The Works of Shakespear in Nine Volumes with a Glossary. Carefully Printed from the Oxford Edition in Quarto, 1744 (1747)

By M. L. Stapleton

I collect eighteenth-century Shakespeare editions, an outgrowth of my scholarship in this area, which in turn originated from my work as editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare Julius Caesar.  I recently acquired a 1747 reprint of the 1743-44 Oxford Shakespeare, a relationship that the former’s title page explicitly proclaims, albeit without the sumptuous typefaces and magnificent illustrations by Francis Hayman and Hubert Gravelot in the latter. Sir Thomas Hanmer’s name appears nowhere in the six volumes of the original or the nine of the reissue, but scholarly consensus decreed that he composed the preface preceding Alexander Pope’s and the Rowe biography of the playwright in the first tome. A second, corrected Hanmer edition appeared in 1745, and a third in 1770-71. 

In my group of nine, each except the first includes the handwritten name of its two probable owners, El[i]z[abeth] Philips and Maria Goodford Jun[io]r, the first in quill pen, the second likely in nineteenth-century steel fountain ink. In each signature, Philips commemorates her date of possession as 1756. Goodford simply identifies as herself. In every instance, someone has crossed out Elizabeth’s name.  There are no other annotations in the set: no significant passages marked out, no underlining, no starred lines or words.

Who were these women? The most recent seller of the set spells Elizabeth’s surname as Philips, but in some of her signatures, she seems to have spelled it Phelips, which would be an unusual, but not unheard of, variation. Philips, Phelps, and Phelips might have similar origins. Though Junior and Senior are traditionally male appendages, so to speak, some women named after their mothers adopted them in the nineteenth century, which might account for Maria’s form of self-identification.  An intriguing search revealed that an Elizabeth Philips in the late eighteenth century had a sister named Maria, who in turn married a Goodford. However, the dates do not match up well enough to make a sibling relationship probable.

That the otherwise unknown Philips and Goodford owned this pocket-sized reprint set of the Hanmer Shakespeare accords perfectly with what scholarship has uncovered over the last fifty years about English women’s readership in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.  Many notable studies, such as those by Fiona Richie, have tended to concentrate on recognizable figures such as the Enlightenment actresses, critics, and playgoers who left the Shakespeare-imbued traces of themselves that a scholar would be delighted to unearth, analyze, and bring to light in print. [1] Yet a rise in the literacy rate from 25% to 40% among European women between 1714 and 1750 allows for the possibility that those who were not Elizabeth Pepys, Margaret Cavendish, Lady Montagu, or Sarah Siddons read the plays and poetry, as well. [2]

As most students of mid-eighteenth-century Shakespeare editions know, negotiating the relationships and rivalries between Pope, William Warburton, Lewis Theobald and Sir Thomas can be formidable. Accounting for their squabbles to an audience unfamiliar with them can only be more so, and inadvisable here as a result. However, the publishing history of the 1747 Hanmer reprint is less complex, and significant for my present task. 

The “Tonson cartel” considered itself the owner of the Shakespeare copyright throughout the century and guarded what it believed to be its proprietary interest in publishing the works. Warburton had been preparing his edition of the plays and signed over his rights to Jacob Tonson III in January of that year, a deal brokered in part by the publishers of his theological works, John and Paul Knapton, sub-proprietors of the family business that Jacob had inherited. The expensive nine-guinea Oxford edition was not under the firm’s purview but would prove to outsell Warburton’s less pricey eighteen-shilling publication. [3] Hence John Osborn, a London publisher, saw his opportunity, defied the status quo, and issued the more affordable nine-volume reprint delineated here that belonged to Philips and Goodford, variously described as duodecimo or octodecimo, but in any case, a small size. Predictably, the monopolists  “threatened, prosecuted, and tried every other artifice, to intimidate him from printing Shakespear.”  However, “Mr. Osborne having calmly answered, That, if they talked any more to him in that Style, he would print a Dozen of Books which they had such pretended Rights.” As a result, “They immediately, and justly took the Alarm, and were glad to take the half of the Impression off his Hands, at the Price he was pleased to put upon it, besides allowing him, as it is said, an annual Pension, which he enjoys to this Day, to buy him off from reprinting upon them.” [4] In other words, the Knaptons bought out Osborne’s copies and reissued them under their own names along with the Tonsons, thus re-cementing the monopoly, which could now boast of an inexpensive version for sale of the Hanmer production that had so eluded them.

Traditional textual editors, unlike most book historians today, have not often concerned themselves with material labeled “paratextual”—introductions, annotations, typefaces—though such divisions have become less distinct. As Georg Stanitzek drolly observed, these things “mean that no text ever has a truly paratext-free moment.” [5] Sociological theories of book production usefully attempt to account for other factors involved, e.g., the influence of stationers, printers, publishers, or how fluid these categories were three centuries ago; market forces; and, of course, the person identified as the editor and what he actually did. These are things worth considering, since they probably influenced the creation of the material text in ways we have yet to discover. Why did an editor make a choice to emend, or not? What did he think he was doing? If there was a theory behind what he did, did he always follow it?

