Duchess of Northumberland’s Sadeler print albums now available online

Nine aristocratic print albums, some too fragile to handle, are now available to view online. The albums, from the Baillieu Library Print Collection, contain the engravings of the Flemish dynasty of printmakers, the Sadelers and convey an array of themes and imagery from the Renaissance. The volumes are also a window onto the tastes and collecting methods of two 18th century aristocrats. They were formerly owned by Elizabeth Seymour Percy (1716-1776), the first duchess of Northumberland.

Seven of the albums have been identified by their bindings, known as ‘Harleian’, as coming from the library of Robert Harley, first earl of Oxford (1661-1724). These volumes were purchased at auction by Elizabeth Seymour Percy in 1745 and added to her extensive private collection then held in Northumberland House, London. The prints in these albums have been window mounted between two sheets. Two of the albums bound in blue paste boards, containing engravings after Maarten de Vos, were arranged by Elizabeth Seymour Percy using her own method of affixing prints to a sheet with margin tabs.

The albums were relocated to Syon House after the demolition of Northumberland House in 1874 and later sold. They were purchased for the University Library in 1962 from the London print dealer, Colnaghi’s, by the Society of Collectors of Victoria, on the recommendation of Professor Joseph Burke of the University of Melbourne’s Fine Arts Department. They continue to be enjoyed and researched by students and so far, have been the subject of two PhD theses.

Elizabeth Countess of Northumberland

Image: Richard Houston after Joshua Reynolds, Elizabeth Countess of Northumberland, 1759. Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne