Joslin Hall Rare Books

Curious, Unusual, Interesting & Occasionally Useful Books of the 16th-20th Centuries exploring the skills, trades, lives and ways of other times...

 Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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Henniker, John.
Two Letters on the Origin, Antiquity, and History of Norman Tiles, Stained with Armorial Bearings.

London printed by John Bell...Bookseller to His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales: 1794 [mistakenly noted as 1796 by Solon].

The earliest work in English located by Solon dealing specifically with tiles, and now very uncommon. The author's brother, a Captain in the English military, had been a resident of Caen and sent the first description of the armorial tiles to the author, who then tried to interest British antiquarians in them, with apparently limited success. The tiles are described here, quoting a Dr. Ducarel- "The floor is paved with tiles...each near five inches square, baked almost to vitrification. Eight rows of these tiles running from east to west are charged with different coats of arms, generally said to be those of the families who attended Duke William in his invasion of England. The intervals between each of these rows are filled up with a kind of tessellated pavement the middle whereof represents a maze or labyrinth, about ten feet in diameter, and so artfully contrived, that were we to suppose a man following all the intricate meanders of its volutes, he could not travel less than a mile before he got from one end to the other". Solon further notes- "The armorial-bearing tiles described in these letters belonged to a pavement, now partly destroyed, which adorned the state-rooms of St. Stephen Abbey or 'Abbaye aux hommes' at Caen, built in 1077 by William the Conqueror. Although local traditions and ancient chronicles agree in considering these tiles as containing the scutcheons of the noble families which accompanied William, Duke of Normandy, in his expedition, the date of their making cannot correspond with that of the building of the Abbey. One of these tiles bears the Royal Arms of France, adopted by St. Louis, and it is well known that the armorial bearings were not in use before the crusades the pavement cannot be, therefore, anterior to the thirteenth century". Ah, modern stuff... But still, a scarce and desirable tile book.

Hardcover. 5.5"x8.5", 114 pages plus 3 engraved plates reproducing twenty tile designs bound in period marbled boards with a new leather spine and new endpapers boards worn and scuffed. Very minor internal toning and a few light pencil notes but overall internally a very nice copy with wide margins.

Inventory #: 34149
Price: $ 600.00      



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