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Members of the Roxburghe Club.

Members of the Roxburghe Club at The John Rylands Library, with chairman Lord Egremont centre.

Members of the prestigious Roxburghe Club, the world’s oldest bibliophilic society, held their annual meeting at The John Rylands Library yesterday. The visit gave members the opportunity to view the Locating Boccaccio exhibition at the Library, which celebrates the 700th anniversary of the Italian poet’s birth, and Professor Steve Milner gave a curator’s tour of the exhibition.

The Club was founded in 1812 to celebrate the sale of the Duke of Roxburghe’s copy of the Valdarfer (1471) edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron, which was purchased by the Marquess of Blandford (later the 5th Duke of Marlborough), against fierce competition from his cousin and fellow bibliomaniac, George John, 2nd Earl Spencer. Blandford paid £2,260 for it, then a record for a single book. However, when the Duke was forced to sell his library seven years later, Spencer picked it up for the bargain price of £918. Thanks to Enriqueta Rylands’s purchase of the Spencer collection in 1892, this remarkable book now resides in the John Rylands Library. Lord Spencer was one of the founder members of the Club.

After a short business meeting, and a somewhat longer and most convivial lunch, members were able to view a selection of books and manuscripts from our collections, including the Roxburghe Decameron. Several items pertained to the Roxburghe Club, including Lord Spencer’s own copies of Roxburghe Club publications (each member is expected to produce a book for presentation to fellow members); a volume of letters from Lord Spencer to Thomas Frognall Dibdin; and a volume of Roxburghe Club printed ephemera and correspondence which once belonged to Rev. Henry Drury (a member from 1813 until his death in 1841).

PDF descriptions of all the printed books, manuscripts and archives shown can be downloaded here: