Schuh’s Annotated Bio-Bibliography

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PORTLAND, Margaret Cavendish H.H.B.

(1715 – 1785)

(Born: 1715; Died: 1785) English aristrocat.

Her natural history collection was extensive and nationally known. It contained mostly shells, but also many "spars, ores and chrystals."

Biographical references: Chalmers-Hunt, Natural History Auctions, 1976. Dance, Shell Collecting, 1986. DNB. Wilson, History of Mineral Collecting, 1994: 188.

Catalogue of the Portland Museum, 1786

1. English, 1786 [Auction catalog].
A | Catalogue | Of The | Portland Museum, | Lately The Property Of | The Duchess Dowager of Portland, | Deceased: | Which will be Sold by Auction, | By | Mr. Skinner and Co. | On Monday the 24th of April, 1786, | and the | Thirty-Seven following Days, | At Twelve O'Clock, | Sundays, and the 5th of June, (the Day his Majesty's Birth-Day | is kept) excepted; | At her late Dwelling-House. | In Privy-Garden, Whitehall; | [rule] | By Order of the Acting Executrix. | [rule] | To be viewed by Ten Days preceding the Sale. | Catalogues may now be had on the Premises, and of Mr. Skinner | and C°, Aldersgate-Street, Price Five Shillings, which will admit | the Bearer during the Time of Exhibition and Sale. | No. [Handwritten number].

Large 8°: π4 A-Z4 2A4; 100l.; [i]-viii, 3-194 p. Page size: 250 x 196 mm.

Contents: [i-ii], Title page, verso "Conditions of Sale."; [iii]-iv, "Preface."; [v]-vi, "References and Abbreviations | Explained."; [vii]-viii, "A concise View of the Contents of each | Day's Sale."; [3]-194, Text.

Very scarce. The volume was printed in a limited edition, each numbered in pen on the title page. It was prepared by John Lightfoot, who was the Dutchess' librarian. It describes her extensive collections, mostly of specimens related to natural history. Also included are descriptions of coins, pictures, china, jewels, and the like. Upon her death, and after distribution of part of her collection to her son, the third Duke of Portland, and to others, this catalogue of the remainder, 4,156 numbered lots, was prepared for a sale to be held on 38 days between April 24th and June 7th of 1786. In addition, the Duke decided to sell some items from his portion of his mother's collection, but these, the 107 lots of the 39th day's sale, on June 8th, were not catalogued.[1,2] Offerings consisted primarily of specimens of avian and marine life and samples of minerals including many crystals, and fossils ("petrifactions"). Among other items sold were Hogarth prints, a prayer book and saltcellar formerly in the possession of Elizabeth I, and the Barberini vase, which the Duchess had obtained from Sir William Hamilton and which later become known as the Portland vase. The catalogue was a sophisticated production in some ways, even offering a two-page bibliography of scientific references. Lowndes (1857-64) records that the complete sale realized {\it$}11,546.

Notes: [1] Walpole, H., The Duchess of Portland's Museum, with an introduction by W.S. Lewis. New York, Grolier Club, 1936. 4°: xiii, 15, [2] p. [Horace Walpole attended the auction and wrote a description of the collection on a sheet bound into his copy of the catalogue]. [2] Gentleman's Magazine: 56, part I (1786), 526. [Contains an account of the sale]."

John Lightfoot. (Born: 1735; Died: 1788) English naturalist & botanist. Lightfoot graduated from Pembroke College, Oxford in 1766. He published Flora Scotica (London, 1788). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1781, and he was a member of the Linnean Society.

Bibliographical references: Chalmers-Hunt, Natural History Auctions, 1976. Dance, Shell Collecting, 1966. Lowndes, Bibliographer's Manuel, 1857-64: 3, 1930. Murray, Museums, 1904: 1, 183 & 3, 112. Wilson, History of Mineral Collecting, 1994: 188 & 220. (Lightfoot) Allibone, Dictionary of English Literature, 1859-71. BBA: I 687, 144-158. DNB. Nouvelle Biographie Générale (Hoefer). Waller, Dictionary of Universal Biography, 1857-63. Watt, Bibliotheca Britannica, 1824. WBI.

2. English, 1786 [Price list].
A | Marked Catalogue | Containing The | Lots, | What Each Respectively Sold For, | And The Names Of The Purchasers Of The | Four Thousand Two Hundred And Sixty- | Three Lots. | Which Constituted The | Portland Museum; | Late The Property Of | The Dutchess Dowager of Portland, | Deceased. | Which Was Sold By Auction | By Mr. Skinner and Co. | On Monday the 24th April, 1786, and the thirty-eight following | Days. | Enabling every Connoisseur to know among whom those valuable Curiosities are distributed, | and the Sum which every Lot produced. | [tapered rule] | London: | Printed for Kearsley, Fleet-Street; Walker, Patnoster-Row; Sewell, Cornhill; | Flexney, Holborn; Robson, Bond-Street, and Egerton, near White-Hall. | [rule] | MDCCLXXXVI.

8°: [2], 5-44 p.

Contents: [2 pages], Title page, verso "A List Of Each Day's Sale | of the | Portland Museum."; 5-44, Text, listing in double columns the lot, buyer and hammer price.

Very scarce. The Marked Catalogue bound with some copies of A Catalogue of the Portland Museum (London, 1786) lists lot, buyer and price paid, arranged by day of sale, and includes a 39th day's sale, which does not appear in the main catalogue.