Sowerby Collection

The collection contains over 800 printed 'stud' cards and handbills. The earliest item dates from 1770, but the majority of the material spans a period from the 1820s to the 1920s. The size of the collection, the precise dating of the material, and the concentration on such a specific category of product make it a rewarding collection for study and comparison.

There is a rich variety of display typefaces used in the design of the handbills and a large number of items are illustrated with lively woodcut or wood-engraved images of horses, with evidence of the frequent copying or pirating of images and the widespread use of stock blocks. The majority of items bear an imprint and were produced by a wide range of provincial printers mainly in the north of England.

The collection was formed by David R. Sowerby, a veterinary surgeon who spent most of his working life in East Yorkshire. He had two uncles who were horse-breeders, and they probably collected many of the items and, in particular, the early material from Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Sowerby himself became a breeder, and by the early 1890s was recognised as an authority on Hackney horses and ponies. The collection was given to Geoffrey D.S. Bennett, an author on equestrian subjects, and then passed to Ernest E. Hutton, with both men adding more items.

The University Library acquired the collection in 1997 from Sotheby's. It was described in the catalogue as being 'the largest of its kind, of great importance for the wealth of information it contains on the horses, their owners and districts they serve'.

More information

  • The collection is not yet catalogued but it is arranged chronologically in four sections relating to category of horse, and mounted in two large folders
natural history, printing history ephemera sowerby collection

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