52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 19

Monday 24 October 2011

The mystery of Edward Gwynn

Edward Gwynn's iconic stamp, found on the front board of St Andrews copy TypFP.A95PB.

Earlier this year the rare book community received a general call-to-arms request in regards to helping track down books owned by Edward Gwynn. Frank Mowery, of the Folger Shakespeare Library, sent out this request along with a helpful description of what Gwynn’s books looked like, and what little history was known about him. Gwynn was a barrister and resident at the Inns of Court until his death sometime around 1645. In an odd twist, more is truly known about the books than the man: in an age when armorial bindings where the popular trend, Gwynn marked his books in a very different way. His name is clearly stamped in gold, in large capitals on the front board of each book, and his initials “E.G.” are found stamped in gold on the back boards of each book.

The front board of TypSwG.B76VC, note the difference in the tool used between the 'D' in "Edward" and the 'G' in "Gwynn".

St Andrews has now identified six items (six bibliographic items, five actual physical volumes) with the Gwynn stamp, and reported them. Each of the bindings are slightly different: usually the variation is in the decorative tool used between the final D in “Edward” and the G in “Gwynn”. These vary from ornamental tools to floral stamps. Also of note, most of our copies have prices marked in them in a uniform hand, which is most likely Gwynn’s.

The front board of Wed R128.O6B97, with both the stamp of Edward Gwynn and the armorial blind-stamp of the Gwynn family.

Another binding style, bearing the arms of the Gwynn family (three Cornish choughs within shield) has been identified in our collection, which at first I doubted were related to the same Edward Gwynn until I came across our only uncatalogued Gwynn binding (Wed R128.06B97), pictured above. This has both the “EDWARD GWYNN” stamp in gold on the front board and the “E G” on the back board stamped in gold, but also the blind stamped three Cornish choughs within a shield all within a triple blind fillet border. All of the books with this armorial stamp are found in the collection of Sir John Wedderburn, regent of St. Leonard’s College and Royal Physician to King Charles I. Wedderburn would be a slightly later collector, and could have bought these books just after Gwynn’s death. This is investigated further in Dugald MacArthur’s article in The Library World (June 1951, p. 279-280). I also came across an article by William Jackson in The Library on Gwynn which mentions this crest (Library (1934) XV(1): 97-109). I am still not sure if this is the same Gwynn, but it is probably the same Gwynn family, and could help to provide links to this collector’s unclear history.

The initials of Edward Gwynn, found on the back of most of his volumes (WedRA1201.A8B62 pictured).


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2 thoughts on "52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 19"

  • Cliff Webb
    Cliff Webb
    Monday 24 October 2011, 12.35pm

    An Edward Gwynne of Furnivals Inn gentleman left a nuncupative will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 12 February 1649/50. This seems likely to be the same man. He left all his possessions (specifically including books) to an Alexander Chorley

  • Edward Gwynn and his bindings – Cambridge University Library Special Collections
    Wednesday 4 July 2018, 4.44pm

    […] Useful blog posts, with photographs of bindings, are to be found at St John’s Cambridge and St Andrews. Some of Gwynn’s books are incredibly important, including the so-called ‘Pavier […]


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