Mary Harris’s inscription in a sammelband copy of Edmund Waller’s poems is a reminder that contemporary bindings and endleaves can be critical in preserving information about early women’s book ownership. Had the book been rebound over the centuries like countless others, the record of Mary Harris’s ownership would have been lost. The book is comprised of the sixth edition of Waller’s poems and a 1690 edition of The Second Part of Mr. Waller’s Poems.
Source: Book offered for sale by Centralantikvariatet, 1/7/19. Images used with permission.
Here is a book where the original binding belies its contents. The entire binding, made in the mid-17th century by John Houlden of Cambridge, is elaborately decorated with gilt filigrees, while the central panels on the back and front covers display a prominent crucifix. One would naturally expect to find the contents were Catholic in nature, but in fact they are two tracts by the Puritan divine, John Gaule (1604?-1687) – Folger STC 11690 and 11688.
What makes this copy interesting to us is that it contains contemporary inscriptions indicating ownership by at least three women: Nightingale Archer, Miss Haselwood, and Nightingale Longville. The inscriptions read as follows:
“Nightingale Archer Her Book. Given By my Godmother Mis [sup] Haselwood”
“Nightingale Longville Her Book Given by Her ant Archer” – this second inscription is written in a more childish hand first under Nightingale Archer’s inscription, and then in a more refined hand on the opposite page.
Some identification of the families is suggested in a 1652 law case brought in the Court of Chancery by “Nightingale Longvile, widow” with Robert Archer, James Thorneback, and William Ashby against Andrew Grace, concerning a property in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire (NA – C 6/116/108). Five years later in 1657, Nightingale Longville was involved in another lawsuit with John Tyms, who was apparently asking her for money (NA – C 7/426/108). Further research would no doubt turn up more about this family. In the meantime, in case you were wondering, the “3. B. 3.” written in pencil beneath Nightingale Longville’s inscription on the left page is the shelf mark showing that the book was once in the library of William Henry Miller (1789-1848) at Britwell Court – one of the most outstanding collections of its time.
Many women owned religious tracts, such as this rather oddly-titled one by Samuel Moore, which is bound with two others also by him. The title page indicates that the book was sold by Hanna Allen at her shop The Crown, in Pope’s Head Alley, London. She was the widow of Benjamin Allen, also a bookseller and printer, who specialized in political and religious tracts, while she produced mainly religious ones. She worked alone from 1647 until 1650 when she married her husband’s former apprentice, Livewell Chapman, a union which evidently lasted only three years.
Ann Ashfold, an early owner, wrote her name several times on a front flyleaf, along with a popular verse: “Ann Ashfold har boock god give har grace their in to look and when the bel for har doth toll lord jesus christ resev har soule.” The “Ann Peters” who also appears could be her married name, as the handwriting is similar. “Mary” also added her claim.
Source: The Folger Shakespeare Library, shelf mark 143- 987q. Photographs by Georgianna Ziegler.
When looking for early modern Chinese books in the Special Collections of the University of Colorado Library, Katherine Alexander came across this instance of English female book ownership (see her blog post about it): a 1599 bible in which a woman named Susanna Harding inscribed her signature no fewer than three times. Interestingly, she also noted the price and date of purchase: “Her Bible Cost 2 s [shillings], the first Day of December 1742.” This means she acquired a bible that was 143 years old, making it “Her Book.” This type of inscription is common in early modern books, and it is helpful in terms of dating the signature, the moment of acquisition, and book prices. Two other owners (presumably not related to Susanna Harding since she bought it) signed the book before her, Thomas Finch in 1686 and George Heath in 1714.
Source: University of Colorado, Boulder, Special Collections, shelf mark BS170 1599. Photo taken by Katherine Alexander and reproduced with permission.
This well-used copy of the seventh edition of Bishop Jeremy Taylor’s The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living contains multiple women’s names as well as several men’s. Written on the first front flyleaf is “Penelope Stores book,” while the half-title is inscribed “Deborah Storre hir Booke” and also includes the inscription of Penelope Lowcocke. Toward the bottom of the half-title is the name Margit [sic] Store. The book may have originated with William Lowcocke, who has signed the title page and included the price “4s” in the upper right corner.
An imperfect first edition of Francis Quarles’ highly popular Divine Fancies with a substitute 1638 title page from another copy. The book is elaborately signed on Q4v “Elizabeth Felgate Owes This Book 1704.”
This is a delightful copy of a Book of Common Prayer bound together with Psalms that is hand colored, probably by the owner of the book, a woman named Elizabeth Catchpole. The coloring and ornate binding show a deep attachment to the book as physical object and work for daily contemplation.
Source: Book sold on eBay by Wisdom Pedlars, 10/28/2018. Twitter posting @wisdompedlars 10/23/2018