SHREWSBURY, Arthur (1856-1903). A two leaf testimonial on vellum, designed and illuminated by Arthur Marshall, Nottingham, 1888. ‘Presented to Arthur Shrewsbury together with a purse containing seventy-two sovereigns in recognition of his wonderful batting average namely 78.15 for the season of 1887,’ it lists the ‘noblemen and gentlemen’ of Nottingham who had given ‘a uniform subscription of five shillings each’. Each leaf 390 x 283mm., overall size with binding open 500 x 789mm. The illumination, heightened in gold leaf, includes two views of Trent Bridge, one at each upper margin; the longer illuminated borders to each side include two portraits of Shrewsbury on the left, one in a roundel, one in a hexagonal showing his triumph ‘Notts versus Australia,’ while a roundel of crossed bats before a wicket and a hexagonal of ‘Scores over 100. 1887’ appear on the right; at foot are two floreated borders on green ground surrounding arms of the city of Nottingham and the 1888 date. (Affected by light spotting.) Full red morocco gilt by G. and J. Abbott, Nottingham, covers with the mongram AS within borders of multiple fleurs-de-lys and gilt rules, gilt inner dentelles, plush red silk lining with the two vellum leaves inset. Light brown calf case, upper cover tooled in gilt and with the monogram AS recessed at centre, plush yellow silk interior with a pattern of wild roses (lower cover of case slightly out of shape and concealed by modern green velvet lining on bottom side).
No other batsman can have been deserving of such a lavish gift. For in the jubilee year of 1887 Shrewsbury had achieved ‘by a small margin, the highest average ever attained up to that date in a first-class English season,’ scoring 8 centuries in 17 matches, with a highest score of 267 against Middlesex at Trent Bridge which kept him at the crease for 615 minutes. His average of 78.71 in 23 innings left W.G. Grace in second place with 54.26 in 46 innings; there was no other professional batsman in the top six. A facsimile version of the testimonial was printed in Nottingham by A. Goater and can be found reproduced in Peter Wynne-Thomas’s biography ‘Give Me Arthur’ (London, 1985). In the original, the intricate beauty of the illumination and the richness of both the gilt binding and case are extraordinary. While the designs are obviously indebted to the revival of interest in medieval illumination, it is also possible to connect them with the intricate forms and patterns of the Nottingham lace industry.