An Update on the William Bragge Album

White, Snuff Bottles from China. The Victoria and Albert Museum Collection , p. 11, figs. 2 and 3). The Colvile album was painted by family and friends; we have no idea of the identity of the artist who produced the Bragge paintings, but he was a far finer miniaturist than whoever Captain Colvile pressed into service. The handsome, small volume is bound in green calf decorated with gold leaf by the famous bookbinder Joseph Zaehnsdorf (1816-1886). Inside the cover is inscribed ‘Bound by Zaehnsdorf’ to remove any doubt as to the binder, along with his impressed, gilt oval seal. Zaehnsdorf was a Hungarian who, at the age of fifteen, became apprenticed to a bookbinder in Stuttgart. Later he worked in Austria, Germany and France, moving from Paris to London in 1837, initially to visit his brother who was a jeweler working in the capital. He worked in London for two other book- binders before setting up his own business in 1842. His son, also called Joseph, subsequently joined him and the two became ranked among the leading bookbinders in England. At the sale of this volume in the J & J auction (Christie’s New York, 22 March 2007, lot 20) the album was bought for the Franz Collection but has recently returned to roost in the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection. The exact date of the album of paintings is unknown, but given Bragge’s activities as a collector and the date of publication of his record of his collections related to tobacco , the most likely date for the binding of the volume is probably in the 1870s. Bragge produced his magnum opus in time for an initial printing in 1874 (the monumental, Biliotheca Nicotiana. A Catalogue of Books about Tobacco together with a Catalogue of Objects Connected with the Use of Tobacco in all its Forms . It seems likely that he would have commissioned the illustrations either before, or at about this time, but in any case presumably before 1876 when his collection of snuff bottles was sold at Sotheby’s in London.

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