Did contemporary readers care about such things? This economic competition in Shakespeare publishing doubtless favored the consumer. It shows there was a market for an affordable edition of the playwright who was becoming the National Poet some two decades before the Garrick Jubilee of 1769, such as the Osborne reprint of Hanmer’s edition. The books were small, designed for one hand if necessary, yet clearly printed in legible type, unencumbered with engravings and explanatory notes of warring commentators. Margins were large enough to allow for annotations, passages that could be marked out to be recalled or memorized. The 1747 set was one that women such as Philips and, later, Goodford could buy, keep, inscribe with their names, resell, and enjoy. 

[1] See Richie’s Women and Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, 2014).

[2] Christina de Bellaigue, Educating Women—Schooling and Identity in England and France, 1800-1867 (Oxford, 2007).

[3] A. W. Ward and A. R. Waller, eds., The Cambridge History of English Literature, v. 5, The Drama to 1642, pt. 1 (Cambridge, 1910), 303.

[4] Respectively, Some Thoughts on the State of Literary Property, Humbly Submitted to the Consideration of the Public (London: Printed for Alexander Donaldson, 1764), 20; and Considerations on the Nature and Origin of Literary Property (Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Donaldson, 1767), 13-14.

[5] Georg Stanitzek. “Texts and Paratexts in Media,” Critical Inquiry 32 (1995): 30; 27-42.

Source: books privately owned. Photos by M. L. Stapleton, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Joan Acocella, “Turning the Page: How Women Became Readers,” The New Yorker, October 15 2012.

Giles Dawson, “Warburton, Hanmer, and the 1745 Edition of Shakespeare,” Studies in Bibliography 2 (1949-50): 35-48.

Donald W. Nichol, “Warburton (Not!) on Copyright: Clearing up the Misattribution of An Enquiry into the Nature and Origin of Literary Property (1762),” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 12 (1996): 171-82.  A website devoted to historic editions of Shakespeare

Charles Estienne and Jean Liébault, Maison Rustique, or, The Countrey Farme (1616)


Maison Rustique, or, The Countrey Farme is an English translation by Richard Surflet and Gervase Markham of Charles Estienne and Jean Liébault’s Agriculture et Maison Rustique. This third edition was owned by Mary Howard, who signed the book in an italic hand on leaf 2A6v.


Says bookseller Roger Middleton, the text “is a thorough-going treatise on agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, forestry, wines and food, distilling, bee-keeping, gardening and orchards, fishing, all kinds of hunting including falconry, remedies for man and animals etc. In its day it was the most important work on rural economy of the 16th century and was very successful, going into many editions and translated additionally into Italian, Dutch and German.”

A search of ESTC reveals the two books, Madeleine de Scudéry’s romance Ibrahim, or, The Illustrious Bassa (1652) and The Plain Englishman’s Historian, or, A Compendious Chronicle of England (1679), at the Huntington and The Folger Shakespeare Library, respectively, signed by a Mary Howard. While this was no doubt a fairly common name, it would be interesting to follow up and see if the signatures match our Mary Howard.


Source: Book offered for sale by Roger Middleton, 3/22/19. Images used with permission.

Richard Allestree, The Ladies Calling (1678)

By David Pearson

The men of the Dymoke family of Scrivelsby—a small village out in the Lincolnshire wolds—had a distinctive job title; they were King’s Champions. The title, and its responsibilities, were passed down the generations from at least the fourteenth century onwards. Sir John Dymoke (d. 1381) is the first family member with a name and a date, but his ancestors had done the job before him; the key responsibility was to appear in arms on the monarch’s coronation day, offer to fight anyone who challenged their right to the throne, and drink their health when no one came forward. These formalities were dispensed with in the early nineteenth century, but in characteristic English fashion the traditions live on, and to this day the Scrivelsby estate belongs to the Dymokes, and the title continues. The Queen’s Champion today is Francis John Fane Marmion Dymoke, 34th holder of the role, and a chartered accountant.[1]

When not being Champions, the Dymokes could turn to their family library, and we know of at least a couple of them who seem to have owned books in the seventeenth century. An armorial binding stamp of a sword – the heraldic badge of the Dymokes – is attributed to Sir Edward Dymoke (d.1624), and his great-grandson Charles Dymoke (1667-1703) used a bookplate, dated 1702, though we don’t know the extent of his library.[2] But reading was not, of course, reserved to the men of Scrivelsby and this post is about a book which belonged to Charles’s wife Jane.

She was born Jane Snoden, in 1663, the daughter of Robert Snoden of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. We know little about her family and upbringing; the Snodens were a gentry family from those middle shires of England, originally from Norringhamshire, and produced a Bishop of Carlisle earlier in the seventeenth century. It seems safe to assume that she would have had a fairly privileged upbringing, comfortable if cloistered, taught what she would need in order to become mistress of her own household once a suitable match was arranged. Which it was in 1687, when she married Charles Dymoke, he of the bookplate.

