Regency Book Collecting

Historical Background to The Wild Marquis

The Regency was a great era for book collecting. The Tarleton auction at the center of The Wild Marquis was inspired by the sale of the Duke of Roxburghe’s library in 1812.

As a young man on the Grand Tour, John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe (1740-1804) fell in love with Princess Christiana of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. But before a marriage was arranged, George III sought the hand of her younger sister Charlotte. The story goes that it was deemed “indecorous that the elder sister should be the subject of the younger.” Apparently both Roxburghe and Christiana stayed true to each other by remaining single.  After Roxburghe’s death his huge book collection was sold

Prices at the Roxburghe sale reached previously unheard of levels. The record price for an early edition of Boccaccio, for which the Marquis of Blandford outbid Earl Spencer, wasn’t in reality broken until 1884. In fact Blandford,  a sufferer from bibliomania, had to sell his library in 1819.  Spencer won the Boccaccio this time, paying less than half the Roxburghe price. (To get Spencer out of the bidding at the Tarleton sale, I have him in negotiation to buy Blandford’s books. For the record, the collection went to auction.)

I enjoyed choosing and inventing books for Sir Thomas Tarleton’s collection. The Burgundy Hours are inspired by the famous manuscript, the Très Riches Heures of the Duc de Berri. (See example on the left. isn't it gorgeous?) I found the plays with suggestive titles listed in the Roxburghe catalogue. The Shakespeare editions mentioned all exist.Here's the title page of the Romeo and Juliet quarto edition that plays an important part in the plot.