A delightful bookplate depicting a gathering of fairies listening to a story has been discovered on two items in our collection. One on a copy of the 1622 edition of the Poly-Olbion by Michael Drayton (a topographical poem describing England and Wales celebrating antiquities, bards and King Arthur; and which contains a half-title: ‘The Faerie-Land’), and one on the 1806 edition of Camden’s Britannia.
The books came from the library of John E. Williams of Llandaff; we have a number of other items containing signatures of (presumably) the same individual, with dates from the 1890s – a variety of plays from the ‘French’s acting edition’ series. Some of these contain pencil markings and underlinings indicating that they were being used for play rehearsals. We have little information about who he was, but it is likely he was born in March 1863 in Bedwas, Monmouthshire, attended St Peter’s School Marlborough, and by his late twenties was a solicitor living in Llandaff, Cardiff. (1)
The bookplate contains a number of small armorial shields tucked within the picture; one of these has ‘Marl Coll’ written on it and depicts the arms of Marlborough College, another has a Latin motto “Dominus illuminatio mea” (The Lord is my Light) and is the motto and arms of the University of Oxford; it would perhaps imply that Williams attended Oxford as well. A third depicts a boar’s head with a Welsh banner “Bydd cyfiawn a phaid ofni” (Be righteous and fear not).
The bookplate itself was designed by H. Thomas Maybank (1869-1929), and is dated 1903.
Hector Thomas Maybank Webb was born in Kent; he injured his hip when thrown from a horse at the age of 8, and as an adult became a surveyor for the Borough of Camden before becoming a full time artist in 1902.(2)
As an artist and illustrator he was known for his depictions of fairies and pixies and magical landscapes which were used on Underground advertising posters, prints, and children’s books. He contributed to Punch and The Daily Sketch, and was the first artist to illustrate the Uncle Oojah comic strip.
We would welcome any more information on the armorial shields in the design.