John Hoppner after Sir Joshua Reynolds.
George John, Earl Spencer.
10 x 13¾ inches
George John, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834)
In midlife many succumb to peculiar hobbies and here, in the shape of the 2nd Earl Spencer, we have one of the most prolific and passionate bibliophiles of all time. Perhaps more intriguing than his achievements as First Lord of the Admiralty and Home Secretary is the fact that he amassed a library of over 40,000 books described by his librarian (admittedly an employee) as "Probably the finest private library the world has ever seen". He hit the ground running by inheriting an already impressive library of 7000 books from his father but Spencer could not stop collecting and with each library he purchased he upgraded copies and resold inferior examples. Eventually it befell his grandson, the 5th Earl Spencer, to flog the lot in an extraordinary sale of the entire Althorp collection in 1892. The exotically named Mrs. Enriqueta Rylands made the purchase for an eye popping £210,000! She established The Rylands Library in Manchester, as a memorial to her husband, where the books can be viewed to this very day.