Evelyn Waugh, whose manuscripts and 3,500-volume library are now at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, was an inveterate collector of things Victorian (and well ahead of most of his contemporaries in this regard). Undoubtedly the most curious object in the Waugh library is a large oblong folio decoupage book known affectionately as the “Victorian Blood Book.”
Since it arrived here in the late 1960s, the “Blood Book” has fascinated everyone who has seen it. Its decoupage was assembled from several hundred engravings, many taken from books of etchings by William Blake. The principal motifs are natural (birds, animals, and especially snakes) and Christian (images of the cross, scenes from the Bible, and crusaders). Drops of red india ink and extensive commentary have been added to many of the images. The craftsmanship is exquisite, and the adhesion of the decoupages is still perfect. The book bears an inscription by one John Bingley Garland to his daughter Amy dated September 1, 1854.