Abel Boyer, The compleat French-Master for Ladies and Gentlemen (1725)

Recording early modern female book inscriptions can be as frustrating as it is fascinating. While one of the more satisfying aspects is making seemingly invisible women visible enthusiasm can be curbed by the fact that it is almost impossible to find information about the individual concerned, especially women readers at non elite level. So what is the point of pursuing research with clear limitations? What can we take from female book inscriptions, particularly if there are no additional marks other than a name on the title page?

In truth, not much. But that is not to say the exercise is pointless. At the very least, female book inscriptions raise the profile of the genre and encourages researchers to keep pushing the boundaries in early modern women’s book ownership. Though information about readers at the lower end of the social spectrum might yield little return there are nevertheless opportunities by engaging with the text.

Jane Dobson’s copy of Abel Boyer’s lexicon (now in Armagh Robinson Library) is a case in point. We know nothing about Dobson or her family but her ownership of the ninth edition of Boyer’s highly popular work The Compleat French-Master for Ladies and Gentlemen (1725) is striking for two reasons. First, it clearly shows Dobson was well educated as indicated by her eagerness to develop her linguistic capabilities. Second, it suggests that she not only purchased books for intellectual rather than material purposes, but she also likely had multiple books in her custody. Indeed, Dobson was plainly well acquainted with lexicographical works in circulation.

Boyer was established in the field of compiling dictionaries. He was born in Castres in 1667 but undertook most of his studies in the Netherlands on account of his Protestant convictions. At the age of twenty-two, he moved to England where he struggled to make ends meet. It was not until he became acquainted with Allen Bathurst, later Earl Bathurst, that his fortunes changed when he assumed the role of tutor. It was through the Bathurst family connection that he subsequently found himself working in the English court.

In the early 1690s Boyer was appointed tutor to the young Duke of Gloucester, the only surviving son of Queen Anne and the royal consort, Prince George of Denmark, but the boy tragically died at the age of eleven in 1700. It is interesting that Boyer continued to keep the dedication to the prince on the title page in subsequent editions, perhaps indicating how close the two men had become over the course of the duke’s studies.

When Boyer’s work was first published in 1695 its full title was The compleat French-master for ladies and gentlemen being a new method, to learn with ease and delight the French tongue, as it is now spoken in the court of France. It was sub-divided into three parts: grammar, vocabulary, and “a short and plain French-Grammar, for ladies and young gentlemen that do not yet understand Latin.” By 1725, the book’s appeal extended to a wider readership. The ninth edition expanded to include phrases and dialogues “on all manner of subjects,” dialogues of wit and humour, examples of French poetry, a collection of French songs, choice proverbs in both English and French, and a selection of “the best French books, fit for a Lady’s, or Gentleman’s Library.”

Thus, Dobson’s ownership of The Compleat French-Master highlights a keen interest in languages. She may have been eager to learn (or improve) her linguistic skills whether it be for the purpose of conversing in a second language or expanding her literary interests. Indeed, the latter option is a distinct possibility. Research has shown the growing popularity of French writers in late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain and the Netherlands.[1] In the case of Britain, moreover, French female authors like Madame de Scudéry, Madame de Villedieu, and Madame de la Fayette were notably prominent in English private libraries.[2] (For those interested in the extent to which French female authors circulated in the Anglophone world you can explore the freely accessibly RECIRC database.) This is not to claim that Dobson read or collected works by female authors. Once again, we cannot say with any degree of certainty. However, digital humanities projects led by Prof. Marie-Louise Coolahan (RECIRC) and Prof. Alicia Montoya (Mediate) have given us plenty of scope to explore what people read in the early modern period.

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

Further Reading:

[1] Alicia C. Montoya and Rindert Jagersma, “Marketing Maria Sibylla Merian, 1720–1800: Book Auctions, Gender, and Reading Culture in the Dutch Republic,” Book History, Volume 21 (2018), pp 65, 67.

[2] Marie-Louise Coolahan and Mark Empey, “‘There are Numbers of Very Choice Books’: Book Ownership and the Circulation of Women’s Texts, 1680–98,” in Jennie Batchelor and Gillian Dow (eds), Women’s Writing 1660–1830: Feminisms and Futures (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), pp 139–55.

John Preston, Life Eternal (1631)

By David Pearson

Inscription of Elizabeth Brooke, from the front flyleaf of her copy of John Preston’s Life Eternal (1631)

Up and down the country, in early modern Britain, the houses of the better-off contained books. Our knowledge of the ways they kept them, and how many they kept, relies more on various kinds of secondary evidence than on surviving examples; houses which have not been pulled down over the centuries have been remodelled, and libraries that were once together are long since dispersed. We used to think that the emergence of library rooms in houses was more an eighteenth- than a seventeenth-century development, but scholars like Mark Purcell and Susie West have pushed back the boundaries and we now realise that we could have walked into many gentry houses in the middle of the seventeenth century and found dedicated spaces where books were kept. They might be called studies, or closets, and the lady of the house often had her own where she could retire to read the books that might legally belong to her husband but were certainly regarded as hers.

We know, from inventories, the contents of some of these closets – Elizabeth Sleigh’s 1647 list has been edited for PLRE, and Mark Empey has published the contemporary book list of Lady Margaret Heath.[1] There is a common profile to these kinds of gentry closet collections – something between 50 and 100 books, all in English, with a heavy preponderance of theological and devotional titles, alongside a sprinkling of practical, household, horticultural, or recreational books.

Shown here is what I think is a typical example of the kind of book we would find in a lady’s closet of this time. It belonged to Lady Elizabeth Brooke, whose epithet in her ODNB entry is “exemplar of godly life”; she was born in 1602 and died in 1683, after a long life spent mostly at Cockfield Hall in Suffolk, where her husband Sir Robert Brooke took her to live in 1620.

In her case, we don’t have a library inventory, but we know that she led a book-soaked life and wrote devotional works herself (which only partly survive). Her funeral sermon noted her piety, her charity, and her learning, particularly in theology: “she could oppose an Atheist by Arguments drawn from Topicks in Natural Theology, and answer the Arguments of Papists, Socinians, Pelagians, &c” (ODNB). That learning was clearly based on many hours in her closet, with books like this copy of John Preston’s Life Eternal (1631).

The titlepage (not annotated or inscribed

The text is a detailed guide to salvation, based on the moderated Calvinist philosophy that suffused the early seventeenth-century Church of England; I think it’s hard for us to really understand, today, how many hours ladies like Elizabeth spent pondering questions of election, uprightness of heart, and temporary faith. 

The contemporary gilt-tooled calfskin binding, with a central wreath tool (a common design of the late 16th and early 17th centuries)

The book is nicely bound, not ostentatiously, but suitable for a lady, and has clearly been well read, with manuscript numbering throughout added in the headlines to mark out the individual sermons and manicules here and there in what I would guess to be her hand.

