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Original art work for a Book Plate of the Great Granddaughter White Star Steamboats

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    Posted 11 years ago

    (5 items)

    This is the original artwork for a rather spectacular bookplate. I discovered it with a bundle of prints I had bought and it has inspired me to research the history of bookplates. I didn't realise there was even a Collectors Society for Bookplate enthusiasts. The young lady Elizabeth Le Roy Emmet was the great granddaughter of the founder of the White Star Steamboat Liners and lived in Kensington. It is dated 1901 by initials PSH who was obviously a talented artist as the detail is beautiful. However, I have failed in my attempts to find out any further information about Elizabeth or the Artist.

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    1. solver solver, 11 years ago
      Your bookplate art work is beyond spectacular. Is it a pen and ink drawing? I suggest that it be examined and researched by an expert and a value obtained from an auction house.

      The well-known artist is Mrs. P. Swinnerton Hughes (PSH), 34 Abingdon Villas, Kensington, London. She was a member of the Ex Libris Society, her name was also written as Swinnerton-Hughes, and was married to John Hughes.

      She is listed in the "Journal of the Ex Libris Society" Volume VIII (January-December, 1898), London, 1899, an incredible reference book.

      Mrs. Swinnerton-Hughes is listed in "The Royal Blue Book: Fashionable Directory and Parliamentary Guide" May 1897:

      There is a great deal on the Internet about Mrs. Swinnerton Hughes. She was the daughter of R. L. de Pearsall, a composer. She was "a learned antiquary and geneologist, an artist, and illuminator and designer of book-plates."
    2. cokefan, 11 years ago
      I suggest Bauman Rare Books or Heritage Auctions.
    3. solver solver, 11 years ago
      Definitely needs to be examined and valued by an expert. What a fabulous find!

      Definitive information on the bookplate, from "Journal of the Ex Libris Society," Volume XII (January-December 1902), London, 1903:

      "A VERY beautiful and effective book plate has recently been executed by our member Mrs P Swinnerton Hughes whose exquisite productions have on more than one occasion been admired at our annual exhibitions. This is a plate for Elizbeth Le Roy Emmet a direct descendant of Emmet the rebel patriot who suffered in the Irish rebellion in which Lord Edward Fitzgerald took a leading part. After the tragic event of his death the family went to America and established the White Star line of Atlantic steamers achieving great wealth. This latter fact is brought out strongly in the design a large white star between two female figures evidently representing the two hemispheres being predominant. The arms are placed on a lozenge on either side of which steamers are shown as going in opposite directions. The inappropriate Biblical motto "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel" as well as the allegorical figures representing Europe and America were chosen by the owner but the result is pleasing and effective and the execution admirable.",%20thou%20shalt%20not%20excel%22%20AND%20emmet&f=false

      More info that should get you started on research:

      Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet, born 1874, daughter of Katharine Temple Emmet and Richard Stockton Emmet; later wife of Nicholas Biddle.

      You are fortunate that there is a comprehensive website,, that has everything you want to know about the Emmets, a prominent New York City family. The shield on the bookplate is part of the family arms.

      From the December 10, 1905 "The New York Times:"
      "Tuesday is also the date of the wedding of Miss Elizabeth Le Roy Emmet, daughter of the late Richard Stockton Emmet, to Nicholas Biddle of Philadelphia. Miss Emmet made a short and successful incursion into theatricals a year ago and supported Miss Clara Bloodgood Laimbeer in "The Girl with the Green Eyes." She is a sister of Grenville Temple Emmet and of Mrs. Martin Keogh, at whose residence in New Rochelle the wedding reception will be held. Miss Emmet is a niece of Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet of this city. The family is descended from a brother of Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot. Nicholas Biddle of Philadelphia bears a historic name coeval almost with society in the Quaker City before the Revolution."

