Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy (1651)

By Joseph L. Black

Appearing in eight editions (plus additional issues) between 1621 and 1676, seven of them in folio, Robert Burton’s expansive and erudite Anatomy of Melancholy was a seventeenth-century publishing phenomenon. A copy of the 1651 edition of Burton’s Anatomy, held by the Redwood Library & Athenaeum in Newport, Rhode Island (shelfmark PR 2223.A1 1651), is the first to appear on the EMFBO site.[1] Furthermore, the evidence here of early modern female book ownership is but one of this book’s several interesting features—including the only known manuscript copy of Katherine Philips’ song “Pompey’s Ghost” in a seventeenth-century printed book or made by a seventeenth-century woman.

The Redwood copy is in a modern binding and lacks the frontispiece and title-page, but it retains two original flyleaves and the half-title that precedes the now missing frontispiece.[2] The earliest provenance appears on the recto of the second of the two flyleaves, where Pleasant Rawlins has enthusiastically inscribed her full name four times: “Pleasant Rawlins / Her Book”; “Pleasant Rawlins / Her Book Aprill the 1 day 16**” [second line of inscription obliterated and date trimmed]; “Pleasant Rawlins her book / Aprill ye 1 day 1672” [entire inscription obliterated]; and, at the bottom of the page, “Pleasant Rawlins her book.”

Second flyleaf recto (top)
Second flyleaf recto (middle)

She subsequently re-inscribed her name in an accomplished calligraphic hand on the recto of the first flyleaf, the inscription oriented vertically on the page: “Mrs Pleasant Biker / her booke / Aprill Idus Mensis pridie [the day before the Ides of April, i.e. April 12] Anno Domine 1676.”

First flyleaf recto

The obliterations of the two dated “Rawlins” entries look likely to be by Rawlins herself, possibly prompted by her addition of the re-dated inscription under her married name. The same hand has obliterated two instances of the name “John” on the “Rawlins” inscription page, in the same ink and probably at the same time as the other obliterations. On the top left of the “Biker” page, also oriented vertically, is another inscription, probably not by Rawlins/Biker but still early and possibly missing some text due to paper repairs. Difficult to decipher, it reads like a quotation but remains untraced: “[?Jan*** pa**] / I shall Endeavour for the future / To have \no/ constant indareance between us / by Letter.”

Pleasant Rawlins and Mrs Pleasant Biker are the same person: Pleasant Rawlins, daughter of William and Katherine Rawlins, was baptised in the parish of St Botolph Without Aldgate in London on February 1, 1652. She married Samuel Biker (d.1685) at some point between April 1672 (the date of her “Rawlins” inscription) and 1674, the year her daughter Pleasant Biker (d.1696) was baptised, also in St Botolph Without Aldgate, on August 30. Pleasant (Rawlins) Biker died in early 1685, the same year as her husband, and was buried in St Botolph Without Aldgate on January 12 of that year, at the age of thirty-two.[3]

Pleasant Rawlins was a young woman of twenty when she first inscribed her copy of Burton’s Anatomy. The Latin in her 1676 inscription as well as her practised use of Italic and calligraphic hands, not to mention her ownership of a work like Burton’s Anatomy, suggests a certain level of education. In addition, the thirty-line poem she has copied in the book, beginning on the “Rawlins” inscription page (in the same hand and ink as her signature at the bottom of the page) and continuing onto the facing verso of the preceding flyleaf, suggests a fashionably current literary sensibility. Beginning “From lasting and unclouded Day,” the poem is an extract, often known as “Pompey’s Ghost,” from Katherine Philips’s play Pompey, her translation of Pierre Corneille’s tragedy La mort de Pompeé. “Pompey’s Ghost” is one of the newly written songs Philips innovatively added to the translated play.

The version copied by Rawlins reads:[4]

[second flyleaf recto]

From lasting and unclouded Day,
From joys refin’d above allay
And from a Spring without decay.
I come by Cynthia’s borrow’d bems
To visit my Cornelia’s Drems,
And give them yet sublimer Thems.

