Beckford, William (1759 -1844)
William Beckford, the author of Vathek, was the only son of William Beckford, Lord Mayor of London, and Maria daughter of the Hon. George Hamilton, second surviving son of James, 6th Earl of Abercorn. Inheritor at the age of nine of Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire, and an enormous fortune, he wasted much of it on meaningless luxury and grandiose building schemes. He married Lady Margaret Gordon, daughter of the Earl of Aboyne, with whom he had two daughters, Margaret Maria Elizabeth, born April 1785, and Susanna Ephemia (1786 1859). Lady Margaret died at the birth of the second child. The younger daughter married the 10th Duke of Hamilton, and the elder displeasing her father in her marriage, was disinherited. The library therefore passed with his estates to the Dukes of Hamilton. It was sold in London in 1880. Beckford used two crests: a heron's head erased or gorged with a collar flory counterflory gules in the beak a fish argent for Beckford; and out of a ducal coronet an oak tree the trunk penetrated transversely by a frame saw for Hamilton differenced with an escutcheon hanging from a branch of the tree charged with the arms of Latimer. The differences are omitted in stamps 1 and 2. The collar and the second crest, together with a bordure to the arms serve to distinguish the Beckfords of Fonthill from those of Basing Park in Hampshire, the second crest being derived, no doubt from his mother. Of the two badges the cinquefoil is from the Hamilton arms Gules three cinquefoils pierced ermine, while the cross flory or is from the arms of Latimer, Gules a cross flory or. The books are neatly bound in an attractive but unusual style, normally with smooth backs, possibly in France, some are in bradel, paper boards made to imitate leather, a style popularized if not introduced by the French binder Pierre Bradel. Many of the books are of contemporary memoirs. Beckford was in the habit of making pencil notes on the endpapers, often no more than the page references of particular anecdotes that had attracted his attention.