Much of the genealogical detail can be found on the Internet, but also in her own hand in a copy of the fifth edition of The Ladies Calling (Oxford, 1678), which she inscribed on the flyleaf “J Dymoke”, before writing beneath a chronology of births, marriages, and deaths, of the kind that is so commonly found in devotional books as well as Bibles. The order of the entries is rather haphazard, but looks to have been written all at the same time, recording key dates in her life; she begins with her marriage, in 1687, then notes Charles’s death in January 1702 (1703, in modern style), aged 36. Her mother’s and father’s deaths follow, and at the end she notes that she herself was born on 8 March 1663 (1664), at 8 o’clock in the morning. Finally, another hand has added “Mrs Dymoke dyed Jany ye 4th 1744.” She did not marry again, and the couple had no children (the title of Champion passed to Charles’s brother Lewis); she was a widow for over 40 years.

The book is certainly an unexceptional one for her to own – it is, rather, exactly the kind of English-language devotional material which regularly filled up ladies’ bookshelves. There were countless copies of this Restoration period bestseller owned by women of the time, only a small proportion of which are still extant today. As an individual copy, it also matches expectations; it is bound in nicely but not extravagantly gilt-tooled black goatskin, particularly attractively decorated on its title-less spine, with gilt leaf edges and marbled paper endleaves. I think it quite probable that it was bought like this off the shelf of a fashionable bookseller, who would stock books like this ready-bound in a range of moderately upmarket styles, knowing that there would be a steady demand for ladies just like Mrs Dymoke. There are no annotations through the book, but the leaves are not pristine; they are a little browned, and regularly stained with little spots and blotches. It seems likely that she read it. Whether she found (as the chapter “Of widows” told her) that “Marriage is so great an adventure”, but that “the conjugal love transplanted into the grave … improves into piety,” we will never know; we can only hope that she found the book a worthwhile read.

Source: book in private ownership. Photos by David Pearson, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

A. J. Musson, “Dymok [Dymmok] family (per. c. 1340–c. 1580),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

[1] There is an article on the medieval Dymoke family in ODNB. A Google search on ‘Dymoke Scrivelsby’ will produce various websites with more information on the family and their historic role.


La Calprenède, Cassandra, the Famed Romance (1652)

This copy of the first translation into English of Gauthier de Costes, seigneur de la Calprenède’s voluminous romance work Cassandra was just the sort of book one might expect women to want to read. Indeed, early moderns often worried about excessive romance reading by women. The book was signed twice by a woman named “Lucie Bourne.”

In each case, she wrote her name on both sides of the title to paratextual material. She may also be responsible for pen marks on another page.

Although it is impossible to make out what has been crossed out, use of RetroReveal shows just below the crossed out section, another signature by Lucie Bourne, this time accompanied by the phrase “her book.”

The book also contains a signature, judging by the handwriting of a later date. Thomas Pickering is possibly the person featured on this website.

Source: book offered for sale on eBay on 12/17/19 by seller allenpeach. Images reproduced with permission.

Richard Burton (pseud. Nathaniel Crouch), Historical Remarques and Observations (1681)

By Daniel Woolf

Nathaniel Crouch (c. 1640–1725) was a prolific publisher and writer, with a specialty in epitomes and digests taken from other works. He published other writers, including many nonconformists, as the article on him by Jason McElligott (2004) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography indicates. His own epitomes and compendia largely appeared in smaller formats and mainly under the pseudonyms Robert or Richard Burton. (Mayer 1994: 391 asserts the name “Robert Burton” to have been used principally for Crouch-authored books published after Crouch’s own death).

Crouch was familiar with a number of intellectual figures from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries including Anthony Wood, Robert Plot, and John Dunton, who praised him in his own Life and Errors. Dunton wrote of Crouch, “I think I have given you the very Soul of his Character, when I have told you that his Talent lies at Collection. He has melted down the best of our English Histories into Twelve-Penny-Books, which are fill’d with Wonders, rarities and Curiosities.” (Life and Errors, 1.206). Crouch had apprentices, including a woman named Elizabeth Guard.

Crouch carried a significant stock as the advertisements in his books indicate, and as McElligott indicates, the location of his shop in London changed several times during his career.

This particular book is fairly typical of Crouch/Burton’s output. It is in a small format (duodecimo) and collates as follows:
[4], 116; [2], 116, [2] p., [6] leaves of plates : ill. ; 15 cm. (12mo)
Signatures: A-E¹² Aa-Ee¹². This is the same collation as the specimen in the Houghton Library at Harvard University (Wing C7329), but must be a separate issue from that volume in which the author’s name appears only as “R.B.”