Second flyleaf recto

[first flyleaf verso, oriented vertically]

Behold the Man thou love’dst before
Pure streams have wash’d away his Gore
And Pompey now shall bleed no more.
By Death my Glory I resume,
For ’twould have been a harsher doom
T’ outlive the Liberty of Rome.
By me her doubtfull fortune try’d
Falling, bequeaths my Fame this Pride
I for it lived and with it Dy’d.
Nor shall my Vengeance bee withstood
Nor unattempted, with a Flood
off Roman and Egitptian blood.
Cesar himselfe it shall pursue
his days shall troubled bee & few
And hee shall dye by treason too.
hee by severity Divine
shallbee an offring att my shrine
As I was his hee must bee mine
Thy stormy life Ile regrett noe more
For Fate shall waft the soone ashore
[And to thy Pompey the restore]
There none a Guilty Crowne shall weare
nor Cesar bee Dictator there
nor shall Cornelia shed one teare

First flyleaf verso

Rawlins has omitted from Philips’ original the penultimate three-line stanza, probably for reasons of space: working around some pen trials already on the page, she changed hands halfway through the first line of the sixth stanza from her elegant italic to a more cramped secretary, squeezing stanzas six and seven onto the lower half of the left side, then squeezing stanzas eight and nine onto the lower half of the right side (in stanza nine, the final line has been trimmed in rebinding and the final words of the first two lines are covered by a paper repair), then adding the final stanza in an empty space above, breaking up lines to make it fit. The omitted stanza reads, in Philips’ original, “Where past the fears of sad removes / We’l entertain our spotless Loves, / In beauteous, and Immortal Groves.” Rawlins has bracketed stanzas eight and nine, adding an unfortunately illegible (and possibly trimmed) word in the margin (?*eib*).

Pleasant (Rawlins) Biker and her husband Samuel both died in 1685, in London: Samuel was buried in St Botolph Without Aldgate on February 21, about six weeks after his wife. At some point that same year, the next owner of this copy of Burton’s Anatomy bought it in a location a world away: an inscription across the top of the book’s half-title reads, “Benjamin Newberry Ejus Liber Bought att / Port Royall In Jamaica 1685.” This is probably Benjamin Newberry (c.1653-1711), of Newport, Rhode Island.

Half-title

The Newberrys were a prominent merchant family in Newport and would likely have had trade dealings in Jamaica; the Newport connection could also explain the current presence of the book in the Redwood Library & Athenaeum. The same page features one additional later signature, the (untraced) “Robert Morton / 1828.” If this copy of Burton remained in the possession of the Rawlins/Biker family until the deaths of Pleasant and then Samuel in early 1685, it soon made its way into the hands of somebody with an entrepreneurial sense of the potential transatlantic market for used books. While other copies of Burton’s Anatomy are documented in America in the seventeenth century, including at least one owned by a woman,[8] this book may represent the earliest text by Katherine Philips to make its way across the Atlantic.

Source: Redwood Library & Athenaeum, call number PR 2223.A1 1651. Photos reproduced with permission.


[1] I would like to thank Michelle Farias, Archivist & Special Collections Librarian at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, for drawing this book to my attention during a visit there in January 2022, and Victoria Burke and Elizabeth Hageman for their comments on early versions of this note.

[2] Because the title-page is missing, the holding library has catalogued the copy on the basis of its colophon, dated 1651 (sig. 4A4r). The same colophon appears in the 1652 re-issue, which differs only in its re-dated title-page: the copy may therefore represent the 1652 re-issue (Wing B6182) rather than the 1651 edition (Wing B6181).

