New Acquisition: Blome's Gentleman's Recreation

The Gentleman’s Recreation! In Two Parts!, Richard Blome, Nicholas Coxe (London: S. Rotcroft, 1686)

Library Call Number: AE4.G46 1686

The Gentleman’s Recreation! In Two Parts! is a compendium of knowledge of the arts, sciences, and leisure activities divided by subject. Published for the cultivation of the English country gentleman, this publication along with Blome’s others suffered the reputation of plagiarism. The book’s originality, however, can be found in the illustrations accompanying the text, most remarkably the elliptical diagrams. Blome’s Gentleman’s Recreation is often credited to artist Nicholas Coxe for this reason.

The first part of Blome’s Gentleman’s Recreation considers the arts and sciences from philosophy to science, mathematics, and astronomy with chapters on warfare, navigation, geography, and painting. The second part is reserved for what is today considered ‘recreation’; discussing hunting, hawking, and fishing among other activities. Though ostensibly the book’s intention is to be a comprehensive education for an English country gentleman of the Age of Enlightenment, it may have been published to capitalize on the growing popularity of the image of the highly educated and well-rounded man.

Richard Blome began his career as a heraldic painter and became one of the first publishers to finance his operations by advance subscription. As a publisher and cartographer, Blome set himself against John Ogilvy, who became the King’s Cosmographer and Geographic Printer. Both publishers made use of their patronage connections to publish atlases, with Blome printing an atlas of Great Britain titled Britannia shortly before Ogilby. This rivalry is considered to have begun a new era of cartography in Britain.

As publishers, both Blome and Ogilvy compiled existing knowledge rather than conduct their own surveying or undertaking their own translations. Viewed sceptically by the next generation of English authors, the works of both publishers came to be seen as opportunistic, at times plagiaristic, making use of patronage networks to publish books for financial gain. For these reasons, the reputations of both authors suffered into the following centuries as new authors undertook original translations and surveys. It is only within the past century that the works of Ogilby and Blome have been reconsidered on their merits, specifically, the illustrations. The works of both publishers include engravings by Bohemian artist Wencenclaus Hollar. (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Blome’s Gentleman’s Recreation was acquired by ARC to support studies in English, History, Art History, and Design.

Title page, plates, and illustrations from Blome's Gentleman's Recreation