Hugh Percival Wharton Gatty followed his father to St John's in 1925 to read history. After graduating in 1928 he spent time in Austria and developed a strong interest in German culture. He also had an enthusiasm for eighteenth-century art and literature. In 1936 he was appointed College lecturer in history, and in 1937 he became Librarian, allowing him to indulge his passion for the College's historical treasures. During his time as Librarian, which was interrupted by work for the Foreign Office during the Blitz, he improved its organization, arranged several exhibitions of its more interesting holdings, and ensured the safe storage of some of the most valuable items during the Second World War.
Gatty's bequest to the Library
Gatty left several valuable manuscripts to the Library and over five hundred early printed books, including three volumes of incunabula. These cover a broad range of subjects including fine arts, gardening, social mores, eighteenth-century prose and poetry, and history, and include some finely illustrated and finely bound volumes. Gatty also had an eye for books with interesting provenances. Among the many interesting items from his collection are:
- A copy of Persius's Satires (1771) bound for Josephine, vicomtesse de Beauharnais, later consort of Napoleon and Empress of the French.
- Helkiah Crooke's anatomical work Mikrokosmographia (1618) bearing the signature and armorial binding stamp of the Earl of Strafford.
- Edward Gibbon's copy of a work on Gustavus Adolphus, bearing his bookplate.
- A copy of Loggan's pictorial work on the Cambridge Colleges, Cantabrigia illustrata (1690), with slight damp-staining due, according to a note in Gatty's hand, to a sudden storm that occurred on his return with it from the bookshop.
- Fine books on gardening, including Humphrey Repton's Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1805), which contains fold-out illustrations of landscapes before and after landscaping, and Charles Middleton's Decorations for parks and gardens (ca. 1800), which is almost a catalogue of temples, bridges and follies.
- Two illustrated volumes discussing the work on perspective of the prominent Johnian mathematician Brooke Taylor, Thomas Malton's Compleat treatise on perspective, in theory and practice (1776), and J.J. Kirby's Dr Brook Taylor's method of perspective made easy (1754).
- Six works produced by the famous eighteenth-century printer, John Baskerville.
- The 1823 tenth edition of The remains of Henry Kirke White with fore-edge paintings of Nottingham castle, Newark castle, White himself, King's Parade, Cambridge, and St John's College.
The books given by Gatty bear a simple book label in Latin. Translated it reads:
Hugh Percival Wharton Gatty, Fellow and Librarian, bequeathed this book to the Library of this College in the year 1948.
Images (click to enlarge)
Hugh Gatty's book label.