Leafing through the library at Sissinghurst

Books reflected in a mirror in the library sitting room, called the Big Room, at Sissinghurst Castle. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Sissinghurst Castle still contains many of the books and papers of Vita Sackville-West, who bought the ruinous house in 1930 and restored it together with her husband Harold Nicolson.

Frontispiece of Edward Bunyard's Old Garden Roses (1936), at Sissinghurst. ©NTPL/John Hammond

One of the reasons Vita loved Sissinghurst was that it had a history going back centuries, like her beloved ancestral home, Knole.

Colour plate from Arsène Alexandre's The Decorative Art of Leon Bakst (1913), at Sissinghurst. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Vita expressed some of her feelings about the place in a poem entitled Sissinghurst, which includes the lines:

For here, where days and years have lost their number,

I let a plummet down in lieu of date,

And lose myself within a slumber,

Submerged, elate.

Lacquered cover of a scrapbook, possibly Persian, nineteenth century, at Sissinghurst. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Vita and Harold were inspired by the atmosphere at Sissinghurst to create their now famous garden.

Pages from 'Vita's Scrapbook of Poets', made for her by 'E.D.Y.' (probably Edie Craig), at Sissinghurst. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The books at Sissinghurst reflect Vita’s passion for beauty, literature and gardening.

Binding of The Tower by W.B. Yeats, first edition (1928), at Sissinghurst. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Many of them have inscriptions by the authors, including Arthur Conan Doyle, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Violet Trefusis, Virginia Woolf and others.

Thompson & Morgan seed catalogues, at Sissinghurst. ©NTPL/John Hammond

There are fine bindings, personal scrapbooks and even seed catalogues – all speaking of aspects of Vita’s many-sided personality.

6 Responses to “Leafing through the library at Sissinghurst”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Are you sure the objects in the last photo are seed packets? They look like seed catalogues to me. (Keen gardeners will spend winter evenings leafing through the seed merchants’ catalogues deciding which varieties to buy for the coming year.)

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, you are right of course, how dim of me not to see that. I have changed the caption. And how evocative they are, dating from just before Vita’s death (in 1962).

  3. Harvey James Says:

    I am currently in the middle of a three year project to catalogue Sissinghurst’s library of approximately 9000 books. It is endlessly fascinating and the project will surely help us to understand the ideas, attitudes and tastes of the personalities that created the garden at Sissinghurst. It is such a personal collection, enriched by provenance inscriptions, critical and sometimes amusing annotations, and often additional items such as letters pr press cuttings enclosed within the pages. Rarely a day goes by that doesn’t turn up a new treasure of some sort.
    Harvey James, Cataloguer

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Harvey, thanks for that comment – and much for the above is obviously based on your findings. Many people will probably think you have an enviable job :)

  5. style court Says:

    More inspired, striking NT images. The shot with the reflection of books is wonderful.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Courtney, yest that one is very ‘Style Court’, isn’t it? :)

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