Throughout the book, the headlines have been annotated with chapter numbers, supporting the sense that it has been thoroughly read.
These rather claw-like manicules appear throughout the book and are presumably Elizabeth’s.

Elizabeth Brooke had a long life and we might consider it a privileged one – she was born into a wealthy family, and her bread would have come more from servants than from the sweat of her brow. But by modern standards, it was also one with more than its fair share of tribulation. She spent the last 35 years of her life widowed, lost all but one of her 7 children at various ages between infancy and 30, and was said to have been so affected by the death by drowning of her last surviving son, in 1669, that her friends feared she would die of grief.  Time and again, working on early modern book owners, of both sexes, the narratives we read are those of regular and multiple infant mortality, death in childbirth, lives cut short by smallpox, and a degree of uncertainty around death and disease that they coped with as a constant backdrop to their lives. In the current times, the reflections from this mirror of the past are perhaps particularly worth contemplation.

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

Further Reading

Mendelson, Sara H. “Brooke [née Colepeper], Elizabeth, Lady Brooke (1602?–1683), exemplar of godly life.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2008. https://doi-org.access.authkb.kb.nl/10.1093/ref:odnb/3539.


[1] R. J. Fehrenbach, “Lady Elizabeth Ireton,” in R. J. Fenrenbach and J. L. Black (eds), Private Libraries in Renaissance England 8 (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2014), pp. 281–92; Mark Empey, “Lady Margaret Heath,” Private Libraries in Renaissance England: A Collection and Catalogue of Tudor and Early Stuart Book-Lists, Vol. 10. Gen. Eds. R. J. Fehrenbach & Joseph L. Black (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2020), pp. 263–85.

William Penn, et al., The Harmony of Divine and Heavenly Doctrines (1696)

In April 2019, we featured a collection of Quaker George Fox’s writings once in the possession of female members of the Steevens family. Today, we highlight another book of Quaker writings owned by a woman. The name “Hannah Dink” is inscribed in the narrow space between the first words of the title and the printed double border. [Update: Rose G. of the blog I Bequeath suggests that the inscriber is actually Hannah Pink, a name referenced in eighteenth-century Quaker burial records.] The title page indicates that the “Sundry DECLARATIONS on [sic] Variety of Subjects” by William Penn, George Whitehead, Samuel Waldenfield, and Benjamin Coole were “Taken in Short-hand . . . By a Lover of that People” in an attempt to blunt some of the “Prejudice” against Quakers.

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William Penn, as discussed in a previous post on this blog, is perhaps best known today as the founder of Pennsylvania province, while George Whitehead was a prominent Quaker leader who was buried alongside George Fox upon his death. Minister Samuel Waldenfield was one of several individuals to whom William Penn left “all my land, tenements and hereditaments, whatsoever rents, and other profits, situate, lying and being in Pensilvania, and the territories thereunto belonging, or elsewhere in America, upon trust, that they shall sell, and dispose of, so much thereof, as shall be sufficient to pay all my just debts, and from and after payment thereof, shall convey to each of the three children of my son .. and their respective heirs, 10,000 acres of land …”[1] Based in Bristol, Benjamin Coole was also a minister of the Quaker faith.

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While Hannah’s identity is unknown for the time being, she may be one of the countless women who took an active role in the burgeoning Quaker faith during the long eighteenth century.

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[1] Robert Proud, The History of Pennsylvania in North America. Volume II. Philadelphia: Zachariah Poulson, 1798, p. 115–116.

Source: Book offered for sale by Tavistock Books, 4/28/20. Images used with permission.

Further Reading

Naomi Pullin, Female Friends and the Making of Transatlantic Quakerism, 1650–1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Michele Lise Tarter and Catie Gill, New Critical Studies on Early Quaker Women, 1650–1800. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

George Savile, The Lady’s New Year’s Gift, or Advice to a Daughter (multiple copies)

The 1688 advice book The Lady’s New Year’s Gift by George Savile, Marquess of Halifax (1633-1695) was popular, going through many editions over the years. It is a genre that would lead one to expect female ownership, containing advice on choosing a husband and what to do if you have married a drunkard, on how to arrange one’s domestic affairs, on raising children, and so on. A delightful copy of the eighth edition (1707) was offered for sale earlier this year. The book is marked on the title page by “Eliz[abeth] Noel.” It was evidently passed on to a female family member: a later page is inscribed by Hannah Noel, who also seems to have started writing her name on a second page. We cannot know which of the two owned the book first.

Although the name Noel is present in the English peerage and there are some women of this family named Elizabeth within this time period, I have not been able to find a Hannah among them, so identification of these signatures remains in question for now.

Savile, who was an influential Protestant politician in the turbulent years of the Exclusion Crisis and the Revolution of 1688, wrote the work for his daughter Elizabeth (c. 1677-1708), the only child from his second marriage, when she was around eleven years old. She would go on to marry Philip Stanhope, the third Earl of Chesterfield, becoming the Countess of Chesterfield. Her son Philip, the Fourth Earl of Chesterfield, became an important politician.

A search of copies on Google Books shows that The Lady’s New Year’s Gift had lasting appeal among women, as seen for instance in a copy of the fifth edition (1696), from the British Museum, which has evidence of multiple female owners. Ann Burleigh signed the book twice in 1772, and Charlotte Jenkins signed it in 1830, placing her name right underneath Burleigh’s as if she wanted to show a sequence of female ownership.

The copy also contains doodles, possibly by a young woman reader, made at the top of a serious section on religion. Was this particular reader bored by the content? On the right page, another reader seems to have practiced writing the word “religion” itself.

In addition, the final page of this copy contains further evidence of female ownership, with inscriptions by a Mary and an Elizabeth.

Other female signatures in copies on Google Books are undated. A first edition from the British Library is signed by someone named Jenny (her last name is difficult to read), showing clear signs of reading in marginal marks made to highlight passages throughout.

A 1716 edition of the book, also held by the British Library, was owned, as we can just about make out, by a woman named Anne Baldy.

Intriguing writing appears on an additional page but is difficult to read, although it looks as if the name Susan is at the top. Further research in the British Library may help decipher these inscriptions.

Some copies on Google Books show that the book was not just read by women. A copy of a fifteenth edition (1765), from the National Library of Naples, has been repeatedly signed by someone named Harry Newman.

A 1752 bilingual edition from the British Library, translated by Johann Heinrich Samuel Formey and dedicated to Princess Sophie-Dorothea of Prussia, was at some point given to a woman, as the inscription reads “For Miss Guy Dickens,” but it was also owned by Robert A. F[?], who dated his signature July 6, 1861.

