Illustrations of armor from the Elizabethan period in Great Britain, serving Mary I (reigned 1553-1558) and Elizabeth I (reigned 1559-1603). Important advisors, courtiers and military leaders are depicted, including Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Sir Henry Lee, Master of the Armoury under Queen Elizabeth; Sir Christopher Hatton; Francis Russell, the Earl of Bedord; Thomas Ratcliffe, the Earl of Sussex; Lord Henry Scrope; Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk; William Somerset, the Earl of Worcester; Henry Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke; Sir John Smith; George Clifford, the Earl of Cumberland; and Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst. Nearly all were awarded the honorific, K.G., indicating their membership in the Order of the Garter, the highest order of knighthood in England.
These Edwardian chromolithographs are based on the Almain Armourer’s Album, an historically important bound set of 30 manuscript watercolor drawings of armor produced by the Royal Almain Armoury at Greenwich during the 16th century. The original album appeared on the market in Paris in 1894 and was recognized as a valuable resource for establishing provenance of armor in the collection of the Tower of London, by its curator, Harold Arthur Lee Dillon. He urged that it be purchased for the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and provided brief biographies to accompany each drawing in the 1905 chromolithograph set. Today, the V&A attributes the original drawings to Jacob Haider, an armorer at Greenwich from 1557, and dates them to 1586-1590.
Harold Arthur Lee Dillon, the editor of the Edwardian set, joined the British army in 1862 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1866. He left the army in 1874 and became a captain in the Oxfordshire Light Infantry, retiring with the rank of major in 1891. The following year he succeeded his father as Viscount Dillon. Meanwhile, Dillon became a military historian and expert on arms, armor and medieval costume, tracing hundreds of illuminated manuscripts and other illustrated works and making his own drawings. He published a series of articles in scholarly and popular journals and worked as a scientific consultant to the Royal Armouries until he was appointed curator of the Armoury at the Tower of London until 1895. Over the next 17 years, he modernized and professionalized the collection, taking apart nearly every piece of armor in the collection and applying that knowledge to correcting assembly and cataloguing errors made by previous generations. This work culminated in the production of a catalog, Illustrated Guide to the Armouries (1910). When the Armourer’s Album appeared for sale in Paris, Dillon led the effort to have it purchased and preserved for the Victoria and Albert Museum. He retired from his curatorial post in 1912, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford and the Order of Companion of Honour from the king in 1921. Dillon also served as a trustee of British research institutions, including the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery, and was a fellow of the British Academy and Antiquary of the Royal Academy.
Condition: Each generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with some light remaining toning, wear, soft creases. Some with a few short marginal tears and chips professionally restored as backed on Japanese paper.
Dillon, Harold Arthur Lee. An Almain Armourer’s Album: Selections from an original MS. in Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington. London: W. Griggs: 1905.
“Harold Arthur Lee-Dillon.” Royal Armouries. http://www.royalarmouries.org/collections/history-of-the-collection/early-scholars/harold-arthur-lee-dillon (19 October 2011).
Laking, Guy Francis. A Record of European Armour and Arms through Seven Centuries. Vol. 4. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1921. Chapter 29. Online at Archive.org. http://www.archive.org/stream/recordofeuropean04lakiuoft/recordofeuropean04lakiuoft_djvu.txt (19 October 2011).
“Sir Henry Lee; Almain Armourer’s Album: Designs for armor for Sir Henry Lee.” Victoria & Albert Museum. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O131958/design-sir-henry-lee-almain-armourers/ (19 October 2011).
“The ‘Almain Armourer’s Album.'” Royal Armouries. http://www.royalarmouries.org/visit-us/leeds/leeds-galleries/tournament-gallery/elizabeth-i/almain-armourers-album (19 October 2011).