two daughters, three sons-in-law, two daughters-in-law...and twenty-three grandchildren... About noon on the Jubilee Anniversary, Wednesday, July 7, 1852, the different branches of the family met in their common home, the house of our venerable parents, 22 Buccleuch Place. On entering, all, old and young, received wedding favours and gloves, according to old Scotch fashion. The seniors were ushered into the drawing-room, where father and mother awaited them; and when they were all assembled and had taken their places - the aged couple in arm chairs about the middle of the room - the youngsters entered in procession, two and two, according to age, and, ranged in a beautiful group in front of their grandparents, presented, by the hands of John Robson, as eldest grandson, though not eldest grandchild, the gift of the united grandchildren. It consisted of a magnificent quarto Bible, richly bound and clasped. In the interior of the board fronting the title-page a silver shield is inserted, of ten inches by six, within which is an oval tablet, six inches by four and a-half, containing an embossed genealogical tree of gold. On the base of the trunk are engraved the names of the grandparents, with a plaited lock of the hair incased beneath each. On the successive branches are the names of their children, and where married those also of their partners, with a number of twigs attached, corresponding to that of the grandchildren, and affixed to each a lock of the child's hair with a number indicating the name on the margin of the shield. Surrounding the tablet is a space of about an inch, between the gold rim inclosing it and the border of the shield, which is occupied at the top and bottom with the inscription, and on either side with the names of the donors, in the order of their families, to the number of thirty-one. In making the presentation the speaker delivered a pretty and appropriate address, expressive of the love and reverence and good wishes of the donors, and of their desire to follow the example which had been set by their grandparents, and to gladden their hearts by walking in the fear of the Lord. "Grandpapa" replied with not a little emotion, giving vent to his feelings of gratitude, interest, and affection. We then engaged in worship.' This detailed description leaves no room for doubt that this is the very Bible which is now being offered to NLS. It is a most remarkable object. As well as the extraordinary family tree inside the front board, the Bible is finely bound with gold tooling all over, gilt gauffered leaf edges, fine brass clasps and a velvet lining inside the boards. It is housed in a purpose-built box, also lined with velvet. The book measures 340 x 260 x 112 mm., and the box 345 x 405 x 195 mm. The combined weight is significant. The box also contains two small envelopes containing the hair of two further grandchildren (born after the event?) and a rather moth-eaten pamphlet 'The Rentons of Renton' (about 1950). NLS does not have a copy of this pamphlet, although we have an earlier history of the family, 'Renton', at shelfmark S.120.i. What is particularly noteworthy is that this binding is the work of Colin Frame of Glasgow, according to the lettering on the inner edge of the joint of the front board. This is a binder who is recorded in the Scottish Book Trade Index, but about whom little seems to be known. We do not appear to have any other examples of his work - but he was clearly a highly skilled and innovative craftsman. There is clearly much to discover about 19th-century Glasgow binders, if work of this quality has remained unknown to this day. NLS has only an imperfect copy of this Bible at shelfmark NF.715.b.6.
Shelfmark Bdg.l.48
Acquired on 21/11/05
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