coming eventsComing Events

February 7 

PBA Galleries

February 8-10 

CA Book Fairs

February 21 

Heritage

February 21 

Swann Galleries

February 6 

Bonhams

Find More Events in the FB&C Calendar

In the News

Littmann Collection of German Expressionism & Avant-Garde at Swann March 5

New York-Swann Galleries’ March 5 auction boasts property from the Ismar Littmann Family Collection,... read more

"Lacock Abbey: Birthplace of Photography on Paper" Opens March 2

New York - Photography on paper was born in 1839 in England at Lacock... read more

The Morgan Announces the Restoration of J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library

New York-The Morgan Library & Museum announced today the exterior restoration of J. Pierpont... read more

UK Exhibition Of Rare Antarctic Books for Shackleton's 145th Birthday

To celebrate the 145th anniversary of Ernest Shackleton's birth, Jonkers Rare Books are pleased... read more

Special Exhibition of William Mortensen's Photography at the NYC Book & Ephemera Fair

New York — His work was startling and new. It had the power to... read more

4,500 Years of Miniature Books at the Grolier Club

Thousands of years before books were contained within a hand-held technological tablet or phone,... read more

The NYC Book and Ephemera Fair Expands to a Second Day

The Fair that is known as the satellite event, during Manhattan’s celebrated Rare Book... read more

James Joyce-Signed Vintage Photograph Sold for $25,826 at Auction 

Boston—A James Joyce signed vintage photograph sold for $25,826 according to Boston-based RR Auction.... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 Bookseller Resource Guide
Feature

Inside Downton Abbey’s Library

The 8th Earl and Countess Carnarvon are the current owners of Highclere Castle, which has been in the Carnarvon family since 1679. © Highclere Castle

“Highclere Castle was never burnt down,” said the countess, Fiona Aitken Carnarvon, author of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, and the present mistress of Highclere. “It has merely adapted and transformed … Its traditional library [catalogued by the Dewey Decimal System] is one that began with my husband’s direct ancestor in 1679.”

A quick peruse of the shelves reveals an interest in travel narratives, including Travels in Asia Minor and Greece (1825) by Richard Chandler, The Parks, Promenades and Gardens of Paris (1869) by William Robinson, and volumes I and II of Memorials of the Discovery and Early Settlement of the Bermudas… (1877) by J. H. Lefroy. Volumes displayed to the left of the fireplace in the library’s second room reflect one forebear’s fascination with Egypt and archaeology. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who lived at Highclere a hundred years ago, famously discovered the tomb of the Egyptian boy pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922 with his archaeological colleague, Howard Carter. (Visitors are welcome to see a related exhibition of Egyptian antiquities in the castle cellars on public opening days.)

One of the favored objects in the library is not a book at all but a small desk, believed to have been used by Napoléon Bonaparte. The desk retains a slit in its top for mail to be slipped through for franking (castles posted their own mail). “I visited here as a child and always remember this desk in the library,” said tour guide Lizzy Howard.

The two rooms comprising the library are useful spaces for the current countess and earl. “A library is for reading, research, and conversation … rooms with cozy corners and different conversations,” Lady Carnarvon said. “I might wish to show a bishop the books about various predecessors in the North Library whilst my husband is holding forth in the other end!”

Sometimes, they even add to the collection. Married since 1999, the countess said, “My husband’s first present to me was a book of poetry, and my first Christmas present to him was an anthology of poetry. He recently gave me a first edition of Wilfred Owen’s letters.”

One book visitors won’t find (aside from the Gutenberg Bible) is the library’s oldest volume, dating to 1538, Italian poet and playwright Lodovico Ariosto’s Comedia…Cassaria. This and other highly valued items, including the scroll given to the first Earl of Carnarvon by King George III, are securely housed elsewhere, according to a guide. A framed black and white photograph on a library table shows the present earl standing directly behind Queen Elizabeth II, his godmother.

Highclere Castle’s three floors comprise eleven functioning bedrooms and more than twenty bathrooms. “Even Lady Carnarvon is not sure of the exact number of rooms in the castle,” according to Candice Bauval, assistant to the countess, because many, many rooms have been turned into offices or storage spaces or are in the process of being restored. “When the public visit, they get to see all of the rooms that are used by the family with the exception of the offices and the private bedrooms on the third floor.”

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | Next