Page revise 18 January 2004
ARMS, CRESTS & MONOGRAMS
It is an unfortunate fact that many of those who collected crests did not record their names in their albums; unfortunate because the name and location of the collector often adds interest and may assist in research.
Identifiable material in albums often points to the location of the collector and sometimes to their background or interests. Most of the names which do appear convey nothing, but occasionally they are recognised.
The collection contains an album inscribed Louise Bassano, June 1875, a name unusual enough to suggest a link with Studio Bassano. This noted Victorian photographic studio was founded by Alexander (Allesandro) Bassano who did indeed have a daughter Louise. Clearly the correspondence of the Studio provided the material for this prestigious crest collection.
Louise does not appear to have inherited her fathers artistic abilities: the contents are arranged alphabetically in an album of squared pages. Alongside is a section of a page from D, with crests of four titled ladies, all probably customers of the studio. Only at the back in a miscellaneous section is the album enlivened by a little competent hand decoration. The choice of subject (entwined nautical serpents?) is a little bizarre, though not ineffective.
The largest album in the collection (28cm x 39cm) lacks any inscription but carries, on the front free pastedown, a crest of Colonel Mapleson, its location suggesting that the album belonged to him or a descendant. "Colonel" Mapleson was a leading Victorian operatic impresario, and the design of the crest, which is very similar to that used by the Garrick Club, would be well suited to his business activities.
The contents of this plain album are exceptionally clean, of a very good quality and nicely presented. There is not, however, any strong musical bias which might have been expected; apart from the two crests shown here there is one other for the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain. Nor does the collection contain the crests of the London theatres: Kings; Her Majesties; and Haymarket with which Mapleson was involved. The collection appears to be of the early years of the twentieth century and as Mapleson died in 1901 it may well be that the album was that of one of his children or grandchildren.
The collection contains two very interesting albums, an interest which might be greatly increased if the collectors could have been identified. The material in both suggests strongly that it came from trade sources. One collection, in a battered Marcus Ward & Co. album, was probably from the firm of JENNER & KNEWSTUB. It contains a large proportion of opulent crests, including material not seen elsewhere, and its significance would have been enhanced if a name had enabled a definite attribution. Jenner & Knewstub's output has been identified from samples and descriptions in the collection. The quality of the material is so outstanding that it was difficult to select the few which are shown here, and it is really deserving of a page on its own. For some other examples of Jenner & Knewstub's crest output see HERALDIC and ARTS.
The identity of PAB of Kings Road, Brighton, is not known. The crest is executed in metallic colours and the shading at the foot, from deep to pale purple, is unusual and attractive. There appears at one time to have been a great vogue for comic monograms; the letters YP depicted here are typical of the many contrived forms, but the detail and execution is of the highest quality. Arms of Queen Victoria are plentiful, being found in almost every album, but the example here is superb, and was probably executed to grace an invitation to a royal event.
The second album does not have the same high proportion of opulent crests, but it does contain a good deal of material which was originated by James Macmichael. Some of his work is recognisable from the frontispieces which he produced for the albums of Stanley Gibbons (see FRONTISPIECES).
Again there are many contrived monograms; some treated with such panache that they are miniature works of art. When the initials are actually printed as a legend it is fairly clear that they were intended for sets or sample sheets to advertise the publisher's capabilities. Without the manuscript inscription one would hardly have taken the name Macmichael from the pleasing rustic scene above, or from several others wich are also identified as Macmichael.
This album contains over seventy traditional, simple, crests executed in the normal raised ink, but with the name printed below in plain print, i.e. not in raised ink. This treatment has not been seen elsewhere and it may be that they were part of the printer's or diestamper's archive, to check that the correct die was used for bespoke stationery.
The album also contains three pictorial crests, shown below, all bearing the name Cutler. It is difficult to see that these could have had any practical use; again they were probably samples displaying the virtuosity of the craftsman. Perhaps J E Cutler was the engraver. They serve now, in their detail, as an historical record.
Neither of the albums are the luxury items which one might have expected to house collections of the principals of the firms, but might have belonged to employees or their children.
Three sumptuous crests in the 'Jenner & Knewstub' album. Only two are named: top left Duchess of Cardigan and bottom, Sir - Read: actually Reade, baronets, of Shipton Court, Oxfordshire.
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