While there are no annotations to the text, the front flyleaf has written upon it, twice, the following: “Sarah Duffeild Her Booke.”

The script is a late seventeenth-century or early eighteenth-century italic hand, and the repetition of the ownership inscription suggests that the owner, Sarah Duffeild, may have been a child or young woman, perhaps practicing her writing. There appears to be some further text below the second, finer, inscription of her name but it has been scrawled out.

The book came into my hands in 2015 from the antiquarian book dealer Unsworth’s. The sheepskin binding appears to be original and is in relatively poor shape with boards somewhat loose though the text block is mainly intact. The volume is destined eventually to join the Schulich-Woolf Rare Book collection in the W.D. Jordan Special Collections Library at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Source: Book currently in private ownership. Photos by Daniel Woolf, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

J. McElligott, “Crouch, Nathaniel [pseud. Robert Burton] (c. 1640–1725?)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

R. Mayer, “Nathaniel Crouch, Bookseller and Historian: Popular Historiography and Cultural Power in Late Seventeenth-Century England,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 27.3 (1994): 391-419.

The Forme of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments (1561)


Today we highlight a scarce edition of the Book of Common Order, printed in 1561 in Geneva, Switzerland by Zacharie Durand and owned by Katherine Rouse. The book’s extended title is The Forme of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, &c. Sed in the Englishe Church at Geneua & Approued by the Famous and Godlye Learned Man, John Caluin, Whereunto are Also Added the Prayers Which Thei Use There in the French Church. According to Oxford Reference, the Book of Common Order is “directory of worship drawn up by J. Knox in 1556 for the English Protestant congregation in Geneva.” The book, also known as the Order of Geneva or Knox’s Liturgy, was subsequently adopted in 1562 by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and a version is still used in worship today.


Rouse signed the fore edge margin of an interior leaf “Katherine Rouse her Booke” in a hand that appears contemporary to the book.



The book is bound in vellum with a manuscript date “AD 1561” on the front cover and manuscript title “Geneva Prayers” on the spine.


As with most of the women owners featured here, Katherine Rouse has not been identified, but may be related to the Rouses of South Devon who were settled in that area in the sixteenth century.

Source: Book sold by Rainford & Parris Books in April 2020 and now in private ownership. Images used with permission.

Dat oude ende dat nieuwe testament (The Old and New Testament, 1526)

By Renske Hoff

The title page of this sixteenth-century Dutch Bible carries a simple ownership mark by Walburch van Manderschijt. This Bible, part of the special collections of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (shelfmark: XC 05039), was printed by Jacob van Liesvelt in Antwerp in 1526. It became Van Liesvelt’s best known edition, as it was the first complete Bible—i.e. including the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the apocryphal books—to be printed in Dutch. Although vernacular complete Bibles (and New Testaments) circulated in manuscript, most late 15th– and early 16th-century biblical publications contained the Epistelen ende evangelien (the Epistles and Gospels). These presented a selection of biblical texts in liturgical order, allowing readers to read, in the vernacular, the passages that would have been read in Latin during Mass.

However, Van Liesvelt’s Bible type proved highly successful. Early readers such as Walburch van Manderschijt embraced the novelty of the complete Bible, despite—or perhaps because—the fact that they demanded new reading practices. As the Bibles contained much more text, which was no longer organised in the order of the liturgy, readers needed to apply new methods to navigate through the book and comprehend the text it offered. Paratextual elements surrounding the main text, such as liturgical tables, running titles, chapter summaries, and lists of contents, could help readers find their way through the book. Jacob van Liesvelt’s folio-sized, complete Bible of 1526 has been widely discussed with regard to its Luther-based translation and prologue, and the novelty of printing the entire Bible in one volume. However, little attention has been devoted to questions concerning the readership of this new type of Bible. Who were the owners and readers of this edition and how did they interact with the book?

This copy provides the name of one of them. Walburch van Manderschijt was a German-Dutch countess, born in 1468 to Konrad van Manderschijt and Walburga van Horne. At the age of seventeen, Walburch married Willem I, Count of Neuenahr. After he died, she married Frederik van Egmont, Dutch Lord of IJsselstein and Count of Buren and Leerdam, in 1502. He died in 1521, after which Walburch spend her last years in the Huis van Ysselstein, a large house in the Dutch town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which Frederik bequeathed to her. Although the house was demolished in the eighteenth century, the address—Orthenstraat 36—can still be visited. Walburch’s exact date of death is unknown, but the absence of any documentation dating beyond 1530 leads to the assumption that she died around 1530/1531.

1566 Sketch of ‘s Hertogenbosch by
L. van Peteghem, Rijksarchief Noord-Brabant

Besides these biographical facts, little is known about Walburch. The various archival sources that contain her name imply that she was quite aware of her financial rights and opportunities. For instance, a charter of June 17, 1505 states that she should receive an annual allowance of 600 guilders from her husband Frederik, allowing her to take care of her German estates and in order to secure her income in case she would be widowed. In 1518, Walburch signed a similar charter, this time concerning the financial agreement between her son Willem II and his wife. Furthermore, sources dating from 1499 and 1527 document how she drew up her will and secured her children’s inheritances.