The nineteenth-century male owner has written dates in the margins and added comments and quotations from a variety of sources, including the bible and Hamlet, showing that this book, which was so clearly written with a female reader in mind, was closely read and, it seems, enjoyed by a wider audience.

Source: variety of editions on Google Books, and a 1707 copy (now sold) was offered for sale on eBay by Wisdompedlars, 2/18/2020. Images reproduced with permission.

Ann Yearsley, The Royal Captives (1795)

Royal Captives binding

The eighteenth-century writer Ann Yearsley (1753-1806) is mainly known for her poetry, but she also took advantage of a popular trend and wrote a four-volume Gothic novel.  Gothics were all the rage at the time (think Jane Austen’s spoof in Northanger Abbey, 1817).

Ann Yearsley by Wilson Lowry, after unknown artist. Line engraving, 1787. NPG D8852.
@ National Portrait Gallery, London

Yearsley was a complex woman; trained by her mother to be a milkwoman, but also to read and write, she was quite literate, and her volumes of poetry were taken up by Bluestocking writer Hannah More and members of the aristocracy.  After some disagreement, Yearsley separated from More but went on to a successful literary career that included a play performed in her hometown of Bristol, more poems, and this novel, The Royal Captives.  The subtitle promises “A Fragment of Secret History Copied from an Old Manuscript.”  In fact, the plot is an adaptation of a story from seventeenth-century French history about the man in the iron mask, which has thrilled audiences for a long time.

Royal Captives tp

No wonder such a book would be popular.  The copy seen here, held by The Second Shelf in London, is an American edition, published in Philadelphia in the same year that the London edition came out.  It prints four volumes in two, and both volumes contain the names of various owners including “Ann Brewster,” “Eunice,” “Katherine,” and “James.”

Royal Captive sigs.
RC Dimon sig v.1

The most prominent owner, who wrote her name numerous times in both volumes is Sally Dimon.  In the first volume she pens “Sally Dimon. — Fairfield” and beneath that “Sally Dimon read this Book the 20 of [July] 18002.”  

In the second volume, we can barely see another note in faded ink: “Miss Sally Dimons Book Presented by her Brother/ Fairfield March 8, 1799.”

RC Dimon sig v.2

Sally may well have been a descendant of the Dimon family who settled Fairfield, Connecticut in the seventeenth century.  In any case, we assume she enjoyed The Royal Captives, in which she would have found not only an exciting plot but also sympathy for women and the lower classes.

Source: book offered for sale by The Second Shelf, 9/2020. Images reproduced with permission.

John Weever, Ancient Funerall Monuments (1631)

While it is fairly common to find women’s ownership inscriptions in Bibles, Psalters, and other religious and devotional works, it is less common to find them in works of history, which is one of the reasons that Elizabeth Hamby’s copy of John Weever’s Ancient Funerall Monuments is so interesting.

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She inscribed the book along the top edge of the title page: “Elizabeth Hamby her booke i660.” Hamby is one of the many women who, to use Paul Morgan’s words, “resist[s] identification,” but her more distinctive surname may yet guide us to a definitive answer. One possibility is that she was the elder Elizabeth Hamby of Lamberhurst, Kent mentioned in a March 13, 1678 entry for Allegations for Marriage Licenses . . . Issued by the Vicar-General of the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1660 to 1679 [1].

hamby

Given that the inscription in the Weever is dated 1660 and that another text places the younger Hamby’s age at marriage around seventeen, we can safely assume that the mother and not the daughter was the signer of the book [2].

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As for John Weever, he is perhaps best remembered as the author of the 1599 Epigrammes in the Oldest Cut, and Newest Fashion. The book contains, among others, an epigram upon Shakespeare in Shakespearean sonnet form, which some scholars believe suggests that Weever read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets when they still circulated only in manuscript form. Ancient Funerall Monuments is the result of Weever’s extensive travels across England, Scotland, Italy, and Frances over a period of around thirty years to collect information on funerary monuments. Weever was most interested in the actual inscriptions on the monuments and less with their heraldic or architectural features, though there are a small number of illustrations within the book.

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Hamby’s copy of the text appears to retain its original calf binding (albeit rebacked), and other evidence within the book (“three neat early ink ownership names to first three leaves”) might provide further clues about where Hamby obtained it and how it may have left her possession.

Source: Book offered for sale by Lyppard Books, 3/7/20. Images used with permission.

Further Reading

[1] Armytage, George J., ed. Allegations for Marriage Licenses Issued by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, 1558 to 1669; Also, for Those Issued by the Vicar-General of the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1660 to 1679. (London: The Harleian Society, 1886), 276.

[2] Foster, Joseph, ed. London Marriage Licenses, 15211869 (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1887), 26364.

Simon Patrick, Advice to a Friend (1673)

There have been already a number of posts relating to examples of dual book ownership, or at least the discovery of multiple inscriptions that contain one female reader. Among them are spousal inscriptions such as Thomas and Isabella Hervey, as well as a discussion alluding to a possible mother or sibling ownership (see the post on Ann and Elizabeth Webb here). This blog looks at books serving as important family heirlooms that exchanged multiple hands but with a clear female role.

Simon Patrick’s devotional work, Advice to a Friend, which was published in 1673, bears the names of two family members: ‘Hellena Rawdon’ and ‘ERawdon’. It forms part of the enormous Conway book collection housed at Armagh Robinson Library. The Conways were a well connected family in seventeenth-century Ireland with keen literary interests. In the early 1640s, for example, Edward 2nd Viscount Conway owned around 8,000 volumes at his residence in Lisburn, County Antrim. A year before his death in 1655, his daughter Dorothy (c. 1630-75) married Sir George Rawdon, 1st Baronet Rawdon, and between the two families they kept this impressive book tradition alive.

The book ownership timeline of Patrick’s Advice to a Friend is difficult to ascertain but it would appear to have been first in the possession of Edward Rawdon, the eldest son of Sir George and Dorothy. Little is known about him. He was born possibly in the late 1650s but didn’t survive to inherit the family estate when Sir George died in 1684. Yet his name on the book indicates a well educated and enthusiastic book owner with a strong commitment to Protestantism.

The same can be certainly said of Hellena (or Helen) Rawdon, née Graham (1663-1710). She was the wife of Arthur Rawdon (1662-95), the third but eldest surviving son of Sir George and Dorothy. She displayed a love for books and reading. According to Brenda Collins, “her upbringing was one of scholarship; she was the granddaughter of Archbishop John Bramhall [of Armagh] and she was well read and very intelligent.”[1] Indeed, two other works in the Armagh collection have her name inscribed: Fasti Danici (1633) by the Danish philosopher, Ole Worm, and a manuscript work by ancient writer Polybius concerning the rise of the Roman Republic, which was translated into English (Collins). Clearly, Helen’s reading interests were broad.