      December 15, 1905 "Miss Emmet Weds:",4912633

      Her father, Richard Stockton Emmet:

    4. Seagulls Seagulls, 11 years ago
      Dear Solver

      Well what can I say - I'm absolutely staggered that you have solved this mystery! I had exhausted my research and had completely gone off on the wrong trail. I thought she must have been related to the Ismay White Star family and had searched the England Census with no success. I also had no idea of the artist and thought they would never be identified. How wrong I was! I can't thank you enough for all this fantastic information. I always knew it was special, but now feel extremely lucky to own it. I just wonder how it made its way to the Isle of Wight UK - we shall never know. You are definitely a bookplate specialist extraordinaire - I can't thank you enough.
    5. Seagulls Seagulls, 11 years ago
      Dear Cokefan

      Many thanks for your advice. I'm so pleased I discovered Collectors Weekly - I can't believe how quickly my mystery was solved! I'm hooked.
    6. solver solver, 11 years ago
      Thank you for the very kind words but I was fascinated by this extraordinary art and its provenance, heraldry, and genealogy. If I were you, I would show this wonderful piece of history to The Bookplate Society (UK), a direct descendant of the Ex Libris Society (1891-1908). They have exhibitions and I would think that your piece is worthy. Here is The Society's contact page with email links:

      I think I can answer your comment "I just wonder how it made its way to the Isle of Wight UK - we shall never know."

      Mrs. P. Swinnerton Hughes, PHILIPPA Swinnerton Pearsall (de Pearsall) Hughes, had a sister, Elizabeth Still Pearsall (born March 8, 1821). Elizabeth died February 6, 1912 at Stanhope Lodge, COWES, ISLES OF WIGHT.

      Your bookplate paper bears what I believe to be the Hughes family arms and the motto, "kymmer yn edeirnion." His ancestry is discussed in this excerpt from ancestry dot com:

      "... John Hughes, Esq., Barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple, son (by Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Davies Esq., of Trefyman, co. Denbigh) of William Hughes of Gwerclas and Kymmer in Edeirnion, co. Merioneth, Lords of Kymmer and Barons of Edeirnion, descended from the last reigning prince of Powis. He died July 4, 1883. No children.

      Philippa Swinnerton Pearsall, born February 6, 1824, in Willsbridge, Gloucester, England. Her parents were Robert Lucas De Pearsall and Harriet Eliza Hobday.

      Philippa studied painting in the 1840s in Augsberg with Master Hundert Pfund and married John Hughes on September 17, 1857, Bavarian Chapel, St. James, Westminster, England. Philippa Swinnerton Pearsall (de Pearsall) Hughes died February 7, 1917, in Oldland, Gloucester.

      She painted a portrait of her father which was given to the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1917:

    7. Seagulls Seagulls, 11 years ago
      Dear Solver

      I am absolutely astounded by your in depth research. You have not only solved the mystery, but have now gone far beyond! To link the bookplate to the Isle of Wight is unbelievable. I also can't believe the speed of the information you have provided. I spent many hours of research and had not made any progress. I am greatly indebted to you and will definitely be contacting the UK Bookplate Society as suggested. In the meantime, I'm going to Cowes (20 minutes away from Ventnor where I live), to visit Stanhope Lodge. It is still standing and divided in to apartments overlooking the sea. You have now ended the story for me. I am only left wondering, as it was still owned by the artists family, that sadly it wasn't printed.
      Kind regards
    8. scottvez scottvez, 11 years ago
      Beautiful artwork, thanks for posting Seagulls.

      GREAT research solver!

    9. solver solver, 11 years ago
      Thanks, scottvez and Seagulls.

      Seagulls, I would love to know what the Bookplate Society has to say. The journey of this bookplate has actually just begun.

      The artist's sister, Elizabeth Still Pearsall (de Pearsall), married Charles Wyndham STANHOPE, 7th Earl of Harrington, in Paris on January 15, 1839. One of the Harrington family residences was Stanhope Lodge, Queens Road, Cowes, Isle of Wight. Elizabeth and Charles had nine children!

      Phillipa Swinnerton Pearsall Hughes has a grandson who currently lives in the United States. He is a Professor of History, Emeritus, and has a blog with a beautiful and poignant memoir to his parents and his "Granny Elizabeth Emmet Biddle." There is a photo of "Granny," about two-thirds down on the left; she was quite the beauty. His email contact is noted on the contact page.

      To quickly bring Elizabeth Pearsall Stanhope's descendants to the present, they are currently members of the extended British Royal Family:

      William Henry Leicester Stanhope, 11th Earl of Harrington, died April 12, 2009. His granddaughter, Serena Stanhope (born March 1, 1970), married (on October 8, 1993) David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, nephew of Queen Elizabeth II. She is now Serena Alleyne Armstrong-Jones, Viscountess Linley. Viscountess Linley descends from Charles II of England through her father.