[3] The genealogical data presented here all derives from records found in ancestrylibrary.com. This Pleasant Rawlins is not to be confused with her niece, also Pleasant Rawlins (b.1684), who was the teenaged victim of a notorious 1702 case of heiress abduction and forced marriage regarded as a source for Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa: see Beth Swan, “Clarissa Harlowe, Pleasant Rawlins, and Eighteenth-Century Discourses of Law,” Eighteenth-Century Novel 1 (2001), 71-93.

[4] Long ‘s’ and initial ‘ff’ regularized, abbreviations silently expanded, and a false start on one stanza omitted.

[5] Paul Salzman, Reading Early Modern Women’s Writing (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006), 182.

[6] Salzman, 187-90; Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700 (CELM), PsK 575-77; John Cunningham, “Songs Lost and Found: Katherine Philips’s ‘Pompey’s Ghost’,” Music and Letters, advance article 20 May 2022.

[7] The Folger Union First Line Index of English Verse lists five manuscript copies; CELM adds two, one now lost (PsK 578-80); Cunningham, incorporating ongoing research by Nathan Tinker, adds seven more, all copied in the USA in the eighteenth century (20-23). For a study of manuscript copying of other work by Philips by early modern women, see Victoria E. Burke, “The Couplet and the Poem: Late Seventeenth-Century Women Reading Katherine Philips,” Women’s Writing 24.3 (2017), 280-97.

[8] Charles Heventhal Jr., “Robert Burton’s ‘Anatomy of Melancholy’ in Early America,” PBSA 63.3 (1969), 157-75.  Heventhal notes that a copy of the 1632 edition is described in the 1870 catalogue of the Thomas Prince library as signed “Sarah Standish” (159-60). Prince bequeathed his library to Boston’s Old South Church in 1758, and this could be any one of several Sarah Standishes who lived in the New England settlements between the mid-seventeenth century and the date of Prince’s death. The Prince library is currently held by the Boston Public Library, but this copy of Burton’s Anatomy seems no longer to be present in the collection.

The Holy Bible (1648)

Featured today is a 1648 King James Bible with the initialed binding of seventeenth-century owner Anne Sheather and signed by her on the verso of the divisional New Testament title page.

Many, though not all, Bible owners reserved their best handwriting for the sacred text. Here, Anne Sheather tries out two different styles, a form of blackletter for her uppermost signature and a stylized italic hand for the lower: “Anne sheather / her booke; i674.” The signatures are underlined and accented with calligraphic scrollwork.

What strikes me as even more remarkable is that the contemporary initialed binding suggest that the book was chiefly owned by Anne. The elaborate gilt-tooled boards feature a centerpiece flanked by the initials “AS.” There are holes in the boards where metal clasps once were, further confirming that this was not an inexpensive binding and suggesting that Anne may have been a woman of some financial means.

Her identity, however, is uncertain. An Ann Sheather seems to have been born around 1631 in Sussex to a Henry Sheather, although sources are conflicted about the surname of her mother. Variants of the name (Shether, Sheether) similarly lead to dead ends.

In any case, it is an interesting example of both female book ownership and binding, and sheds just a little more light on how women valued and interacted with their Bibles in the seventeenth century.

Source: Book offered for sale by Humber Books in May 2022. Images used with permission.

Katherine Rous (d. 1659) and the Genevan Forme of Prayers (1561)

As many of the posts on this blog make clear, early modern books passed through generations of readers and accumulated ownership marks and marginalia that can tell us something about individual female owners as well as about the larger families and networks through which the books moved over time.

In an earlier post, Sarah Lindenbaum introduced a signature by Katherine Rous who wrote “Katherine Rouse / Her Booke” in a rare copy of the 1561 Forme of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments used in the English Church at Geneva printed in Geneva by Zacharie Durand (see blog post here ). The volume was based on Calvin’s liturgy and had been prepared by John Knox for the Protestants who went into exile in Geneva during the reign of Mary Tudor. The volume contains reformed liturgical rites, a catechism, and a metrical Psalter. Prepared quickly in a time of crisis, the book continued to be printed after Elizabeth’s accession, and it cast a long shadow in England and Scotland as it shaped liturgical life for generations. For example, following Knox’s return to Scotland, the form was adopted in Scotland in 1562 as the Book of Common Order.