That passion for books was undoubtedly passed on to her children. Following her husband’s death in 1695, she maintained a “strong influence” on her young son, [Sir] John Rawdon, later third Baronet Rawdon. No less than twenty-three books in the Armagh Robinson Library with the Conway crest have Sir John’s inscription on the title page (Collins). While his name is absent on Patrick’s work we should not discount the possibility of his mother giving it to him for private reading. This strong family relationship with books, moreover, suggests that Helen’s possession of Patrick’s Advice to a Friend was a gift from her brother-in-law, Edward. And her youthful but prominent inscription indicates she valued it greatly. Crucially, it enables us to glean a little more about her fascinating character and personality.

Advice to a Friend was published when Patrick was rector of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. (He was subsequently appointed bishop of Chichester 1689, before translating to the see of Ely in 1691.) Offering a form of spiritual healing, Patrick provided both advice and consolation to his Christian readers in situations where they encountered personal loss or faced a religious crisis. His work contained sixteen chapters of advice in the guise of previous sermons and prayers that he delivered, some of which were directed at his future wife, Penelope Jephson, whom he married in 1675.

Indeed, Patrick had a particularly popular female audience. Helen was not the only female reader who consulted his work. The prolific English writer of children’s books in the late 18th century, Mary Ann Kilner, had it with her on her deathbed in 1831, and she in turn obtained Patrick’s Advice to a Friend from a “Mrs Worst” in 1813 as can be seen from the auction catalogue (click here). Moreover, Cornelia Wilde has documented the close friendship he enjoyed with Elizabeth Gauden, whose correspondence with him centered on theological issues and matters of devotional practice [2]. Thus, Helen Rawdon joins a long list of women who were inspired by Patrick’s work, displaying a strong connection with her faith as well as her love of books.

The beautiful eighteenth-century Armagh Robinson Library in Northern Ireland is home to an estimated 42,000 printed books, ranging from the early modern period to the present day. Thanks to the kind permission of the governors and guardians of the library, over the coming months we will be able to post no less than seven books with examples of female book inscriptions.

My thanks to the Very Revd Gregory Dunstan, keeper of Armagh Robinson Library, who kindly provided assistance relating to queries on the Rawdons.

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


[1] Brenda Collins, “Family Networks and Social Connections in the Survival of a Seventeenth-Century Library Collection,” Library & Information History 33.2, 2017 pp 123-142.

[2] Cornelia Wilde, ‘Seraphic Companions: The Friendship between Elizabeth Gauden and Simon Patrick’, Early Modern Literary Studies, 22, 2014.

Jean Dubreuil, La perspective pratique, vol. I (1663)

By Leo Cadogan

This post concerns a now-sad copy, with a board detached, of volume one (of three) of a heavily illustrated manual on practical perspective, intended for painters, engravers and others in the design trades.

It was inscribed in the mid-eighteenth century by an eleven-year-old English girl visiting Paris, who a few years later became a recognized amateur artist and printmaker. Our copy of Jean Dubreuil, La perspective pratique, necessaire à tous peintres, graveurs, architectes, brodeurs, sculpteurs, orfèvres, tapissiers, et autres qui se meslent de desseigner […] première partie, seconde edition (Paris, Jean Dupuis, 1663) has a neatly-written note to front free endpaper “Louisa Augusta Grevile, Paris, 23d. of Aug.st 1754.”

This was Lady Louisa Augusta Greville (1743–1779).[1] What she was doing in Paris, I have not discovered. She was the daughter of an earl (Earl Brooke, who became also the earl of Warwick). As an artist, we do not know what professional training she might have had or how much she was reliant simply on teaching herself from books such as the present one. She was to produce etchings based on her own drawings and after artists including Nicolaes Berchem, Annibale Carracci, Pietro Francesco Cittadini, Guercino, Matteo Ricci, and Salvator Rosa. She made her first known dated print in 1757 and, as a teenager, was awarded prizes for her drawings by the Society of Arts, in 1758, 1759, and 1760. Holdings of her prints can be found in the British Museum and Calke Abbey, Derbyshire (National Trust). Her last year of production was 1770, which was the year of her marriage, to William Churchill of Henbury, Dorset (d.1808).

Print by Louisa Augusta Greville, 1755-1757? © The Trustees of the British Museum.

On Louisa Augusta’s death, this item from her professional library—which, when she acquired it, presumably had all its volumes—remained with her immediate family, first her husband and then probably their son, William Churchill (d. 1835).[2] The bookplate of husband or son is affixed to front pastedown.

In 1836, one Caroline Greville wrote her name directly below Louisa Augusta’s. This new owner is likely to have been Lady Caroline Greville, who died, unmarried, in 1844.[3] She was Louisa Augusta’s niece, the daughter of Louisa Augusta’s brother George Greville (1746­–1816). Caroline would not have known her aunt, as her parents only married in 1776. However, from where she places her inscription, we can see that she was keen to create an association with her. Possibly contributing to Caroline´s understanding of Louisa Augusta was a shared family background of connoisseurs and collectors.[4]

Caroline’s father, who became the earl, was a renowned art collector; her father’s brother Charles Francis Greville (1749–1809) was a collector of plants and minerals and patron of the painter George Sandby (1730–1809); her grandfather (Louisa Augusta’s father) was a patron of Canaletto; and his brother-in-law (Louisa Augusta’s maternal uncle) was the collector and diplomatist Sir William Hamilton (1731–1803). Social and cultural experiences derived from this family milieu may have helped Louisa Augusta form her ambitions as an artist. It was unusual for a woman to have made a mark in this connoisseurs’ world. It is quite possible that this impressed Caroline. 

The next recorded owner was the painter and civil servant Angelo Collen Hayter (1819–1898).[5] The natural son of the painter Sir George Hayter (1792–1871), he had exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy in the years 1848–1852 but had given up professional artistry by the time he acquired the volume, or volumes, in 1870. He was more successful in his new career, which saw him rise to chief reviewer of wills in the government offices at Somerset House. He would not have obtained the item for immediate professional needs, but he may have been intrigued by the provenance.

As for subsequent ownership, the book carries an old penciled price (10 shillings). It was acquired as part of lot 607 at Mallam’s (Oxford) on 29 January 2020. In the lot there was also an English student’s manuscript, c.1800, on the subject of perspective, and folded loosely into that other item are bibliographical notes from the twentieth century, relating to our volume, which by then certainly appears to have been single. The writer of the notes checked books in Cambridge University Library and may have been connected to the university. Both the present volume and that manuscript have since the sale been acquired from me by the bookseller Susanne Schulz-Falster.

