Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Major John Roland Abbey


Major John Roland Abbey (1894 – 1969)

He was the son of William Henry Abbey and married Lady Ursula Helen Cairns, daughter of Wilfred Dallas Cairns, 4th Earl Cairns and Olive Cobbold. Served in WWI and WWII.
Major Roland Abbey was one of the greatest bibliophiles of his time, begun collecting books in 1929 and having formed a superb collection of illuminated manuscripts and illustrated books. The latter were sold in the 1950’s to the American collector Paul Mellon who after his death in 1999 were bequeathed to Yale University.
Part of the Library was sold by Sotheby’s (see, Catalogue of The Celebrated Library of (The Late) Major J. R. Abbey, vols 1-7, London : Sotheby & Co. (1966-)1970.
«Maj. J. R. Abbey's book collection was the largest and one of the most remarkable of his generation. He is perhaps best known for his collection of color-plate books and fine bindings, but he also collected many illuminated manuscripts and at one time owned seven books from the library of the sixteenth-century French book collector Jean Grolier. Abbey was one of the first to collect neglected minor works and bought copies of them in their original wrappered parts. From the beginning it was the appearance of books that appealed to him, and two Arts Council exhibitions of bindings from his collection show that he was attracted by the strong geometric patterning and vibrant colors of contemporary English and French binders. Although he was not a scholar, he was an avid visitor of libraries and bookshops, making note of his own observations and also drawing on the advice of distinguished scholars such as A. N. L. Munby and G. D. Hobson when adding to his collection.» apud Dictionary of Literary Biography on Maj. J. R. Abbey
Bibliography: ABBEY, JOHN ROLAND, A Bibliographic Catalogue from the Library of J.R. Abbey. 4 vols, 1952.

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Engraved by J. F. Badeley, 1920
Arms: quarterly: 1 and 4, gules on a fess argent between in chief three lozenges and in base a galley argent, a bird volant of the first; 2 & 3, or three pallets gules a chief vair argent and azure. Crest: an eagle displayed between two crosses crosslet or.
Motto: Nobiscum quis contra

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