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Connections to Herefordshire line not yet established

John Baskerville, Printer and inventor of 'Baskerville' font or type-face, 1750s-1775

There are three carriages in the Wollaton Park Museum at Nottingham (in 1989) with Baskerville connections. They came to Nottingham castle in the 1920's from Fuller's Coachbuilders Bath, where they had been displayed for some time. Previously they had bean stored at Manton in Wiltshire. Two carriages have connections with John Baskerville of Birmingham. The third is of a later date. All have Baskerville Arms on their bodywork. John Baskerville of Birmingham had no known links with the titled Baskervilles. How he acquired the carriages and how they came to be at Manton in Wiltshire is a mystery. A date of 1698 is associated with them in connection with one of the titled Baskervilles who was High Sheriff of Wiltshire at the time, although no documentary proof of this has been cited. The coach bodies are certainly of a later date, though the chassis with no springs, merely leather suspension straps, could be earlier. One vehicle is a dress landau, the Phaeton. It is said that John Baskerville liked gold and green colors, which are the basic colors of all the vehicles. Again, no documentary proof of the link between the vehicles and John Baskerville has been cited, though the heraldic devices are completely spurious - except for the Baskerville element, and this supports the "imposter" argument. The elaborate decoration was said to have been applied by Baskerville's japanning workers, who worked with lacquer decoration on paper-mache boxes and trays.

A newspaper cutting dated 'May 1827' on the disinterment of John Baskerville's coffin states "Mr. Baskerville was born at Wolverly, in this county, in 1706 and inherited a small paternal estate. He was Possessed of a natural elegance of taste, which distinguished every thing which came from his hands. His house, planned by himself, was more decorated with architectural ornament than any in Birmingham. The panels of his carriage were elegant pictures, and a pair of beautiful cream horses drew him. He loved fine clothes, and indeed seems in all respects to have been fond of show, united with something of singularity."

A handwritten document dated c1900 reads: "John Baskerville a native of Worcestershire and printer is entitled to notice only for the beautiful type which he employed in the printing of several works which are distinguished by the name Baskerville editions. The same John Baskerville a celebrated letter founder and printer in the forms of the types and various print processes of printing. He raised the art to a higher state than it had reached before, but his labors appear to have been but faintly appreciated. It has been remarked that his books are more elegantly than correctly printed. Gainsborough painted John Baskerville's portrait. He was buried, by his own desire, in a tomb in his own garden. He was born at Wolverley in Worcestershire in 1706 and died 1775."

Erwin, after considering this evidence, writes that "...some historians believe John Baskerville [The Printer] was a social upstart. They have described his 'Baskerville cresting' of his coaches, now in the Nottingham Museum, as something to which he had no right, as he was in no way connected to the main Eardisley branch of the Baskervilles. Since I discovered the account of his exhumation/disinternment in May 1827 [Foley Scrap book in the Worcester Record Office] I believe previous historians are completely wrong as this account distinctly says 'He [John Baskerville] inherited a small paternal estate'. If One of John's parent's wills can be found we may well resolve this riddle quite easily but if we carefully consider the dates of birth which we already have, their sequence shows that, John [Senior] was baptized on 26th March 1678 and John [The Printer] in 1706. This would have made John [senior] 28 years old at the time of John's [The Printer] birth in 1706. To me, this very tidy run of dates. Plus the Baskerville custom of giving their children their own christen names, makes me almost certain that my suggested connection to the main family is correct.

Although I agree John Baskerville's [The Printer] claim to a Baskerville crest on his coaches may be a little tenuous. But there again they are not exact copies of the true Baskerville crest, so he may have altered them enough to prevent any legal backlash from those of his relations entitled to the original Baskerville crest. After all it is generally acknowledged by all his historians that he was a smooth operator commercially and what better than an ancient family crest to attract customers in the eighteenth century? It is also very interesting to note that Woverley, nr. Kidderminister is approximately 18 miles from Sapey Common, near what is now called Woodbury Hill [old name Wolveshill?] which was the home of Sir Thomas Baskerville who married Eleanor Habingdon of Brookhampton Circa 1600. If John Baskerville [printer] was related to the main branch of the Baskervilles this may he another source to the estate he inherited" (Erwin, 1990).

I have not yet located an image of the Baskerville coaches showing the Arms, although reference to them in the museum's collections can be found here.

References and reading