Source: book in private ownership. Photos by Leo Cadogan, reproduced by permission.


[1] On Greville, see: ‘Greville, Louisa Augusta, Lady‘, in Benezit Dictionary of Artists online (henceforth Benezit) (published 31 October 2011; accessed 26 August 2020); also notes by Nicholas Stogdon, on the Sanders of Oxford website (henceforth Stogdon (Sanders)), and on the British Museum website. British Museum holdings of her prints can be seen here and Calke Abbey holdings here.

[2] On William Churchill of Henbury (d.1835), see An inventory of the historical monuments in Dorset, volume 2, south east (London, 1970), Sturminster Marshall (283-290), on the

British History Online website. A note on Greville´s husband is found in Stogdon (Sanders), who mentions Greville and her husband having a son and cites the husband´s contemporary memorial notices. These last indicate that, although he remarried after Greville´s death, he only had that one child. William was therefore Greville´s son.

[3] On Lady Caroline Greville, see Cracroft’s Peerage, ‘Warwick Earl of (GB, 1759)’; also (confirming her non-married status), Sarah Spencer, Lady (afterwards Lady Lyttelton), Correspondence of Sarah Spencer, Lady Lyttelton, 1787-1870, edited by her great-granddaughter, the Hon. Mrs. Hugh Wyndham (London 1912), 118 n.4.

[4] On Caroline’s father, see Matthew Kilburn, ‘Greville, George, second earl of Warwick and second Earl Brooke (1746–1816)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online (henceforth ODNB) (published 25 September 2014); see also Michael P. Cooper, ‘Greville, Charles Francis (1749–1809)’, ODNB online (published 25 September 2014); and Geoffrey V. Morson, ‘Hamilton, Sir William (1731–1803)’, ODNB online (published 25 September 2014). On Caroline’s grandfather (Louisa Augusta’s father), Francis Greville, first earl of Warwick (1719–1773), see Kilburn (above). For more family artistic connections see Stogdon (Sanders).

[5] On Angelo Collen Hayter see ‘Hayter, Angelo Collen’, Benezit Dictionary of Artists (published 31 October 2011); also Barbara Coffey Bryant, ‘Hayter, Sir George (1792–1871)’, ODNB online (published 17 September 2015).

Edmund Spenser, The Fairie Queene (1596)

By Alison Fraser

While Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene was written for Queen Elizabeth I, the epic was meant for female readership beyond Elizabeth and offered early modern women “a remarkable degree of interpretive agency,” as Caroline McManus has demonstrated.[1] This copy of the second edition of the first part of The Faerie Queene (1596)—from the Rare & Special Books Collection of the University Libraries at the University at Buffalo—demonstrates how one late early modern woman asserted her intellectual agency and physical ownership of the text through a full-page bookplate.  

Mrs. Elizabeth Percival’s tipped-in bookplate distinguishes her from the later male owners of this book, who left their (considerably smaller) bookplates adhered to its boards. The bookplate, bound in and trimmed to appear as though it is part of the book’s original signatures, faces the title page. Its placement ensures that future readers will acknowledge Percival’s intellectual and physical possession. In case they miss it, she also wrote her name in now much faded ink on the title page itself.

The design of Percival’s bookplate was popular in the early eighteenth century, and many of the earliest known bookplates of women readers follow a similar template. In the ornately decorated border, it announces, using majuscule, “The Noble Art and Mystery of PRINTING was first Invented / in the Year 1430. And Brought into ENGLAND in the year 1447.” The bookplate itself has a colophon; it was “Printed at the Theatre in Oxford, March 25, An. Dom. 1721.”

Despite appearances, however, bookplates such as Percival’s may not signify ownership: in her 1895 study of women’s bookplates, Norna Labourchere argues that it is “doubtful” that women’s full-page bookplates served the same purpose as ex-libris bookplates, noting that “the labels themselves often appear as if they have never had been placed within the covers of a volume” and “no libraries have been traced to any of these ladies.”[2] Instead, she theorizes, “printers kept a stock of blank plates, and filled in the name of the customer, with the date, address, etc.” filled out as appropriate, as souvenirs. Since this copy of The Faerie Queene was rebound by Riviere and Son in the early twentieth century, it would be difficult to say for certain that Percival had bound in the plate with the book. However, given that Percival inscribed her name on the title page, it seems reasonable to argue that this was indeed her book. Whether or not full-page labels like Percival’s served as ex-libris bookplates, they did have the function of putting women’s names into print and creating social currency around book ownership.  

Uncovering who Elizabeth Percival was, and what volumes her library might once have held (if any), is a discovery for the future.

Source: Rare & Special Books Collection of the University Libraries at the University at Buffalo. Images reproduced courtesy the Rare & Special Books Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.


[1] Caroline McManus, Spenser’s Faerie Queene and the Reading of Women. Cranbury, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 2002: 147.

[2] Norna Labouchere, Ladies’ Book-plates: An Illustrated Handbook For Collectors and Book-lovers. London: George Bell & Sons, 1895: 2. https://archive.org/details/b29008463/page/2/mode/2up

John Dryden, Satires of Juvenal and Persius (1693)

By Sarah Lindenbaum and Tara Lyons

The Illinois State University’s Milner Library in Normal, IL is where the famous early reader Frances Wolfreston’s copy of Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania (1621) came to reside. The book is twice inscribed by Wolfreston “bot at london” and proves that she did buy books in the city, a fact that until recently was not conclusive [1].

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However, this essay is about a different female Wolferstan book owner—Frances’ granddaughter, Anne Wolferstan—whose inscribed copy of John Dryden’s edition of the Satires of Juvenal and Persius (1693) recently found its home in Milner Library’s Special Collections (PA6447.E5 D7 1693). The Urania entered the library by happenstance, the Satires through the collaboration of Sarah Lindenbaum and Dr. Tara Lyons, co-authors of this essay. When Lindenbaum found the volume for sale and noted its fascinating provenance, Lyons made the case to Milner librarians (Jean MacDonald and Maureen Brunsdale) to purchase it and join the two Wolfreston-owned books on the shelves for researchers and students to explore for years to come. Students in Lyons’ early modern literature and bibliography courses were so taken with the volumes during visits to Special Collections that they invited Lindenbaum to class for an impromptu guest lecture in Fall 2019 wherein Lindenbaum generously shared her knowledge about women’s reading and book collecting in the early modern period. The books have inspired a whole generation of ISU English majors who know the significance of the name “Wolfreston” in the history of book collecting in England.