Walburch van Manderschijt presumably acquired the Liesvelt Bible while she lived in the Huis van Ysselstein. Assuming that she died shortly after 1530, she probably was the first owner of the book. As Walburch did not leave any annotations in the book other than her name, we do not know in what ways she used and read the book. Other questions that remain open are, for instance, why she preferred this complete edition, if and how she used the paratextual material, and what she thought of the fact that Jacob van Liesvelt based his Dutch translation on Martin Luther’s German Bible editions. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Countess Walburch—twice widowed and about sixty years old—was one of the first people in the Low Countries to possess and use a complete Bible. It was through curious first buyers and readers like her that this new vernacular Bible type took root in the sixteenth-century Low Countries.

Source: Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (shelfmark: XC 05039). Photos by Renske Hoff, reproduced with permission.

William Sanderson, A Compleat History of the Lives and Reigns of Mary Queen of Scotland and of her son…James the Sixth (1656)

There are so many benefits to researching book history. Among the obvious advantages is that the topic sheds light on the political, religious, social, cultural and material world that readers immersed themselves in. Such areas of investigation are no less fascinating when studying the rapidly evolving field of early modern female book ownership. Why did women feel the need to inscribe their names? Is that sufficient proof they engaged with their book? Can we make sound conclusions about the interests or curiosities of the individual, or even the collective? Are there any identifiable trends among women readers? The questions are endless!

One of the more conventional approaches is exploring the connection between readers and their books. In other words, what is the owner looking to get out of the content? Examining the political, religious or social context might provide us with clues. The example here of Margaret Magee is an interesting case study particularly because it reveals how historical works were read and interpreted. Was history a tool for expanding one’s knowledge about the past or was its purpose to satisfy a reader’s expressed needs? More specifically, to what extent did historical information fuel a deeper sense of national consciousness?

As her inscription clearly indicates, Magee had William Sanderson’s A Compleat History of the Lives and Reigns of Mary Queen of Scotland, And of Her Son and Successor, James The Sixth, King of Scotland (1656) in her possession by the end of the seventeenth century. She may have purchased it at an earlier date. However, given that she wrote ‘Margeret Magee her book 1699’ would suggest it was acquired at that time. As book historians have argued, inscriptions could be seen as a statement of possession which was most likely written at the time of purchase.

Examining Sanderson’s work can also help us get a better sense of Magee’s personality. The author was an historian and staunch royalist. He was appointed secretary to Henry Rich, Earl of Holland, who was chancellor of Cambridge University from 1628-49. Sanderson’s political support for the Stuarts during the Interregnum was unwavering. In addition to his work on the reigns of Mary and James (1656), he wrote a history of Charles I two years later. It clearly endeared him to King Charles II following the Restoration in 1660 as he was not only rewarded with a knighthood but also promoted to Gentleman of the Privy Chamber.

It was not necessarily Sanderson’s royalist viewpoint that appealed to Magee but possibly his assessment of Scottish monarchs. At the risk of making lofty presumptions her surname suggests she may have been of Scottish descent even though she resided in London. On 17 July 1719 she included her address on the inside of the book: ‘next dore to the three hatts in Islinton’. The Three Hats was a well-known public house in early eighteenth-century London. Indeed, her house may have been included in the striking watercolour by T. H. Shepherd which was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1823 (see the image here). However, it’s the timing of Magee’s acquisition that is noteworthy, coming at a time when discussions were starting about a potential union between England and Scotland. Though it was not formally agreed until 1707, we might tentatively consider Magee’s second inscription as voicing her opposition to the union by endorsing a book that highlighted Scotland’s independent and illustrious past when it stood toe-to-toe with their Tudor neighbours. A big claim, perhaps, but not altogether unreasonable.

Whatever her reasons, whether it was because of her love of history or her possible Scottish sympathies, Magee greatly valued her purchase. Sanderson’s work was considerably dated when she penned her name to it. Much scholarship had been subsequently been done in the intervening forty-three years. Moreover, the fact that she saw a need to inscribe ‘Margaret Magee her book’ a second time in 1719 surely indicates an affinity with Sanderson’s work and, arguably, a longing for Scotland’s independence.

Source:  Images reproduced by kind permission of the Governors and Guardians of Armagh Robinson Library.

