Sunday, 28 November 2021

Celotti or Ottley? The Source of the Lomax-Wade Collection [II]

Before accepting any argument as true, even -- or especially -- if my initial inclination is to believe it, my first reaction is always to consider if the opposite argument is tenable. One way of doing this is to think about what sort of evidence would be required to either (i) disprove the argument, or (ii) prove the opposite argument, and then look to see if either sort of evidence exists. [1]

In the present case [discussed in the preceding two blogposts], if we were to take as our working hypothesis that the Lomax-Wade collection consisted exclusively and entirely of cuttings bought by Webster at the Celotti sale (rather than acquisitions from elsewhere, such as the Ottley sale), I can envisage three main ways of disproving this hypothesis. 

One is to find a Celotti-Webster item that was definitely not in the Lomax-Wade collection, but proving a negative is often impossible, and in this case there are too many ambiguous descriptions in both catalogues to state with certainty that an item in former was not in the latter. A second approach would be to identify one or more items in the Lomax-Wade collections that were definitely not in the Celotti sale; but this would be very difficult to prove for similar reasons. A third, much easier approach, which avoids the problem that we do not know the subjects depicted in all the initials in the Celotti sale, is to see whether the number of items bought by Webster at the Celotti sale matches the number in the Lomax-Wade collection.

First, we should clear up a possible ambiguity in how we count the Celotti cuttings. In a description from the Celotti catalogue like this ...

... we might interpret this as meaning there were at least 20 individual items in the lot, comprising 9 ("by an unknown artist") + 2 ("Saint scourging" and "A Monk") + 4 ("Initials small Initial Letters") + more than 1 ("Nativity, &c.") + 3 ("pieces of Ornament"). Or if the "Nativity, &c." were included among the preceding 4, this would give a total of 18 items. 

But other descriptions make clear that the cataloguer's practice is to state the total number of items at the outset:

So in the previous example, there were only nine items:
2 ("Saint scourging" and "A Monk") +
4 ("Initials small Initial Letters", including the "Nativity, &c.") +
3 ("pieces of Ornament")

Having esablished this, we can check  how many items were bought at the Celotti sale lots bought by Webster:

Lot 2

"Eight. End of the fifteenth, or commencement of the sixteenth century [...] and three Initial Letters, without figures [...]"

Lot 4 

"Fifteen, by an unknown Artist, circa, 1600 [...] and twelve smaller Initial Letters, without figures"

Lot 6 

"Five, by the same hand [...]"

Lot 7 

"Nine, by an unknown Artist, fifteenth century [...] and three pieces of Ornament"

Lot 8

"Four, by the same hand [...]"

Lot 10 

"Ten ditto ditto. [...]"

Lot 21 

"Two [...]"

These figures produce a total of 53 items, of which :

historiated initials: 5 + 3 + 5 + 6 + 4 + 10 + 2 = 35

"without figures": 3 + 12 = 15

"pieces of ornament": 3

As mentioned in a previous post, the Lomax-Wade album contained 120 cuttings: "thirty-seven historiated initials, six cuttings from borders and seventy-seven illuminated initials", so clearly the lots bought by Webster at the Celotti auction cannot have been their only source. 

It is, in theory, possible that the cuttings that are unaccounted for could have been bought by one or more other people at the Celotti sale, and later acquired by Webster. Or Webster could have sold his cuttings to another buyer at the Celotti sale, who added these to his own purchases to form a collection of 120 items. Or Webster could have sold his group of 53 items to a collector who augmented it by buying another 83 items at the Ottley sale and/or other sources.

Anne-Marie Eze never stated that all the Lomax-Wade cuttings came from the Celotti sale, and as far as I have been able to establish, she was entirely correct to suggest that those whose subjects are known, did indeed probably come from that sale. In fact, despite all the reasons I adduced in a previous post to suggest that the Lomax-Wade collection was at least partly formed at the Ottley sale, I have not been able to conclusively identify any of the Lomax-Wade items in the Ottley catalogue.

There is more that could be said about the Lomax-Wade collection, and perhaps I will return to it in future, but for now it may be worth returning to a provenance question: who were Lomax and Wade?

The collection of cuttings first appeared in public at the Dyson Perrins sale at Sotheby's in December 1960, with this provenance note:

Presumably John Lomax was not the person who had the collection bound in 1838, as he did not write his name in it until 1842. He may have acquired the collection from Webster (who is still to be identified), or there may have been an intermediate owner.

The Lomax family of Clayton Hall are well documented online. Our John Lomax is doubtless the one who inherited Clayton Hall, at Clayton-le-Moors, some years before he died in 1849:

W. O Wade has never been identified in the literature about the collection of cuttings, as far as I am aware, but a search of birth, marriage, and death records suggest he was Walter Overbeck Wade (1835–1892) of Ulverston, Lancashire, only about 55 miles from Clayton Hall:

Walter's wife's was Jane née Aspinall, whose family house was Standen Hall, only about 6 miles from Clayton Hall, so it seems very likely that the Wades knew the Lomaxes socially:

[1] One of the most common and serious faults in academic writing, in my opinion, is when the writer cherry-picks evidence in support of their argument, but omits to report -- or is perhaps unaware of -- the evidence that either weakens, or even contradicts, their argument. (I don't know which is worse, in terms of bad scholarship: failing to look at a question from different angles, or deliberately suppressing contrary evidence).


  1. I live in Walter Overbeck Wade’s house in the Lake District, and have done quite a bit of amateur research on him.

  2. I’d be interested to see the bookplate as I have own a book of Major Wade’s which has his own bookplate in the front featuring a wild boar I think.

    1. I have never seen the bookplate in the Lomax-Wade volume, and have not been able to find an image of an example online. Can you share a photo of the bookplate you have? You can send it to me at



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