Though Frances Wolfreston (1607–1677) had at least two sons who seemed to inherit her bibliomania, none of her three daughters—Grace Wolfreston, Anne Arblaster, Elizabeth Bott—appear to have caught her book-collecting bug. In fairness, they probably did read some of her books. In willing her physick and “godly” books to her youngest son Stanford, Wolfreston says he may have the rest of her books conditionally as long as “any of his brothers ore sisters” can read them “any tim[e],” a wording which suggests they must have read books from her library in the past [2]. However, no surviving books, Wolfreston’s or otherwise, contain the ownership inscriptions of her daughters, in contrast to a handful of extant books that do bear the annotations and ownership inscriptions of her sons Stanford and Francis Wolferstan. If her daughters shared her voracity for reading and book-collecting, they did not systematically sign books as their mother so notably did.

Wolfreston’s granddaughter Anne Wolferstan, in contrast, was a reader, owner, and inscriber of books. A 1679 New Testament at the Bodleian Library (Vet. A3 e.2217) bears her 1680 ownership inscription, made when she was only six or seven years old.

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And the 1693 edition of Dryden’s translations of the Satires at the Milner Library is hers, inscribed on the front pastedown: “Anne Wolferstan: Statf:ld in Com: Staff: / the Guift of Dr: Fowke / 8:ber 15. 1694.” There is a lot to unpack in this fourteen-word inscription, but first, more about Anne.

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She was born on 21 November 1673 when her bibliophile grandmother was sixty-six years old. Frances Wolfreston marked Anne’s birth in an annotated Poor Robin almanac, also held at the Bodleian Library: “my dater wolfreston was brot to bed of a dater the 21 day of the month betwen i and 2 a clock at nit being Friday” [3]. This “dater wolfreston” was Hester Bowyer, first wife of Wolfreston’s eldest son Francis. Hester died less than a month later, likely due to complications of childbirth.

When Wolfreston died in January 1677, Anne was only three years old, so it is unlikely that Anne would have had any memories of her. Nonetheless, among Wolfreston’s numerous grandchildren, Anne may have had a special relationship with her. In her will, Wolfreston left clothing to seven of her granddaughters, but singled out Anne for a different bequest: “itom i geue my godater anne wolfreston 10 £ to be put out to the best aduantig for hor.” As Frances Wolfreston’s godchild, Anne would have received religious instruction from her. Evidence that Wolfreston played a role in her grandchildren’s spiritual upbringing survives in the form of a pamphlet entitled The School of Learning, or, A Guide for Children: Wherein Is Contained Prayers for Every Day in the Week, Both for Morning and Evening (British Library 3456.a.45). The earliest Wolfreston could have obtained the pamphlet is 1668, the year it was published. By then, all of her children were grown, meaning that she must have used it as an educational tool for their children. Whether Wolfreston read to Anne from this specific book cannot be known for certain, but is a possibility.

Anne’s father Francis Wolferstan doubtless had a larger role in influencing her learning and apparent predilection for reading; he was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford and was a barrister of the Inner Temple until Anne was about fifteen. Several books in institutions across the United States and United Kingdom bear his ownership inscriptions, shelf-marks, and annotations, indicating that he had his own library, which his daughter, who lived with him until her marriage at age twenty-nine, would have been able to access. Since Frances Wolfreston willed her physick and religious books to her youngest son Stanford who lived over thirty miles away in Wootton Wawen, it is not known whether Anne and her father utilized any of these books after Wolfreston died. There is, however, evidence of other bibliographic contact between the two families. Stanford Wolferstan signed Anne’s New Testament, writing “A b c d e f g h i” after his signature. Beneath, a child shakily copied the alphabet, as though their uncle was teaching them their letters.

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Anne would be her father’s only surviving child. Her three oldest siblings all died between 1669 and 1673 (the last just thirteen days before she was born), and her older brother Francis died of smallpox sometime between 1698 and 1699. Her father’s second wife Eleanor had no live births. Of course, Anne’s sex meant that she could not inherit Statfold Hall when her father died in 1712, although John Burke does call her “heiress to her father’s purchased estates” [4]. On June 14th, 1703, she became the second wife of Sir John Egerton, 3rd Baronet and left Statfold Hall to reside with him at Wrinehill Hall, some fifty miles northwest of her previous home.

Returning to Anne’s copy of the Satires, the book contains a surprising amount of information about Anne’s reading, interests, and possible social circle. Describing the book in October 2018, the bookseller made the following note: “ ‘Dr Fowke’ was pretty certainly Phineas Fowke (1638–1710) of Little Worley Hall, Shropshire [5]. He was not only a physician but also a man of letters; of particular interest, bearing in mind the present volume, is the fact that he contributed to the many-handed translation of Plutarch’s Lives published by Dryden in 1683–6.” Little Worley Hall, also known as Little Wyrley Hall, survives to this day and is located about twenty miles (give or take) from Statfold Hall. Anne’s ownership inscription indicates that Fowke gifted her the Satires on October 15th in 1694. The portion reading “Statf:ld in Com:” is written over a strip of white paper affixed to the pastedown, which either disguises a tear in the paper or a mistake in the portion of the inscription beneath [6].

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The pastedown did not remain static once Anne made the gift inscription; several expunged inscriptions and verses adorn it. Anne also appended the original inscription with the following: “Doct.r Fowke departed this Life Sunday morng., Jan: 21. 1710/11.” These markings point to Anne’s multiple interactions with the book throughout her life and perhaps a lasting friendship or acquaintance with the physician.

The expunged inscriptions include what appears to be an earlier, shorter version of the gift inscription; it is located above the extant gift inscription and filtering tools show that it begins with “Anne Wolferstan” and ends with “1694.”

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This would seem to suggest that Fowke’s acquaintance and his gift were of distinct importance to her; the extant inscription is written in what appears to be her best hand, her initials “A” and “W” drawn with bold flourishes, and the fact that she may have erased an earlier version of the inscription signifies concern with its content and appearance. The expunged inscriptions beneath the note about Dr. Fowke’s death include a four-line verse in Anne’s hand as well as two inscriptions reading “Anne Egerton,” her married name. If Anne was the one who effaced these markings, her reasons for doing so are not clear.

After Anne married John Egerton, she gave birth to at least three children. Two died in infancy, while daughter Catharine died aged fifteen. With no biological heirs, Anne willed her possessions to Edward Egerton, her husband’s third son. After his death the following year, the book apparently passed to Ralph Egerton, her husband’s fourth son. “Ralph Egerton” is inscribed on the book’s title page, overshadowing its original owners more modest initials (“A W”) which flank the printed Latin motto below.

