CUSSANS, John Edwin (1851-1889). History of Hertfordshire. London: Chatto and Windus, 1870-1881.

$ 3,800.00

CUSSANS, John Edwin (1851-1889). History of Hertfordshire, containing an Account of the Descents of the Various Manors; Pedigrees of Families connected with the County; Antiquities, Local Customs, &c... London: Chatto and Windus; Hertford: Stephen Austin & Sons, 1870-1881.

6 parts in 3 volumes. Folio (20 x 12 4/8 inches). Sectional half-titles and title-pages, errata slip inserted before page 47 in volume one. Engraved frontispiece portrait, on India paper laid down, double-page lithographed map with original hand-colour in full, 20 chromolithographs, 2 uncoloured lithographs, engravings in the text throughout. Contemporary half red morocco, gilt, top edges gilt.

Provenance: from the library of Hugh Fattorini, with his bookplate on the front paste-down of each volume, his sale Sotheby's 30th April, 2015, lot 100

First edition, limited issue, number 25 of 75 large paper copies, initialed by Cussans. As a young man Cussans travelled to America in 1858, "possibly as a photographer and draughtsman, and by 1861 was correspondent of the Morning Chronicle. His dispatches, favourable to the Confederacy, required a speedy departure from New York. He immediately went to Russia as a photographer, but returned in 1863 to London, where he resided for the rest of his life.

"Cussans's commitment was henceforth to writing on genealogy and heraldry, and, above all, to the preparation of his History of Hertfordshire... for which he is now chiefly known. This massive undertaking, of which he commented ‘I loved my work too well to get rid of it in a perfunctory manner’ (Johnson, ‘Introduction’, x), contained complex genealogies as well as engravings. It covered not only the gentry but also more humble folk, with an emphasis on the Church of England and its clergy. He financed the volumes by subscription, but eventually admitted that he lost £3000 on the venture. Financial necessity forced him in 1881 to enter the service of the Anglo-Californian Bank, of which he became secretary; gout necessitated his retirement in 1897. The History is a tour de force, based firmly on his travels in Hertfordshire, and his corrections of Robert Clutterbuck's earlier history of 1827. It is an accurate account containing numerous personal anecdotes, many of them humorous. Cussans's annotated copy (now in the collection of Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies) reveals his prejudices, and provides an intriguing picture of nineteenth-century Hertfordshire life. He records, for example, that Colonel Clinton of Cockenhatch, Barkway, ‘was never seen there except on Sundays, when Sheriffs' writs could not be served’ (Johnson, ‘Introduction’, xi). Robert Kennard of Theobalds enlarged his fortune by supplying stores to the government during the Crimean War: ‘If rumour may be believed (and in this case I think it can), suffice it to say that the official examination of stores was very lax’ (ibid.). The History was reissued in 1972, and extracts from Cussans's grangerized version appeared in 1987, under the title A Professional Hertfordshire Tramp. His wit and gaiety led William Branch Johnson to call Cussans the ‘laughing historian’" (Alan Ruston for DNB).