Order of the Bath

Statutes of the most honourable Order of the Bath

London n.p.. 1725 [1727].

4to. 225x168mm. pp. viii, 67, [1bl]. With a new statute dated 20th April 1727. Beautifully bound in near contemporary red morocco, gilt. Upper and lower covers with a border of dotted lines and a single fillet framing a border of rococo curlicues and five different fan and petal motifs. Inside this is a pattern of fine interlinked waves and between them a flower motif crowned by a bird with outstretched wings (looking not unlike a phoenix). At the inner corners are flowers and ribbons. Spine with five raised bands, compartments decorated in gilt. Turn ins decorated with a hatched pattern in gilt, marbled endpapers. All edges gilt. Plaited ribbon bookmark. Front pastedown has armorial bookplate of E.G.Fanshawe. Internally very good although there is some foxing, heavy in a few places.
A very smart binding almost certainly made for an aristocratic client, particularly given the subject matter: the Order of the Bath was a British order of chivalry founded by George I in 1725, the first recipients of which were almost exclusively peers, and especially those useful to Robert Walpole for whom the Order was an additional means of shoring up and extending his power. The bird atop a flower is found on two bindings at the BL made for George II or Queen Caroline (shelfmark 223i1) and George III (shelfmark 58c6). The absence of a coat of arms makes a provenance difficult to prove but, as George II's youngest son Prince William Augustus was one of the Founder Knights of the Order of the Bath, it could be that the binding was done for him. The BL does not identify the binder. However, the bird motif is also found on a binding attributed to Jonas Hanway's first binder (see Maggs's Catalogue 1212 Part One, Bookbinding in the British Isles, p208, item 121) dated 1757. Hanway, a successful merchant, an enthusiastic philanthropist and the first man to carry an umbrella in London, presented handsomely bound books to his patrons including George III. Major Abbey noted that Hanway used two binders with the change coming around 1765. We would therefore date this handsome binding to the 1750s or early 1760s, tentatively propose an attribution to Hanway's first binder and, as tentatively, suggest a presentation from Hanway to an aristocratic or even a Royal patron who was a Knight of the Order of the Bath.

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