The library now at Blickling Hall contains the accumulated books of generations of the Hobart family, who have lived there since the early seventeenth century. Included within this library is another collection of books, which is quite different in character. This was brought together by Sir Richard Ellys ofNocton, Lincolnshire, in the first four decades of the eighteenth century and came to Blickling by inheritance, probably in the 1740s.
Ellys's library was that of a serious-minded scholar, who had a host of contacts in the international republic of letters of the early eighteenth century. It was also the library of a wealthy and sophisticated collector, whose discriminating taste and determination in pursuit of books was acknowledged even by rivals in what had recently become a fashionable and Highly competitive field
To assemble such a collection required specialist knowledge and particular skills - which themselves
had to be learned, with the help of a broad range of bibliographical reference books and a growing network of semi-professional book agents, go-betweens and librarians. In looking at the influences on Ellys as a collector, and at how his library was put together, this exhibition illustrates an historical phase in which English book-collecting reached maturity.
Sir Richard Ellys (1682-1742) was a bibliophile, book collector, and patron of scholars, who was himself highly regarded as a classical scholar. His father was a rich baronet and an MP, while on his mother's side he was descended from the Civil War Parliamentarian leader John Hampden. Sir Richard Ellys followed his father into politics and was MP for Grantham from 1701 to 1705 and for Boston from 1719 to 1734, sharing also his family's strong Whig principles. One contemporary described him as 'a gentleman of Learning & Piety. His Learning mostly in the classical and critical way. His notions in Religion are strict Calvanisms. He greatly affects the books of the old Puritans.'
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Blickling Hall - Estate main entrance, Norfolk England. Princeton University - Firestone Library, Washington USA. The Morgan Library & Museum - New York NY USA.