Lindenbaum hypothesized that Katherine might be from the Rous family from the West Country. I agree, and I propose here that she was likely the Katherine Rous (d. 28 November, 1659) who was the granddaughter of Anthony Rous (d. 1620) and Elizabeth Southcott of Halton, Cornwall; the daughter of Ambrose Rous (d. 1620) and Magdalena Osborne; and the wife (as of 30 December 1617) of Francis Wills of Wivelscombe, Cornwall. Katherine and Francis appear to have lived in the Wivelscombe manor, only 8 miles from her family’s seat at Halton, and they had at least thirteen children (nine sons and four daughters) all baptized at St. Stephens just outside Saltash.[1] A map by John Nordon from 1604 shows both St. Stephens and Halton, the home of “Ant Rowse.” A sermon preached at Anthony Rous’s funeral celebrated the fact that he was a “great grand-father by his eldest” child, a likely reference to Katherine’s children.[2]  It is impossible to determine whether Katherine signed the book before or after her marriage, although it was probably before.

Detail from John Nordon’s Speculum Britanniae. Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge MS 0.4.19, fol. 179r. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Katherine’s ownership mark in the Forme of Prayers is intriguing for several reasons. First, it appears to shed light on her own religious experiences. Katherine signed the book in the volume’s Catechism, in the margins of a page in which the parent (or minister) instructs the child about the function of baptism. Mothers were frequently exhorted to catechize their children and servants in early modern Europe, and they often organized baptisms. Katherine may have chosen to write her name on this page because this was a section of the volume that her mother or grandmother used when catechizing her or because she thought that she would one day use (or was already using) this part of the book in teaching her own children.

Forme of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments used in the English Church at Geneva (Geneva: Zacharie Durand, 1561; not in the STC). Image re-used from Lindenbaum’s post. Privately owned.

The fact that Katherine Rous signed her name in such an old book, however, raises questions. Why would a young woman in the 1610s care about a fifty-year-old liturgical book designed for a community of exiles that no longer existed? And how did she acquire the book in the first place?

The short answer is that the Rouses were part of a community of Puritan non-conformists who complained loudly about the Book of Common Prayer and who envied and used more “reformed” liturgies from other countries. In other words, Katherine Rous was from precisely the kind of family that would own, use, treasure, and pass on a book like Forme of Prayers. In this regard, she might be aligned with earlier Puritan women, like Dorcas Martin (d. 1599), who specifically turned to the Genevan catechism because they were unhappy with the one in the Book of Common Prayer.

The fact that Katherine acquired, signed, and safeguarded this old, un-authorized English liturgical book not only tells us something about her, but it enriches our understanding of the activities of two other generations of Rouses. Katherine’s grandfather, Anthony Rous, and his first wife, Elizabeth, were active Puritans: they attended radical “exercises,” and they sponsored Puritan preachers who criticized the Book of Common Prayer, used the Genevan liturgy, and preached illegally in private houses.[3] They harbored ministers from Scotland, Ireland, and the Netherlands, and between 1583 and 1585, they employed John Cowper, a Presbyterian preacher who had been banished from Scotland, as a chaplain. He “edified” the family by preaching and instructing them “in the points of … salvation.”[4] It is quite possible that the Rous family acquired their book through John Cowper or one of the other non-conformist ministers they sponsored.

Although little is known about Katherine’s parents (Ambrose and Magdalena), her uncle, Francis Rous (1580–1649), was a high-profile Puritan, speaker of the Barebones parliament, provost of Eton College, and a producer of liturgical texts. He too was highly critical of the Book of Common Prayer, claiming in 1621 that he “never yet saw such a common prayer book as was fit to subscribe to.”[5] He was a member of the Westminster Assembly, a group that produced the Westminster Directory for Public Worship (1644), which was, in part, inspired by the Scottish Book of Common Order and the Anglo-Genevan Forme of Prayers signed by Katherine. Francis Rous also produced a Book of Psalms in English Meter in 1638 (STC 2737) which was adopted for general use by parliament in 1643 (B2396) and was subsequently adopted in Scotland in 1650.  