      Here is a photograph of the Viscount and Viscountess on display in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

    10. solver solver, 11 years ago
      Seagull, here I go again. :-)

      I was going to recommend that you go to the library to see if they have a copy of the book "History and Genealogy of the Pearsall Family in England and America" by Clarence Eugene Pearsall and I came across this incredible, current website created by the Pearsall Family. It has volume 1 of the book online and other comprehensive information and contact info.
    11. Seagulls Seagulls, 11 years ago
      Thank you so much for even more amazing information! I was particularly thrilled to see a picture of Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet and congratulate you on this fine piece of research. She was very beautiful. I have today contacted the Bookplate Society UK and have given them this link. I will, of course, let you know the outcome. Meanwhile, I am still puzzled by the White Star link. It appears that Elizabeth LeRoy Emmets great grandfather was Thomas Addis Emmet. However, I cannot connect him to the White Star Lines. Thomas's friend Robert Fulton invented the early steamboat, but again no White Star links. He had previously met him when travelling from exile in France to New York. However, to use the image in the bookplate there must be a stronger link?

      Kind regards
    12. Seagulls, 11 years ago
      Dear Solver
      I have received a reply from the UK Bookplate Society as follows:-

      "I was fascinated by your email and as suggested have now looked at the website to which you referred me.

      I was particularly interested as the current edition of the Journal, which is with the printers and will be sent out later this month, will contain an article by one of our members on bookplates by Linley Sambourne. I attach an image of his plate for the White Star Line ship SS Oceanic together with an extract from the Ex Libris Journal from 1899 in which the plate was shown with copies being offered to members.

      I am surprised the then editor did not refer back to the earlier Sambourne plate in 1903 when showing the Emmet plate. The similarity in design is such that Swinnerton Hughes must have had instructions to follow it in her plate for Emmet

      It is obviously too late to show the Emmet plate in this Journal but it would be good to have a note about it in the Spring Journal if you are agreeable."

      I have also contacted Rod Stackelberg and sent him the link to Collectors Weekly.

      Thank you so much for all your fine research which has certainly opened my eyes into the world of Bookplates. I will of course keep you updated.

    13. solver solver, 11 years ago
      Dear Seagull,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to provide the thoughtful reply from the UK Bookplate Society. I was pleased to read that they have contacted Roderick Stackelberg.

      I was curious and wanted to see the Linley Sambourne bookplate and located it in "The Bookman" Volume X, September 1899-February 1900, New York.

      Here is what appears to be an original engraving of the bookplate in the Pratt Institute Ex Libris Collection that indicates it is "unsigned" and therefore this is no attribution to Linley Sambourne, the artist.

      Here is a variation of the RMS "Oceanic" bookplate that was on the front cover of a menu folder of July 9, 1905:

      The strong similarity of the Emmet and "Oceanic" bookplates, in my opinion and your question above, adds further to the mystery as to whether Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet's bookplate was ever printed. As you had already done, I also attempted to make a connection of the Emmet family to the "White Star line" and was not successful.

      I researched the White Star line from 1849, also known as (aka) White Star Line of Boston Packets; in 1852, the name was changed to White Star Line of Australian Packets; in 1869, the company became the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company (aka the White Star Line) through the merger of Nelson, Ismay & Co. (Thomas Henry Ismay) and White Star Line of Australian Packets; in 1902, White Star Line aka Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, joined the American company, International Mercantile Marine Co.; in 1934, Cunard merged with White Star Line forming a new company, Cunard White Star, Ltd., with Cunard owning two-thirds of the capital; and finally in 1947, Cunard purchased White Star's interest and the company dropped the White Star name.

      I reviewed the website and there is a "Cunard" descendant. I didn't pursue that any further since White Star didn't join Cunard until 1934, well after the execution of the Emmet bookplate, circa 1902. I hope that Dr. Stackelberg will be able to explain the "Emmet-White Star line" connection.

      Seagull, your bookplate and posts have certainly given me a pleasurable journey into a bit of history as I am one of the people, as quoted above, "whose delight is in books and other beautiful things." :-)

      Our manner of communication on this board has reminded me many times of one of my favorite books, "84, Charing Cross Road" by Helene Hanff.

      I look forward to your updates and hopefully any communication from Dr. Stackelberg.

      Kindest regards,

    14. solver solver, 11 years ago
      Oops, forgot to include one small detail (that has the line I quoted above "whose delight is in ..."). Apparently Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet's bookplate was sold at auction sometime circa 1902.