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The title page of John Dryden’s Satires of Juvenal and Persius (1693) is a perfect starting point for understanding the significance of this volume and Anne Wolferstan’s ownership of it. As the edition’s title page reveals, Dryden was responsible for translating Persius’s satires and some of Juvenal’s, but at least half of those by Juvenal were rendered into English by “Several other Eminent Hands.” These other hands were Nahum Tate, William Bowles, George Stepney, Stephen Hervey, William Congreve, Thomas Power, Thomas Creech, Richard Duke, and two of Dryden’s sons, Charles and John. Even before the Satires was published, Dryden’s name guaranteed the quality of the book in its entirety, at least according to Peter Motteux who in the Gentleman’s Journal (February 1692) assured future buyers, “you need not doubt since [Dryden] hath so great a share in the Undertaking, but the rest [of the translations] will be well done” [7]. That Dryden took up editorship of the volume is likely.

The London publisher of the edition, Jacob Tonson, can also be considered a collaborator on the project; indeed, he was probably the impetus. In his note “The Bookseller to the Reader” in Dryden’s third miscellany, Examen Poeticum (1693), Tonson admits his part in “Solliciting the Translation of Juvenal and Persius.” Encouraging the project must have made good financial sense to the publisher. Having also published and vended Dryden’s other classical translation projects, including Ovid’s Epistles (1680), Plutarch’s Lives (1683–86), Micellany Poems (1684), and Sylvae, or, The Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies (1685), Tonson might even be said to have taken on the role of “patron” to the respected writer [8]. That Tonson was distributing Dryden’s dramatic works is likewise evident on the title page of the Satires. At the Judge’s-Head in Chancery Lane, readers could find “Compleat Sets of Mr Dryden’s Works, in Four Volumes in Quarto, the Plays being put in the order they were Written.”

The Satires of Juvenal and Persius was a popular seller, going through six more editions from 1697 to 1754. Anne received her copy just a year after the Satires publication, so Fowke likely presented her with a new first edition. Anne was twenty years old when she received it, and as suggested above, it seems she cared for the book over time. Like many other late-seventeenth century women, Anne may not have been educated in Latin, but this would not have precluded her from studying classical literature and ancient history. The Satires might even have been used as a tool for Latin learning. In fact, the volume shows signs of use by a reader who was comparing passages in the Satires across other editions of Juvenal. This example from Satire VIII shows readerly interest in this sententious phrase typographically marked with inverted commas with a user’s manuscript manicule:

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In the outer margin, a reader has set out the corresponding verse numbers in three different editions of Juvenal’s Satires. This hand, however, is distinct from Anne’s inscription in the inner cover. It is most likely that of her father Francis; the handwriting is identical to his, and he habitually made bibliographical references of this sort in books that he read.

In 1866, Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge sold a 1676 edition of “Six Comedies in English and Latine” by Terence translated by Charles Hoole and printed by Elizabeth Flesher. It contained the undated ownership inscription of William Inge and a “168*” [sic] ownership inscription from Charles Gresley. It must have also been signed by one of the Wolferstans, since Sotheby’s identified it as “from the Wolfreston Library” [9]. The Inges and Gresleys were both landed Staffordshire families and closely acquainted with the Wolferstans. Given that the 1676 Terence ultimately ended up in the library of John Morewood Gresley, either Inge or one of the Wolferstans must have given it to Charles Gresley in the 1680s. Anne may have been too young to use the book before it left Statfold Hall, but it is further evidence of the family’s keen interest in English translations of classics. A 1614 edition of Terence in English owned by Stanford Wolferstan is now at the University of Glasgow Libraries (Sp Coll 716), and Frances Wolferstan published a translation of Ovid’s The Art of Love in 1661. He gave Anne’s mother Hester a copy as part of their courtship.

Whether or not Anne had some facility with Latin, Dryden’s Satires were intended for “persons of understanding and good sense who, not having been conversant in the original, or at least not having made Latin verse so much their business as to be critics in it, would be glad to find if the wit of our. . . great authors be answerable to their fame and reputation in the world” (p. lii ).  That Dryden expected women like Anne to read the Satires is also apparent in the preface to Juvenal’s notoriously misogynistic Satire VI. Dryden assures readers that he does not condone the Roman author’s invectives against women, even confessing that he translated this satire out of necessity because no one else would agree to do it. Wishing not to make enemies of his own English female readers, Dryden begs them not to conflate his opinions with Juvenal’s: “Whatever his Roman ladies were, the English are free from all his Imputations” (p. 87).

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It would be fascinating to know what Anne thought of Juvenal’s Satire VI and Dryden’s apology, but the majority of annotations presumably in her hand appear before the text proper begins. On the flyleaf (recto and verso) and next half title, Anne has transcribed three lists under the following headings:

“The name of the 40 pagan emperours of Rome with their several mottos”

The names of the 32 Christians Eastearn Greeks & their Mottos”

The names of the 25 Western Franks with their several mottos &. .”

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Filling almost 2.5 folio leaves, Anne copied the names of mottos from Mathias Prideaux’s An Easy and Compendious Introduction for Reading All Sorts of Histories (1655 or 1672). Prideaux’s edition functioned as an encyclopedia of historical figures and events, which was “contrived, in a more facile way then heretofore hath been published.” Anne Wolfreston appears to have combed through the volume from page 189 to 244, extracting the names and mottoes of the famous figures, perhaps as a learning exercise in ancient history or as a supplement for reading the works of Juvenal and Persius, who cite some of the rulers from ancient Rome who appeared in Anne’s transcribed lists.

This cross-referencing is something she had in common with her father and her grandmother. As noted above, Francis Wolferstan made copious bibliographical references in his own books, a few of his mother’s, and even in his daughter’s New Testament (see image above), while Frances herself drew connections among texts she had read. In her copy of Thomas Heywood’s The Iron Age (1632), she wrote “this and the forst part of the destrucktions of troy tragides both uery prity ons and good ons for the storay, and i think trower then the old history bouk,” and she copied a portion of the preface to Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy in her 1613 edition of Timothie Bright’s A Treatise of Melancholy (Bodleian, Vet A2. f.152) [10]. By “the forst part of the destrucktions of troy tragides,” she probably meant Raoul Lefèvre’s Recueil des Histoires de Troyes, which was translated by William Caxton in the fifteenth century and holds the distinction of being the first book ever to be printed in English. Versions of Caxton’s translation were published in numerous editions throughout the seventeenth century under variations of the title The Destruction of Troy.

Identifying early female readers through ownership marks is often a difficult task. More often than not, we have only the name of a book owner and, rarely, the date of her inscription. Even when we are able to extrapolate the identity of a reader from historical and genealogical records, it is near impossible to learn whether book collecting ran in the family or whether that woman’s grandmother was an avid reader. Anne Wolferstan’s copy of the Satires is the exception to the rule, but perhaps it will not continue to function in this way. The genealogical pairing of the Anne Wolferstan and Frances Wolfreston volumes in Milner Library collections did not happen just by chance. The bibliographical labors of Sarah Lindenbaum in tracing the vast collection of Frances Wolfreston led her to search for books owned by someone with that surname. That Anne’s books began cropping up in her searches demonstrates to us just how rich and deep the field of female book ownership is when we know the identities of those we research. For educational institutions like Illinois State University with a modest budget for rare and fine books, it takes this kind of specialized knowledge, provenance expertise, advocacy for teaching resources, and enthusiastic, fast-acting bidding on the part of librarians to build collections that not only reveal the communities of women who owned books in the early modern period but also encourage future research on them.