Anthony Rous and his nephew, Francis, left many traces of their lives in print and in the archives. The fortuitous survival of Katherine Rous’s signature and book reminds us that women also read and valued books, and the trace she left makes a small, but valuable, contribution to our understanding of English Puritanism.  

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


[1] J. L. Vivian, ed., The Visitations of the County of Cornwall, Comprising the Herald’s Visitation of 1530, 1573, and 1620 with Additions (Exeter, 1887), 413, 560.


[2] Charles FitzGeffrey, Elisha his Lamentation, A Sermon Preached at the Funeralls of Sir Anthony Rous (London, 1622), 49.

[3] Micheline White, “Women Writers and Religious and Literary Circles in the Elizabethan West Country: Anne Dowriche, Anne Lock Prowse, Anne Lock Moyle, Elizabeth Rous, and Ursula Fulford.”  Modern Philology 103.2 (2005): 187-214; 204. Patrick Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, rpt. 1990), 276.

[4] White, “Women Writers,” 204.


[5] Colin Burrow. “Rous, Francis (1580/81–1659), religious writer and politician.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 5 Aug. 2022.

Charles I, Eikon Basilike (1649)

By Joseph Black

First published within days of the execution of its putative author, King Charles I, and appearing in about sixty editions within a year, Eikon Basilike. The Pourtraicture of His Sacred Majestie in his Solitudes and Sufferings (1649) was a seventeenth-century bestseller.[1] It is also a book with an increasingly well-documented history of ownership by early modern women. All six copies currently listed in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England project database (plre.folger.edu) are associated with women: three copies, including one in French, in the library of Lady Anne (Stanhope) Holles (d.1651), two in the library of Lady Elizabeth (Talbot) Grey, Countess of Kent (d.1651), and one in the library of Lady Dorothy (Percy) Sidney, Countess of Leicester (d.1659). Sarah Lindenbaum noted on this site (July 1, 2019) a copy signed by “Anna Vyvyan” in the early eighteenth century, and Scott Schofield has posted on this site (April 19, 2021) an account of three copies with female ownership held by the library of Western University in London, Ontario: one inscribed “Barbara Whyte” and dated 13 June 1649, another inscribed “Lettice Cuff” and dated 1688, and a third, passed down first “To my daughter Frances Bouchiry [?] 1700” then subsequently gifted “To My Dear Daughter Sarah Amy Hersent [?] 1725.” Laura Lunger Knoppers has addressed the widespread presence of early ownership marks and gift inscriptions in copies of Eikon Basilike, including the “relatively high number of female signatures,” a history of inscription that foregrounds the book’s cultural status as material legacy.[2]

The “Heneretta: Maria Pitches Juń” who inscribed “Her Book” on this copy of Eikon Basilike, currently in a private collection, claimed with her signature not only the book itself but also other forms of legacy. One legacy is familial: born in 1715 in Bildeston, Suffolk, Henrietta Maria Pitches was named after her mother, Henrietta Maria (Capel) Pitches (c.1695-1726): “Juń” is an abbreviation for “Junior.” The use of “Junior” for a daughter bearing the same name as her mother is unusual but not unknown, and that is clearly the reading here. The other legacy is cultural: Henrietta and her mother were both evidently named after Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669). The name announced the family’s political-cultural affiliations, and what book more appropriate for a namesake of the Queen to possess than the book that represented the textual and material legacy of the executed King? The status of the book as material legacy is in addition signalled by its fine binding. This copy is Wing E283 (Madan #21), an octavo edition dated 1648 but published in the second half of March 1649. The gold-tooled “lozenge or diamond”-style binding likely preceded the book’s acquisition by Henrietta Maria Pitches: the British Library holds two copies of Eikon Basilike decorated in a manner similar to this copy by the Restoration binder Thomas Dawson of Cambridge.[3] Henrietta Maria Pitches either acquired this finely decorated copy or was gifted or inherited a copy bound in a manner appropriate to the suggestive association with her royal namesake.

