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ANTIQUARIAN BOOK

The Ladies Charity School-house Roll of Highgate.

BLAKE (William).

BLAKE (William).

The Ladies Charity School-house Roll of Highgate: or A Subscription of many Noble, well-disposed Ladies for the easie carrying of it on.

Four engraved plates, illustrating Old Father Time, butterflies, Charity and the front elevation of the school.

First Edition. 8vo. [159 x 105 x 27 mm]. 292, [1], [3]blank pp. Bound in contemporary sheep, the covers with a gilt double fillet border and a small flower tool in the corners, marbled endleaves, marbled edges. (Lacking ties, rebacked and corners repaired).
[London: 1670].

Wing B.3152.

Published without a title-page, the title above being a caption title from p.1. With a second part, Silver Drops, or Serious Things, with a caption title on p.79. With the final blank leaf. Small repairs to edges of engraved leaves, some light soiling at the front, a few spots, small rust hole leaf T1, but a good copy. The binding is sheepskin, but has, or had, some added extras, including a gilt border, marbled endleaves and edges, and traces of green silk ties. It has been well repaired.

William Blake of Covent Garden, woollen draper, son of Francis Blake of Highgate Esq, was the founder and house-keeper of the Ladies Charity School on Highgate Hill, where "near forty Poor, or Fatherless Children" were "taught to Read, Write, and Cast Accompts". In a Merlinus Anonymous for 1655 the "new Hospital at Highgate" is mentioned, and in 1682 Blake acquired Dorchester House, across the green, as a boarding house for the girls. During the next six years six houses were built on the estate. Apart from their rent and occasional contributions from a few London parishes, a number of pious and wealthy ladies were the main source of income for the school. Blake struggled in his fund-raising; having mortgaged his property and alienated his family, he was imprisoned for debt in the Fleet, and in 1687 the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields offered £10 towards his release. His will was proved in 1695.

This publication made a direct appeal to worthy Ladies for funding for the school. The final page of text requests: "It is humbly desired, that what you or any of you, most noble Ladies, Gentlewomen, or others, are pleased to bestow or give towards this good and great design, that you would be pleased to take a receipt on the backside of Time, or Charity, sealed with three seales, namely, the Treasurers, Housekeepers, and Registers, and it shall be fairly recorded, and hung up in the School-house to be read of all from Time to Time, to the world's end we hope". Not many authors appeal for their books to be dismembered, but copies are found in which the plate of Old Father Time or Charity are missing. All four plates are present here.

Copies are also found in presentation bindings with the name of the recipient tooled on the cover. Mirjam Foot illustrated and described one such binding, now in the British Library, in The Book Collector, Spring 1983, p.78, with reference to six other copies. The ladies named on four of the bindings were Elizabeth Lady Delamere, Lady Alitia Devoo, Madam Dixon and Madam Smyth. A further copy, presented to Madam Miller, was item 75 in Maggs Bros. catalogue 1075. One wonders whether such gifts were profitable (the Maggs binding had the Charity plate removed, so the appeal may have been successful in that instant).

Ink signature of Jenny Pickup, dated 1883, at the head of p.1.

Stock no. ebc3868

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Price: £1250

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