Examples of Carruthers Bookplates through the ages
Firstly, what is a book plate?
A bookplate is a small printed label which is adhered/attached to a book, usually inside the front cover.
The term “ex libris,” meaning “from the books/library of” denoted the purpose of the bookplate itself and as such were used to identify the book’s owner, where the owners name is either printed as part of the bookplate or written upon it.
It usually carried a motif relating to the owner of the book and may portray the arms, motto, crest, badge or something to identify the individual, an example (not Carruthers) is seen to the right.
Used since ancient times, the marking of ownership of documents has been known since the Egyptians, however, it wasnt until the 16th century that book plates began to appear in Britain. As books were greatly sought after in the 1500s and beyond, personal ownership became an important method of implying the status and education of the individual involved and the bookplate was born.
Carruthers Book Plates (Scotland)
John Carruthers esq, 9th of Holmains (1634-1694)
The first example we have belonged to John Carruthers of Holmains esq, born in 1634.
He was the son of James Carruthers, who did not take up the chiefship (1635 -1657). But became heir to his grandfather’s lands and titles; John Carruthers of Holmains (1608-1657), 8th of Holmains 4th Baron to become 9th of Holmains, 5th Baron.
Interestingly, it seems that this plate shows the use of the Holmains arms before the Lyon Act of 1672 when, like all Scottish clans and families, any arms had to be recorded on the Register of all Arms and Bearings of Scotland, held to this day by the Lord Lyon. Arms were only granted to those deemed worthy to bear them, Carruthers of Holmains were.
In this plate, of which the convenor holds one of the originals, the motto is clearly seen as Promptus et Fidelis, but the crest is drawn as a cherub proper, rather that the Seraphim we recognise today.
Interestingly, the current chief has advised us that his father had an ancient family ring on which the Cherub is clearly depicted as the crest. However, these days the Carruthers serephim on the Chief’s arms is depicted as having the six wings, with an angelic face in the centre, leading to the conclusion that the heraldic painter A G Law Sampson may have been one of the first to ‘accurately’ portray the Holmains crest on the arms of the cadet line of Carruthers of Dormont.
William Carruthers, son of Robert Carruthers 4th of Rammerscales (d, 1733)
The second plate is also interesting as it belongs to a William Carruthers, second son of Robert Carruthers 4th of Rammerscales, whose grandfather acted as Baron baillie for Carruthers of Holmains from 1660.
The Rammerscales line was started by Simon, the seventh son of John Carruthers, 5th of Holmains, who received the charter from his father in 1557.
Robert, 4th of Rammerscales came ‘out’ in support of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. He was caught and tried at Westminster, which in turn led him to losing the Rammerscales estates and leaving the lands of his forebears. He died overseas.
William himself was a pharmacist and surgeon in Edinburgh. He was, through the marriage to his wife Margaret, daughter of John Hay a chirurgeon (ancient term for a doctor or surgeon) and apothecary (prescribing chemist), made a burgess and guildbrother of Edinburgh. He moved from Edinburgh back to Dumfries to live at Quarrelwood, Kilmahoe and died in 1733.
Interestingly, the plate was engraved by his cousin Andrew Carruthers the printer and again shows the chevronelles rather than chevrons with a silver border, depicting a cadet of Holmains and mirroring the arms of Carruthers of Isle. Again the cherub as a seraphim is seen, and the motto again follows that of Carruthers of Isle ie that of Paratus et Fidelis (Prepared and Loyal)
William Carruthers (1830-1922)
The third book plate is that of William Carruthers PhD, FRS, who was the keeper at the Botanical Department at the Natural History Museum in London (1871-1895).
Born in Moffat in Dumfrieshire in 1830, as the second son of Samual Carruthers in Woodhead. He went on to become the consulting botanist to the Royal Agricultural Society (1871-1909) and was one of the most preeminent botanists of his day.
His book plate, rather than reflecting Carruthers arms instead chose plants reflecting his chosen profession and passion. The plants on his book plate were actually named after him by fellow botanists.
The outside plant, a fern was called Carruthersia scandius, and was named by Dr. Seemann in his Flora Vitiensis, London, 1865-73.
The inner flower, (looking not dissimilar to the Gorse, our Clan plant) was named after William by Otto Kunze as Carruthia Capensis. Originally called Aitonia Capensis by Linnæus the younger, it conflicted with another plant and was renamed after William. The seal William used was oval and the drawing in the centre is taken from the seal itself, which he used for the separation of the two plants
The motto of course belongs to the Holmains line from which his family came. At the base once again can be seen the Serephim portrayed as a Cherub.
The drawing for the print was made by W. G. Smith, F.Z.S., who was recognised as a good botanist and an excellent draughtsman.
Dr George Carruthers (CCS-I Convenor)
The final book plate, is a modern rendition from 2017, illustrated by Mr Anthony Maxwell the internationally renowned Edinburgh genealogist, clan historian and heraldist and depicts the arms of the Convenor, Dr George Carruthers as a book plate.
The crest is recorded as ‘St Michael pinning the beast’ while the Motto, by choice deviates from the standard Carruthers use of Promptus et Fidelis or Paratus et Fidelis and instead he uses Non St Solus; I do not stand alone.