      There is an entry in "The Literary Collector," "an illustrated monthly magazine for those whose delight is in books and other beautiful things," Volume IV, April-October, 1902 [don't you just love their description of the magazine]:

      "The catalogue of the Bangs sale is a handsome one, and well made. ... It contains some of the rarest books in the English language;
      A peculiar book-plate has been made by Mrs. P.S. Hughes, the English book-plate designer, for Elizabeth LeRoy Emmett [sic], a descendent of the Irish patriot. The family established the White Star line of steamboats, and that fact is brought into the plate by a star and two steamboats in the design. The motto is 'Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.' The result is better than the description would indicate."

      I wasn't able to find the specific Bangs & Co. catalogue for the sale of the Emmet bookplate.

      Simply as a side note, Bangs & Co. sold the business to John Anderson, Jr. on April 1, 1903:


    15. ATARAXA, 11 years ago
      I can - at least - confirm.

    16. ATARAXA, 11 years ago
      Dear Seagulls,

      In the discussions of the newly discovered Elizabeth Leroy Emmet bookplate, it should be pointed out that Elizabeth was in fact -- neither on the male nor on the female side of her family -- at all related to a Founder of the White Star Line!
      She was, therefore, not granddaughter nor great-granddaughter. The reality may be simply that of a lively young lady being discovered in a youthful error -- a good 100 years after.

      When the "Journal of the Ex Libris Society; Vol. XII (Jan.-Dec. 1902) London 1903" writes "This is a plate for Elizabeth Le Roy Emmet a direct descendant of Emmet the rebel patriot who suffered in the Irish rebellion [...........] After the tragic event of his death the family went to America and established the White Star line of Atlantic steamers achieving great wealth. This latter fact is brought out strongly in the design a large white star [ .......] " -- it is fair to assume that everything is tickety-boo & meet for quotation [ "The young lady is the great granddaughter of the founder of the White Star Steamboat Liners and lived in Kensington"].

      Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet (Granny Biddle) - was my husbands grandmother - he is the second youngest of her twelve grandchildren. His mother Ellen was her youngest daughter.

      (As an aside, information from one contributor that the artist, Mrs. Philippa Swinnerton Pearsall Hughes has as grandson who is also a grandson of Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet - is a flattering suggestion - but, of course, incorrect. No genealogical connection exists between our families.)

      On the Emmet side, Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet was the daughter, granddaughter and great-grand-daughter of New York lawyers. The Manhattan law firm which bears their name still exists today.

      [Father, Richard Stockton Emmet (1821- 1902) m. Katharine Temple (1843-1895)
      Grandfather Robert Emmet (1792-1873) m. Rosina Huebley (1792-1849)
      Great-grandfather Thomas Addis Emmet (1760-1827) m. Jane Patten (1771 -1846)]

      It is true, Elizabeth did live in Kensington during one or two lengthy sojourns when she and her sister Eleanor visited an English cousin (on her mother’s side) Mary Temple Rose - married name, Lady Stanley Clarke, wife of Sir Stanley de Astel Calvert Clarke who, in contemporary publications, is described as beautiful, dynamic and "a power in society" - also "a character" by other Temple cousins as she was warmhearted and spontaneous. Her husband was equerry to Queen Victoria & Private Secretary to the future Queen Alexandra - they lived, at one time, in lodgings which were part of Kensington Palace.

      However, a very real connection to a transatlantic steamship company does exist in another branch of the Emmet family.
      One of Thomas Addis Emmet’s daughters, Jane Erin (Jeannette) Emmet -- born 1802 at Fort George in Scotland, where her father (with his wife Jane Patten Emmet) spent 5 years as political prisoner -- did marry, in the 1820s, a young merchant named Bache McEver.

      They had two daughters of whom one - Mary Bache McEver married in 1851 (Sir) Edward Cunard who had been sent to New York by his father to look after the Cunard shipping business on the American side of the Atlantic. He was the oldest son of Sir Samuel Cunard, who was, indeed, founder of the Cunard Transatlantic Shipping line. Below is a link to a photograph of the house they built on Staten Island, N.Y. on a 38 acre estate which is now a college.
      Mary McEver Cunard was Elizabeth’s father’s first cousin, her Cunard descendants were and are a part of the Emmet family. They were obviously part of Elizabeth’s life as well but any suggestion how this could have led to Elizabeth’s association with the White Star Line would be speculation. Youthful exuberance may be the best explanation.

