23rd Aug, 2022 10:00

Books and Maps

Lot 311



SWAN MARK REGISTERS OF OWNERS (Two volumes): The first volume is for marks used by the proprietors of lands in the “Hundred of Wisbech'', Isle of Ely (Cambridgeshire), and dated 1566. It contains over 600 marks, followed by 19 pages of manuscript notes concerning the “Laws and Ordinances regarding swans”. The marks are made up of swans’ heads drawn in black, with most of the beaks painted in red, a swan's foot to the right of each and in many cases the name of the mark's owner above it. The names start with the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, on to the Bishop of Ely and the Dean of York and finishing with the wealthy landowners. The manuscript notes are dated 1577, signed: George Carlton and go on to say: "it is desired and ordered that all books and swannmarks be reformed, corrected, amended and made uniform into one book and that remains in the keeping of the swanner, or his deputy…” A Beautiful volume of an early record of swan ownership, bound in near contemporary full leather with blind stamps to covers and later spine. The second volume is dated 1834 and with the ownership name of Alan H Whitman? PP: (4) manuscript notes on swan marks, etc, followed by 84 pages of swan marks, 12 to the page, making a total of c900 marks, mostly with the owner's name, followed by an index of owners (A-E only). Plus: a loosely inserted vellum sheet with Lord Walpole's swan mark, drawn from an old document. The volume is bound in contemporary full calf, with one of two clasps. [The last time a similar item to the first volume above appeared for sale, was sold by Christies, London, June 2nd. 1999 reaching £32,200 (including commission)]. That one was dated c1500
“The swan has been deemed a royal bird from the Middle Ages, and although the privilege of owning a 'game' of swans was granted by the crown to individuals or institutions, all such birds had to be marked and pinioned. Only the monarch could claim unmarked mute swans. Swan marks are used to identify the birds’ rightful owners or licence holders and to assist in any dispute over ownership, or to use at swan upping, when the Swan-Master oversees the marking of the new cygnets” (2)

Provenance: The Peter and Pat Crofts Collection

Sold for £54,000



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Auction: Books and Maps, 23rd Aug, 2022



Viewing will be held at our Stansted Auction Rooms, Cambridge Road, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8GE, as follows:

Fri 19 Aug, 10am - 4pm 

Sun 21 Aug, 10am - 1pm 

Mon 22 Aug, 10am - 4pm 

All lots are, however, extensively illustrated and carry detailed condition reports - see 'Condition report' at the foot of each lot description. 

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