LEVELAND, Gervase Clifford. ~ Miscellaneous Antiquities. Collected. By G.C.L. [Suffolk, c. 1794-1800].
2 vols, 4to (270 × 200 mm), ff. ; , almost all completed in a combination of manuscript and watercolour, with full-page drawings, calligraphic text and ornamental borders, two hand-coloured oval engraved portraits, most leaves with original tissue guards. Contemporary white goatskin with large green oval onlays (within a fiery border) to covers, gilt panelled spines, gold and green edges echoing the oval cover design. Minor expert repair to bindings.
A SPECTACULAR AND ECCENTRIC BRITISH ANTIQUARIAN COLLECTION WITH NOTICES OF OVER 100 HISTORIC INDIVIDUALS OR MONUMENTS, EACH WITH A WATERCOLOUR AND ILLUMINATED TEXT, the latter in quasi-historical style evoking original manuscripts. With a very few exceptions (Ignatius Loyola and Marie de Medici included) the subjects are British historical figures, beginning with William de la Way who came to England at the Conquest. Leveland provides watercolour portraits of each in an engagingly naive style, together with short biographies and armorial devices. Other figures include Robert Despenser, John de Pelham, William de la More, Henry Courtenay, Thomas Howard, Henry Howard, Anthony Woodville, Francis Villiers, William ‘Alderman’ Beckford (father of the novelist and collector), Nicholas Carew and Robert De Vere, among many others. The work is dedicated to Queen Charlotte, though probably without permission: ‘This Volume of Miscellaneous Antiquities is Humbly presented for her Gracious Patronage’ with her arms; the second volume contains an incomplete dedication to Charles Howard, Duke of Norfolk (1746-1815) following his full-page arms.
At the end of the first volume several pages are devoted to contemporary hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, with examples of his arms granted after the Battle of the Nile (1798) and the commemorative medal struck in the same year by Alexander Davison. The second volume is more diverse. While continuing the biographies of the first, it also contains entries on specific monuments, notably the churches at Fairford (Gloucs) with its celebrated early stained glass, St Michael (Crooked Lane, London) and Stoke Poges (Bucks.); a calligraphic facsimile (with seals) of the death warrant of Charles I and copy of the Institution of the Baronets of Nova Scotia (1629).
The style is certainly idiosyncratic, the highly-coloured figures rendered with limited attention to proportion or perspective accompanied by naturalistic illuminated borders of leaves, fruit and flowers sometimes inhabited by insects and a range of historical scripts and other apparatus (armorial devices, seals and frames). The coloured portraits of the artist in wig and cravat bound at the front of each volume are etchings with aquatint and were presumably privately commissioned; an uncoloured version with full margins is in the print collection of the British Museum.
Little is known of Clifford (1736-1815) but he was baptised at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden on 19 October 1736, second son and fourth child of Gervase Leveland, a London woollen-draper, and his wife Mary [Nutting]. He was a longtime Suffolk resident and created several antiquarian manuscripts; one (‘Auncient seles affixede to Charteres’) is now in the National Art Library (Victoria & Albert Museum), three more are in the William Salt Library (Stafford) and another is in a private collection. A book bearing his inscription, Barclay his Argenis, or, The Loves of Poliarchus and Argenis (1625) is at UCL and his will is preserved in the National Archives (it makes specific provision for the inheritance of Leveland’s painting materials). He managed at least one foray into print with The virtuous Wife: a sentimental Tale (Sudbury, privately printed, 1812).
Copsey. Suffolk Writers from the Beginning until 1800 (2000).