Richard Alleine, The World Conquered, or A Believers Victory over the World (1668)


Published in 1668, The World Conquered was the fourth part of Puritan minister Richard Alleine’s ca. 1660 work Vindiciae Pietatis. As a nonconformist work, Vindiciae Pietatis was published without a license. Consequently—

Roger Norton, the royal printer, caused a large portion of the first edition to be seized, on the ground of its not being licensed, and to be sent to the royal kitchen. But glancing over its pages he was arrested by what he read, and on second thoughts it seemed to him a sin that a book so holy and so saleable should be killed. He therefore bought back the sheets . . . for an old song, bound them, and sold them in his own shop. This in turn was complained of, and the shrewd publisher had to beg pardon on his knees at the council-table. The remaining copies were further sentenced to be ‘bisked’ or rubbed over with an inky brush, and sent back to the palace kitchen for lighting fires. Even in the palace there must have been worthy traitors, for ‘bisked’ copies occasionally turn up still [1].


Despite its controversial beginnings, however, Vindiciae Pietatis and its additions like The World Conquered were extensively printed throughout the 1660s. This edition of The World Conquered is signed on the last page “Mary Hill her Book” and the name “John” is written above in darker ink.


Mary Hill is a fairly common name and this Mary Hill is, unsurprisingly, unidentified, but it would be interesting to compare her signature with that of the Mary Hill who owned a scarce 1741 book titled Little Children Brought to Jesus Christ, offered for sale in the 1850s by the Office of the New England Historical and General Register [2]. Hill’s copy of the work, which was printed in Boston, contained her pedigree in manuscript, but its current whereabouts are unknown. A manuscript of cookery recipes (161/90F) now in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives and estimated to date from the late 17th or early 18th century is also signed “Mary Hill her book.”


Source: Book offered for sale by Butler Rare Books, May 2020. Images used with permission.

Further Reading

[1] Leslie Stephen, editor. Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 1. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1885, p. 301.

[2] Samuel G. Drake. Memoir of the Rev. Cotton Mather, D.D. with a Genealogy of the Family of Mather. Boston: Antiquarian Book Store, 1851, p. 69.

Survivors from an early 18th-century woman’s library

By David Pearson

I’m always interested to see unusual marks of provenance and I was struck when a bookseller on eBay recently posted an early 18th-century book with an owner’s name, “Jane Deane” tooled onto a label pasted onto the spine, just below the title label.

Label from binding on John Potter, A discourse of church-government, 8vo, London, 1711.

I must buy that, I thought—which I did—and when a week or so later another very similar example was put up by the same dealer, a trend was emerging. On contacting him and finding out that he had three more—after I’d bought the first two—we did a deal and I now have all five together.

It’s clear that this is a little fragment of what was once a uniformly bound and labelled library, that belonged to an early 18th-century lady. The very simple bindings suggest this wasn’t an aristocratic household, but labelling like this indicates some degree of affluence, perhaps a gentry household or one which aspired in that direction. This seems about right when we identify Jane Deane; she may be the lady of that name who died in 1729 or 30, a year or so after marrying Sir John Cullum of Hastede, Suffolk, 5th baronet (d. 1774). She was the daughter of Thomas Deane of Freefolk, Hampshire (1673-ca. 1718), and the granddaughter of another Thomas Deane (1640/1-86), sometime merchant in Boston, who returned to England and bought the manor of Freefolk in the late 1670s. Jane must have been born around 1700. Her mother was also called Jane, and I haven’t traced a date of death for her; she might equally possibly be the book owner. A portrait from St Edmundsbury Museum, purporting to be Jane the daughter, is posted on the web:

Gilbert Burnet’s An exposition of the church catechism, 1710, illustrating the rebinding to make it uniform for Jane’s library.

The books themselves are exactly what I’d expect them to be – mostly devotional, with a sprinkling of history, all in English. Apart from Gilbert Burnet’s Exposition, we have William Cave’s Primitive Christianity (1676), John Potter’s Discourse of church-government (1711), William Sherlock’s Discourse concerning the happiness of good men (1705), and (for light relief) Burnet’s Abridgement of the history of the Reformation (1705).  This kind of book selection—worthy, popular, mainstream theology—is found time and again in the closets of gentry ladies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. I’m reminded, here, of the books which Elizabeth Freke (1641-1714) noted in her diary as being put into the deal box by her fireside in 1711 (Anselment 172–75), and I would guess that if we could find more of Jane’s library, it would fit a similar pattern. There would, probably, have been one or two titles that a 21st-century mind might find more approachable, but most of Jane’s reading would have been books we rarely read today.

Having said which, I’m not sure that Jane read them much either—the freshness of the bindings, and the crisp clean leaves, suggest to me that they may have spent more time on the shelf than in her hands. There are no internal inscriptions or annotations testifying to any interaction she had with them.  What’s really valuable about these books, I think, is their survival as a little group, representative of the kind of bookshelves which must have existed in lots of ladies’ closets in these kinds of households, up and down the country.  Quite how unusual it was to label them like this is a matter for speculation—it seems hard to believe that this group is unique, but I can’t think of having seen another example quite like it.  I suspect that time has swept others away, but the beauty of having this site is that others may know of, and share, more?

