Abbey, John Roland

Person Key: 
Family Name: 
First Name(s): 
John Roland
Birth Year: 
Death Year: 

John Roland Abbey was the eldest son of William Henry Abbey of Sedgwick Park, Horsham, Sussex and Florence daughter and coheir of Henry Belcher of Hove. He was educated privately with a small group of boys by a Mr Möens at Rottingdean. An officer in the Rifle Brigade during the First World War, he retired with the rank of Captain in 1920, but served again during the Second World War, retiring again in 1944 with the rank of Major. On 7 June 1921, he married Lady Ursula Helen Cairns, 2nd daughter of the 4th Earl Cairns. Abbey was an ardent and scholarly collector of books, whose interests were fine colour plate books, bookbindings and illuminated manuscripts; and the books published under his patronage on the first two of these subjects have become classic reference books in their fields. “The colour?plate collection in due course became uncomfortably bulky and passed to Mr Paul Mellon; and when Major Abbey gave up his country house the bindings were also sold by auction, together with most of his splendid reference library. The modern bindings and the medieval manuscripts were retained, and to the latter Major Abbey was making important additions up to his final illness.” The bookbindings were dispersed in a series of magnificent sales at Sotheby's, and the medieval manuscripts and modern bookbindings followed after Major Abbey's death. Major Abbey's topographical books were sold at Sotheby's on the 5 and 6 July 1954; his historical bookbindings and reference books in four sales 21 to 23 June 1965, 14 to 16 November 1966, 19 to 21 June 1967, and 6 November 1967; the modern bookbindings 2 June 1970 and 19 October 1970; and the illuminated manuscripts 4 June 1974, 25 March 1975 and 20 June 1978.

Sale Dates: 
5-6 July 1954
21-23 June 1965
14-16 November 1966
19-21 June 1967
6 November 1967
2 June 1970
19 October 1970
4 June 1974, 25 March 1975
20 June 1978
Seat / Residence(s): 
Storrington, Sussex
Redlynch House, Wiltshire
Auction House: 
Biographical Sources: 
A.N.L. Munby. [Obituary]. Book Collector xix, 70?75 (1970)
A.R.A. Hobson and A.N.L. Munby `Contemporary collectors XXVI John Roland Abbey'. Book Collector x, 40?48 (1961)
Scenery of Great Britain and Ireland in aquatint and lithography 1770?1860 from the library of J. R. Abbey. London, 1952
Life in England in aquatint and lithography 1770?1860 from the library of J. R. Abbey. London, 1953
Travel in aquatint and lithography 1770?1860 from the library of J. R. Abbey. 2 vols. London, 1956?7
G.D. Hobson. English bindings in the library of J. R. Abbey. London, 1940
J.R. Abbey. `British signed bindings in my library' in Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society i, 270?279 (1951)
John F. Hayward. Silver bindings from the J. R. Abbey collection. (1952)
A.R.A. Hobson. French and Italian collectors and their bindings. Illustrated from examples in the library of J. R. Abbey. 1953
A.R.A. Hobson. Major Abbey's bindings in the saleroom. 1966
An exhibition of modern English and French bookbindings from the collection of John Roland Abbey. [Two separate Arts Council exhibitions] 1949 and 1965
J.J.G. Alexander and A.C. De la Mare. The Italian manuscripts in the library of Major J. R. Abbey. London, 1969.