Austin Dobson was one of those rare examples—Anthony Trollope, Kenneth Grahame and Charles Lamb were three others—of a writer who had a day job in quite a different field. He was a career civil servant in the Board of Trade who somehow found the time to publish very entertaining essays, principally on themes in eighteenth century art and literature, and much experimental minor verse. As a seventeen year old bibliophile I discovered the Georgian period through Dobson’s wonderful Eighteenth Century Vignettes. In Dobson’s time, the three Brock brothers of Cambridge, all brilliant draughtsmen, were falling in love with the period, as did, a little later, the architect, Sir Albert Richardson, who held dinners with his friends at his Georgian mansion in Ampthill in which everyone dressed up in Georgian costume. I don’t think Dobson went that far, but I could imagine all five men getting on very well together.
This bookplate, which was discovered among many other examples, among the papers of a descendant of Dobson’s, is interesting enough, but becomes more so when we find that there exists a sketch by the bookplate’s designer , the well-known American book illustrator E. A. Abbey, in which Dobson is depicted ‘winding-up’ the designer to get him to create this very bookplate.[RMH]