Calling all Booksellers, Librarians, Bibliophiles
The Godmersham Lost Sheep Society*
Cordially invites you to join in the
For all books bearing
Montagu George Knight bookplates**
Please help us return these books to the fold
Library at Chawton House, Chawton, Alton, Hampshire, UK
* The Godmersham Lost Sheep Society (GLOSS) is a research group of scholars and bibliophiles searching for all books that were originally in the libraries of Godmersham Park and later Chawton House, both estates of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight.
**The three Knight bookplates were all designed by Charles Sherborn in 1900 / 1901:
We note here that there are also the bookplates of Thomas Knight (1701-1781) and Edward Knight (1767-1852) and his son, also named Edward (1794-1879) – it is unclear if the bookplate was father or son’s, or if they both used the same bookplate – these bookplates are also to be found in some of the Godmersham library books, so we are searching for these as well, especially if they are listed in the original 1818 catalogue:
1. The History:
Edward Austen Knight inherited three estates from his adoptive family the Thomas Knights: Godmersham Park in Kent, and Chawton House and Steventon in Hampshire. Godmersham and Chawton had large extensive libraries typical of the gentry of the time. Edward had a catalogue of the Godmersham Library compiled in 1818, listing about 1250 titles. These books were later combined with the Chawton House Library when Godmersham was sold in 1874, with many of the volumes sold or otherwise distributed over the years. [Montagu George Knight, grandson of Edward Knight, placed his bookplates in most of the books of this combined library, as well as in the books he added to it. The remaining library (called the “Knight Collection” and still in the family) is now housed at Chawton House Library, which serves as an important literary heritage site and a center for the study of early women writers]. We know Jane Austen spent a considerable amount of time in both these libraries – and an ongoing project has been to try to locate the missing volumes that have wandered away and might still be extant in libraries, in book collectors’ homes, or on bookseller shelves – the “Lost Sheep” of Godmersham Park.
2. The Digital Godmersham Project:
Initiated and run by Professor Peter Sabor (Canada Research Chair in Eighteenth-Century Studies and Director of the Burney Centre at McGill University), this is a web-based open-source project that will include the Knight family books that are recorded in the catalogue of 1818, as they were on the shelves – a virtual library so to speak. You can visit the Reading with Austen website here; phase I of the project launched in 2018, the bicentenary of the original catalogue. While it would be a final goal to locate all the missing titles that are out there, this digital project will create for us what Jane Austen would have seen and read when visiting her brother.
3. What we need:
If you have or locate any books with any of the three Montagu George Knight bookplates, or the Thomas or Edward Knight bookplates, please contact us – we would like good pictures of:
a.) the binding/cover;
b.) the inside cover of the book, where Montagu Knight’s bookplate should be attached, often together with a small shelf ticket from Chawton House Library; and
c.) the title page of the book;
d.) any marginalia
These images would be used on the website, with or without your name as the book’s current owner/location (this is up to you).
4. Donation / sell options:
Some of those found thus far have been privately purchased and donated back to the Library at Chawton House (they do not have funds for this project). If you would like to “return” the book to Chawton to be part of their permanent collection, you would become one of GLOSS’s Team Heroes and we would be forever grateful. All donations are tax-deductible. Or, if you would consider selling the book back to CH now or in the future (or making a donation to the cause so we can purchase books as they become available – you can do that at the “North American Friends of Chawton House” website), we would add it to our wish-list of purchases and ask that you send the pictures noted above so it can be added to the website. Progress is slow, and because every book may not be able to return home, we hope this virtual library will serve as a useful research tool for future studies of reading habits in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
[CHL book with bookplate and shelf ticket]
Thank you for any help you can offer!
For more information, please contact one of us:
- Deborah Barnum – Board Member, North American Friends of Chawton House Library: jasnavermont [at] gmail.com
- Peter Sabor – Professor, Canada Research Chair in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Director of the Burney Centre, McGill University: peter.sabor [at] mcgill.ca