      It remains to find an explanation fort the use of the motto "Unstable as water thou shalt not excel". It is so spectacularly inappropriate for a young lady that it is unlikely she would have chosen it herself.

      Source and reason may lie in an entirely different direction. Her father's first cousin was Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, M.D. Dr. TAE has become famous as an early collector of American documents, letters, coinage etc. He was the family genealogist as well, a writer of family history, a political pamphleteer and a passionate Home Rule supporter. With the help of the Burke family of Ulster Kings of Arms he researched Emmet family genealogy - including the Emmet coat of arms which forms part of the bookplate. It is reasonable to believe that it was he who chose this Motto. Taken from Genesis, Ch.4. it amounts to the fiery incantation of the patriarch who, Jacob like, predicts the eventual rise in independence of his beloved Ireland.

      My last word is about Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet Biddle herself. She died almost on the day she was born in late December 1943. Her older grandchildren remember her as an affectionate, patient grandmother who planned her own summers around their vacation time and gathered them all in by renting a sufficiently large place by the seaside so she could expand her invitations to cousins, nieces and nephews - she loved her extended family & one still hears to this day, "Aunt Elizabeth was a classy lady".

      I own Elizabeth LeRoy Emmet Biddle's collection of Henry James' First and later Editions. They fill a little more than two yards of shelf space. They carry her signature, in thick dark ink & in her handsome large Edwardian handwriting. For those readers who have been asking the reasonable question whether the bookplate had ever been printed I can, at least, confirm that in these books, which were dear to her heart, there is not a single bookplate in sight.
    17. Seagulls Seagulls, 11 years ago
      Dear Solver
      Again, more fascinating information. It does indeed appear that PSH must have seen the Linley Sambourne plate and then adapted the design for Elizabeth. I am now compelled to visit the Linley Sambourne House, Stafford Terrace which consequently is just a couple of streets away from where Phillipa Swinnerton-Hughes lived at Abingdon Villas. Both were members of the Bookplate Society and so must have been acquaintances.

      Concerning the White Star connection, perhaps it was agreed between Elizabeth and Phillipa that the book plate was purely fantasy and never intended for print. I'm sure they would both be rather amused by the interest this has resulted 100 years later! It is certainly a beautiful design and I'm sure both the artist and subject (if she every saw it) must have been most pleased with the result. Interest in the bookplate must have been heightened by the White Star connection when exhibited - and in a pre-computer age who would ever know! After all most artists, especially during the Victorian period, romanticised their subjects . I can see no harm in that - Art for art's sake.

      Can you believe it, I have never read or seen the film 84 Charing Cross Road although, I actually went to Art College in the Charing Cross Road for 2 years! Something else I must add to my to do list. I did google it and it looks just my type of book.

      Please see the latest posting from Elizabeth's family which is fascinating and has solved the mysterious White Star connection. I now intend to trace the artists family, hopefully some remain here on the Isle of Wight. As always, I'll keep you informed.

      Kind regards

    18. Seagulls Seagulls, 11 years ago
      Dear Ataraxa

      Thank you so much for taking the time to post such invaluable first hand information. You have certainly solved the White Star mystery! Although one might think a slight air of disappointment may prevail, quite to the contrary it has only added to my fascination.

      I was particularly interested to learn that you actually have Elizabeth's signed books with no bookplates. It confirms the theory that the book plate was only ever intended to exhibit. It is a detailed design which must have taken a great deal of planning. I am only left wondering how & where Elizabeth and Phillipa actually met? Additionally, perhaps Elizabeth on board a White Star liner travelling to the UK admired the White Star menu design and passed it to Phillipa for her design. More probably, copies of the Linley Sambourne design were handed out to members so Phillipa may have suggested it to Elizabeth. Who knows?

      Kind regards

    19. Seagulls Seagulls, 10 years ago
      I'm sorry to have left it so long, but I will now post the final chapter of this story. The Bookplate Society have been a real inspiration and I was very proud to receive Volume 10 Number 1 Spring 2012 edition of the Bookplate Journal. Mr Bryan Welch has written a most informative piece which ties up any loose ends and there is a full page image included . Copies are available from the at £15 + 1.50postage and packing in the UK.
      Finally, I would like to thank everyone involved in researching this bookplate from Collectors Weekly and The Bookplate Society, it's been so interesting.

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