George Hibbert as a Bibliophile is a highly complex obsessive compulsive collector, who’s collecting was more megalomania and acquisition at any cost. Hibbert was unlikely to allow himself to be outbid on any lot that he desired, this was to act to his financial detriment on the disposal of the bulk of his library.
Along with many other merchant princes of his day the measure of the man was very much the by-product of the size and quality of his library. In 1829 Hibbert aged 72 inherited a country property from his wife’s uncle, Rogers Parker. The move from his very commodious house in Portland Place, necessitated the downsizing of his library. The auction of 8786 lots, approx 40,000 volumes took 42 days and raised £21,753/9/- an extraordinary sum at the time. Even this considerable sum does not match the cost of the library, mentioned by several contemporary commentators as being in excess of £40,000. The veracity of this figure has not been traced to any reliable source and could well be sour grapes and therefore can be discounted.
Some of the choices lots from Hibberts sale include:
Lot 8724 Biblia Sacra Germanica, Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible and his own signed copy 1541 £267/15/-
Lot 8725 Mazarine Bible, printed by Gutenberg 1450/55 £215
Lot 8726 Biblia Sacra Polyglotta on vellum £525.
A study of all the auction sales of Robert Harding Evans of Pall Mall from 1812-1846 has been undertaken by Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly who found only one other contemporary auction sales of similar value. The 1812 John Duke of Roxburghe sale £22,992/7/- over 41 days.
It is from the Duke of Roxburghe’s 1812 sale that the Roxburghe Club was established in his memory. The Roxburghe Club, very much the idea of the Rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin d.1843 is the oldest society of bibliophiles in the world with membership limited to 40... it was into this exalted club that Hibbert was elected as member number 32 in 1816.
Dibdin wrote The Bibliographical Decameron where Hibbert is immortalized as ‘Honorio’.
Hibberts Catalogue 1829
Robert Harding Evans of Pall Mall: Auction Catalogues 1812-1846. Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly.
Rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin D.D., The Library Companion., Dibdins Bibliomania., Bibliographical Decameron.
The Roxburghe Club, www.roxburgheclub.org.uk
Documents relating to the Bibliographic collections of George Hibbert:
- A Catalogue of The Library of George Hibbert, Esq. of Portland Place: which will be sold by Auction, On Monday, March 16, and Seventeen following Days; on Monday, May 4, and Eleven following days ; and on Monday, May 25, and Eleven following Days, (Sundays excepted,), 1829