Source: books in a private collection. Photos by David Pearson reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

R. A. Anselment, ed., The remembrance of Elizabeth Freke 1671-1714, Camden Society 5th ser vol. 18, Cambridge, 2001.

Books owned by the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre

By Aya Van Renterghem

Frontispiece of A Brief Relation of the Order and Institute of the English Religious Women at Liège (Liège, 1652)

When considering the many shapes and forms in which early modern female book ownership appears, thoughts and discussions usually turn to the various types of books owned by different women or focus on the difference in ownership between social classes of women, for instance. It is, however, possible to broaden this view and also think about gradations of ownership and about the level of agency female book owners had. I mean by this that we could think about questions such as how much control early modern women had over their choice of books or over the type of books they owned. The Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre collection, currently being catalogued at Palace Green Library, Durham University, presents an interesting case study in this regard and is worth exploring here.

The Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre are a Catholic female religious order founded in 1480 by John à Broeck in Kinrooi (present-day Belgium). His sister Mentha and two of her companions would be the first Canonesses to be professed. The order expanded from there and other convents were opened across the Low Countries: four convents, for instance, were founded in the town of Liège. This is where, in 1642 two English girls, Susan Hawley and Frances Cary, originating from the convent in Tongeren, founded an English branch of the order. It is this English branch that donated their rare books and archive to Durham University in 2018 and is the topic of this blog post. The Canonesses’ reason for choosing this location was of course primarily because Catholicism was freely practised in this area (contrary to England), but it is also worth mentioning that in the History of the Community, it is noted that “[i]t was eventually determined that the English foundation should be at Liège, there being there a College of the Society of Jesus, from the Fathers of which the nuns hoped to receive aid and spiritual direction” (History vii). This will be significant for our discussion of the sisters’ book ownership.

The book collection, which contains mostly religious and educational materials as the Canonesses dedicated much of their efforts to teaching girls and young women, is extensive. It comprises over 650 books dated between 1600 and 1900. The collection was clearly also of importance to the Canonesses, as they went to great efforts to preserve it. In 1794, they escaped Liège, which was then in the hands of the French troops, to find safety in England. Liège had been under French control for some time at this point, but the British involvement in the wars against France in 1793 made life no longer safe for the English convent. Before they began this journey, they had 800 wooden boxes specially made in which they could comfortably carry their books and possessions. All but one of these boxes survived the journey.

This book collection therefore gives an overview of female religious book ownership over a period of 300 years and show us the value of books for these women, even (or especially) within the walls of the convent. However, to gain insight into the collection, the questions are not as straightforward as “Why did the sisters choose these specific books?” or “Who do these books belong to?”

Looking at the inscriptions in the Canonesses’ books, it appears that many of them were previously owned. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the majority of these previous owners were male institutions or men of the cloth who were predominantly Jesuit. A large number of the books contain ownership marks showing that they belonged to the English Jesuit College in Liège, indicated by the letters C.A. or the Latin phrase Collegium Anglicum Societatis Jesu Leodii. This college appears to have been the main provider of reading materials for the sisters, especially for the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century books. Furthermore, as CHS 056 shows, a number of the books were also printed at the College.

Though the texts contained in these books can be found elsewhere, some copies were uniquely translated and printed in Liège. Whether this was done with the purpose of giving them to the Canonesses is unclear. Likely also through the Liège College, the Canonesses gained access to books from the wider Jesuit community. CHS 018 for instance, was previously owned by P. Hijacynthus Vander Meer, who was at the Flemish Jesuit college in Tongeren.

Clearly, and not surprisingly given the reason why the Canonesses chose Liège as the location for their convent, the sisters looked at the Jesuit College for guidance and likely this included the provision of reading materials. In her article on the book collections of religious convents in exile, Caroline Bowden mentions a letter written shortly after the convent’s foundation in 1623 by Father Augustine Baker, spiritual advisor at the English Benedictine convent at Cambrai, to his Protestant book-collector friend Robert Cotton requesting books for the nuns (Bowden 343–44). In this letter, he expresses his concern about the availability of spiritual reading materials in English, but further documentation shows that he was equally interested in controlling the selection of texts. For instance, he legislated for the external Visitor to keep a close watch on the contents of the library:

Let the Vicarius have a special care that no books written or printed (even papers of instruction or devotion) that savour not of a religious Monasticall spirit, or that tend not unto it, be kept in the Monasterie: and therefore let the catalogue be examined at everie Visit, and at such time as the Ordinarie shall judge fit.

(Bowden 344)

It is unclear how far this situation was replicated across the English convents on the Continent, but it does further stress the question of how much agency the Canonesses had in purchasing books for themselves. If they did select and buy their own books, did these books have to be approved by their (Jesuit) chaplain? Was the pre-selection by male clerics simply a consequence of practicalities (i.e. it was easier for them to find and purchase books), or was there an element of censorship to this practice?

