The 6th Duke of Devonshire was greatly interested in the history of his family and of Chatsworth, and in 1844 he published his Handbook of Chatsworth and Hardwick. It was privately printed and intended primarily for family and friends. It remained the only full-length account of Chatsworth House for many years.
The Handbook is lively and unashamedly subjective. It is written in the first person and addressed to the Duke’s sister Harriet, Countess Granville. He opens 'Dearest Harriet…my plan is to suppose that you are just arrived, and that I show you every room and corner of the house' – a house they had both known and loved since infancy.
One of the treasures of Chatsworth’s Library is a six-volume extra-illustrated copy of the Handbook. The practice of extra-illustration involved having a book printed or mounted on large sheets of paper, and then interleaving the pages of text with engravings, watercolours, and other material – a way of making an ordinary printed book into something truly unique.
The Duke intended to do this with one large folio copy of his Handbook, but the project was never realised during his lifetime. Fortunately, Lady Louisa Egerton (1835-1907), daughter of the 7th Duke, took up the task a few decades later, incorporating watercolours, engravings, pen and ink sketches and more. The material she added includes a number of her own accomplished watercolours like the one shown above - painted after an original by William Henry Hunt.