Source: Milner Library’s Special Collections (PA6447.E5 D7 1693). Photographs by Sarah Lindenbaum.

[1]  Lindenbaum, “Hiding in Plain Sight: How Electronic Records Can Lead Us to Early Modern Women Readers,” in Women’s Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation, ed. Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Sauer (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018), 200.

[2] Frances Wolfreston will, 4 July, 1676, GB124.E4/26/7, Egerton Family, Earls of Wilton, of Heaton Hall, Greater Manchester County Record Office.

[3]  William Winstanley, Poor Robin, 1673: An Almanack after a New Fashion (London: Printed for the Company of Stationers, [1673]), Bodleian Library, MS. Don. e. 246.

[4]  John Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1836–38), p. 188.

[5]  Little Worley Hall is actually situated in Staffordshire, not Shropshire.

[6]  There is a nineteenth-century binder’s ticket on the pastedown that reads “Proudfoot. Binder 73 George St. Euston Sqr.” which is contemporaneous to the binding. Therefore, it is not clear whether the now pastedown on which Anne’s inscription appears was always a pastedown or if it was once a loose leaf.

[7]  John Dryden, The Works of John Dryden, Volume IV: Poems, 1693-1696, ed. Edward Niles Hooker, Hugh Thomas Swedenberg, and Vinton A. Dearing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), p. 513.

[8] Stuart Gillespie, “The Early Years of the Dryden-Tonson Partnership: The Background to Their Composite Translations and Miscellanies of the 1680s,” Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700. 12.1 (1988), p. 11.

[9] Catalogue of the Very Valuable Topographical & Antiquarian Library of the Late Rev. John Morewood Gresley ([London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 1866]).

[10] Johan Gerritsen, “Venus Preserved: Some Notes on Frances Wolfreston,” English Studies 45:1–6 (1964), p. 273.

Nicholas Culpeper, The English Physitian Enlarged (1662)

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One of the most popular works of medicine in seventeenth-century England was physician and botanist Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physitian, first published in 1652. The book was reissued in new editions well into the eighteenth century and beyond. It is perhaps best-known today for its herbal—”Three Hundred Sixty and Nine Medicines, made of English Herbs,” per the 1662 title page.

This particular copy contains the seventeenth-century ownership inscription of a woman owner on the front paste-down: “Elizabeth Armytage.” It is difficult to make out the faded letters that precede Elizabeth, but they appear to read “Madam.” There are a few candidates for Elizabeth’s identity, as various branches of the Armitage family were settled in Yorkshire in Barnsley, Kirkburton, and Kirklees during this time period. An Elizabeth Armitage died in March 1685/86 and another, of Keresforth Hill, died in 1694 [1].  Another Elizabeth Armitage of Kirkburton was buried in December 1715 [2]. If the word in front of Elizabeth in the inscription is madam, it implies that this Elizabeth Armitage was of an elevated social status.

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The book was later owned by a John Phillips and John Faulkner (ownership inscription not pictured).

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Source: Book offered for sale by Modern First Editions in July 2020. Images used with permission.

[1] Joseph Jackson Howard, ed. Miscellanea Genealogica Et Heraldica, Vol. 1: New Series (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1874), 439, 441.

[2] Frances Anne Collins, ed. The Parish Registers of Kirkburton, Co. York, with Appendix of Family Histories. Vol. II. (Exeter: William Pollard, 1902), cxxvi.

Memorialls of Margaret de Valoys, trans. Robert Codrington (1664)

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The Folger Library’s copy of The Memorialls of Margaret of Valois is a late edition of this popular book. First printed in 1641 in a translation by Robert Codrington, an Oxford scholar, the book was published thirteen times until 1664, sometimes under different titles which highlighted “the civill war” in France and the St. Bartholomew massacre. Marguerite was the daughter of one French king, the sister of three, and the wife of yet another, Henri de Navarre who became Henri IV. She wrote her Memoires in the 1590s but they were “not printed until 1628 after her death” (Bauschatz 29).

The Folger’s copy (shelfmark 140- 172q) was owned by Ann Rediatt, who wrote her name and the date 1706 in large calligraphic flourishes on the front flyleaf.

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Ann appears to have read her book with pen in hand, witnessed by what appears to be a large inkblot on the front cover and a few extensive notes in the text.

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In the first of the notes, Ann takes issue with Marguerite de Valois’ reference to a story from “the Infancy of Themistocles, and Alexander” in which Themistocles is alleged to have lain down “in the middle of a Street” daring a carter’s horses to ride over him.  Ann corrects her: “The Queen thus committed an oversight, it was not Themistocles but Alcibiades who threw himself upon the Street in Athens where he and some of his companions were playing at Dice. . . ” (5).

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Ann continues her long note on the following page, saying “the other boys broke away but Alcibiades threw himself directly upon his face before the Wagon, and stretching himself out, bad the fellow drive on if he pleased.”

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Ann gives her source as Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades, which she may have read in Latin as she gives the reference as “Vide Plutarch in Vit. Alcib.”

At the very end of the book, Ann delivers her opinion on the moral to be learned from reading about the queen’s rather colorful life: “Valois! This book is better than all the Systems of all the Philosopher’s for the great purpose of undeceiving the most part of Mankind who have foolishly taken it into their heads, ‘That to be great and rich is to be happy!’”

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We have not identified Ann Rediatt, but we do have the testimony of her well-known predecessor, Dorothy Osborne. Writing to her longtime fiancee, Sir William Temple, in 1653, Dorothy said: “I have read your Reine Marguerite, and will return it you when you please. If you will have my opinion of her, I think she had a good deal of wit, and a great deal of patience for a woman of so high a spirit. She speaks of too much indifference of her husband’s several amours . . . I think her a better sister than a wife, and believe she might have made a better wife to a better husband” (60).

Source: Folger Library, shelfmark 140- 172q. Photographs of book by Georgianna Ziegler. Reproduced with permission. 

Further Reading

Cathleen M. Bauschatz, “‘Plaisir et Proffict’ in the Reading and Writing of Marguerite de Valois,” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 7.1 (1988): 27–48.

Dorothy Osborne, Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple: 1652–54, ed. Edward Abbott Parry. London, 1903. Archive.org.