The questions do not end there: even within the walls of the convent, further inscriptions suggest that book ownership was not a clear-cut matter. Concerning this, Bowden notes that book ownership in convents worked from the principle that all books belonged to the convent and that individual sisters were allowed to keep certain texts in their cells for different lengths of time (353). The Canonesses’ collection largely confirms this, but I think further nuance can be added. CHS 010, for instance, which plainly states “Gertrude Aston my booke 1658” suggests that a number of sisters also had their own books. It is possible that they brought these with them when they joined (which is likely the case for CHS 010) or perhaps they were given them as presents by relatives or friends.

CHS 063 further demonstrates, by using a slightly different phrasing, “Mary Baptist her book with leave,” that this was not necessarily without input from the superiors. CHS 063 is also interesting because the topmost inscription on the flyleaf shows that the book was previously owned by Thomas Hyacinth Brown in 1776 (who was a Catholic Reverend based in Leicestershire). Based on similar inscriptions in other books from the collection, this could mean that the book belonged to the convent and that Mary Baptist had received special leave to keep it in her cell to read. Alternatively, she may have bought it second-hand or was given it by Reverend Brown and received permission to keep it.

Although this seems like a very particular distinction to make, the note “lent to M. Felicitas” in CHS 048 suggest that this was relevant to the community. Mary Baptist’s note is also written in ink, while the lending note was written in pencil. It is also possible that this distinction is time-related: in this case Mary Baptist was allowed to keep the book for a long time (potentially for life), while M. Felicitas was only allowed to borrow it for a short period of time. Looking at the collection as a whole, however, these individual ownership marks are, though not rare by any measure, also not the norm.

Most frequently, books, such as CHS 024 for example, indicate that the books belonged to the Reverend Mother’s room. Further inscriptions show that some books were part of the library or school collection.

Further investigation and cataloguing of this collection will undoubtedly lift the veil even further on early modern female book ownership in the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre’s collection, as well as female religious orders more broadly. Despite the relatively closed-off nature of convents, this information is relevant on a wider scale as the materials read by the sisters and kept in their libraries would also (indirectly) inform the generations of girls and women who were taught by them.

Source: books in Palace Green Library, Durham University. Photos by Dr. Danielle Westerhof, Rare Books Librarian at Palace Green Library, reproduced with permission.

Further reading

Caroline Bowden, “Building Libraries in Exile: The English convents and Their Book Collections in the Seventeenth Century,” British Catholic History 32.3 (2015), pp. 343–382.

Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre, History of the New Hall Community of Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre (Bruges: St-Trudo Abdij, 1997).

Note: This post was edited on 5/28/20 to correct a historical inaccuracy.

Thomas Gouge, The Young Man’s Guide (1696)

The Young Man’s Guide through the Wilderness of the World to the Heavenly Canaan, a book clearly aimed at a male readership, was inscribed a female reader with her name, date of purchase, and the price of purchase. We feature many books on this website that were given by or to women, but this one is clear on who bought it and when: “this book belonges to me margaret campbell march 12th 1698 price 10 pence.”

Son of the famous William Gouge, a Puritan divine best known for his work Of Domesticall Duties (1622), Thomas Gouge wrote this book of advice for young men, warning them of the many vices they might be prone to, such as anger, drunkenness, wantonness, swearing, lying, and “Back-biting, or Tale-bearing.” It is intriguing to imagine a female reader picking up this book, perhaps to prepare for educating her sons.

As a book plate tells us, the book was part of the library of Patrick Hume, 1st Earl of Marchmont and Lord Polwarth. It is not surprising that the book was owned by this Presbyterian family. The annotations on the title page and above the bookplate may be early shelf marks for the Earl’s library.

Intriguing connections exist between a Campbell family and the Earl, suggesting a likely identification for the female owner. Margaret Campbell (d. 1722) was the daughter of Sir George Campbell of Cessnock (c. 1639-1704). George Campbell had been involved in the Rye House Plot, a Presbyterian conspiracy against Charles II, together with Patrick Hume. Margaret married the eldest living son of Patrick Hume, Alexander, who would later become the 2nd Earl of Marchmont (1675-1740).

Portrait of Alexander Hume-Campbell, 2nd Earl of Marchmont, by Michael Dahl. Reproduced from Wikimedia Commons.

Their marriage happened in July 1697, the same year Patrick Hume was created Earl of Marchmont. Margaret and Alexander had their first child, a daughter, in 1698, the year of the inscription. Could Margaret have bought the book eight months after her marriage, while she was pregnant with her first baby, to get ready for raising a son? She had seven more children after her eldest daughter, including five sons, whom she may have brought up with Gouge’s advice in mind. If this is the Margaret Campbell who wrote the inscription, she used a book plate that belonged to her father-in-law, a likely scenario if she lived with her husband at Patrick Hume’s estate. In that case, the inscription would have been a clear reminder to the reader that the book might be part of the Earl’s collection, but it actually belonged to Margaret, who bought it for 10 pence.

Source: book offered for sale on eBay by Wisdompedlars. Images reproduced with permission. A portrait of Margaret can be seen here.