The Library is the first room that you encounter as you enter the house. This is no accident of architecture; its prominence reflects its importance to the family.
Written words remain
The Latin proverb on the door hinges says it all - LITERA SCRIPTA MANET / VERBA LOCUTA VOLANT Written words remain, spoken words fly away.
The Gibbs’ library was not a stuffy status symbol, where books languished gathering dust. Instead it was a well-loved repository of useful knowledge, self-improvement and amusement for a bookish family.
Numbering around 10,000 volumes, it is one of the largest libraries in the National Trust. Most of the books are concentrated in the Billiard Room and the Library room itself, which contains around 4,000 volumes.
The Library was a favourite family sitting room, comfortable but sumptuous:
- the mellow oak of the book stacks sets off the gold-tooling on the spines
- the original Crace carpet (in astonishing condition) covers the floor like a bejewelled meadow
- William’s Spanish motto is carved in Gothic script around the cornice.
Completed by John Norton ready for Christmas 1865, the bay window was a stage for family theatricals.
A Victorian library
Tyntesfield’s library is one of the finest Victorian country house libraries in the UK, remarkable because it survives substantially intact. The major contributors to the collection were William (1790-1875) and Blanche (1817-1887), and their son, Antony (1841-1907).
The books reflect Victorian developments and debates , such as William’s copies of Darwin’s works including On the Origin of the Species (1860) and Owen Jones’ lavishly illustrated Grammar of Ornament (London, 1856). The latter was the Victorian ‘tastemakers’ bible’, setting out the design principles behind the art and architecture of 19 cultural periods.
Other books give impressions of their owners’ interests and tastes:
- The extensive theology section features first edition copies of the key Oxford Movement texts, signed by the authors and presented to Blanche Gibbs. The couple were both devout followers of the ‘High Church’ Oxford Movement.
- The unique La Guirlande de Julie (the Garland of Julie) owned by William’s son, Antony. This collection of poems written to woo Julie d’ Argennes, is decorated with exquisite miniature flower paintings on vellum by Mary Lawrence (died 1830).
- Rules for an ancient Spanish card game, The Game of Ombre (1878), also part of Antony’s library. This has a superb neo-Renaissance binding by the famous German binder, Zaehnsdorf. It was compiled by Antony’s clever older cousin, Henry Hucks Gibbs (1819-1907). Henry, rather than Antony, eventually succeeded William as head of the family firm.