In August 1738, Henrietta Maria Pitches married the “eminent Jeweller” Robert Nelson, bringing with her a substantial dowry of £3000.[4] The wedding announcement notes that she was niece to the Bishop of Ely, the Reverend Robert Butts (1684–1748), who in 1712 had married her aunt, Elizabeth Pitches (1686–1734). Bishop Butts had been a chaplain to George II and before his translation to Ely in 1738 had been Bishop of Norwich, an appointment he won through a patron’s influence with Queen Caroline (ODNB). As befitting her name, Henrietta Maria Pitches enjoyed connections with church and court.

This copy of Eikon Basilike features one additional signature: the name “Charlotte Wentworth” (unidentified) is inscribed on the front pastedown in a hand later than Henrietta Maria Pitches’ but still early: the ink is brown and the signature likely dates from the later eighteenth or earlier nineteenth centuries. This inscription was covered up when new blank pastedowns were glued over the originals and new free endpapers added. These changes themselves probably date from before the twentieth century: the replacement endpapers are handmade and look eighteenth century. Additional evidence of early provenance or reader engagement may have been lost with the disappearance of the original free endpapers.

One additional piece of information helps round out the story of this inscription. A copy of Richard Allestree’s Ladies Calling (1675) sold in a 2005 auction at Christie’s is also signed “Henrietta Maria Pitches”: but this Henrietta Maria is the mother, as the book is also signed, in the same hand, “Heneretta Maria Capoll.”[5] Henrietta Maria (Capel) Pitches was the daughter of William Capel of Stow Hall, Suffolk and Mary Capel (1670-1724); her husband, Richard Pitches (1668-1727), father of Henrietta Maria Pitches “Juń,” served as rector in the parish of Hawstead, Suffolk.[6] The current location of this copy of Allestree is unknown. It had been collected by Lady Hilda Ingram (1891-1968), who concentrated on fine bindings: the Christie’s auction catalogue describes the Allestree as featuring “Contemporary black morocco elaborately tooled in gilt with wide border round sides composed of tulips, roses, fleurons, birds heads with infilled corner pieces surrounding a central diamond shaped decoration composed of the same tools, the whole within a narrow border of pointillé dots, semi-circles, etc., gilt spine and edges.” Mother and daughter evidently shared a taste for quality decorated bindings, and it is possible that Henrietta Maria Pitches “Juń” acquired her Eikon Basilike from her mother, but that her mother’s provenance markings were lost when the endpapers were replaced: the signatures in the Allestree appear on the front free endpaper, the original of which is no longer present on this copy of  Eikon Basilike.

Source: Book in private ownership. Images posted with permission.


[1] The standard bibliography remains Francis F. Madan, A New Bibliography of the Eikon Basilike of King Charles the First (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1950). Madan offers an authoritative discussion of the book’s authorship, concluding that it was written by John Gauden but probably includes some authentic writings by Charles (126-63).

[2]  Laura Lunger Knoppers, Politicizing Domesticity from Henrietta Maria to Milton’s Eve (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 86-93 (88).

[3] See shelfmarks Davis75 and c118d50 in the British Library “Database of Bookbindings”:  https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/. Davis75 is strikingly similar, though the binding tools employed are not identifiably identical with those on with this copy. For overviews of the decorative characteristics of fine bindings in the second half of the seventeenth century, see Howard M. Nixon, English Restoration Bookbindings: Samuel Mearne and His Contemporaries (London: British Library, 1974), and David Pearson, English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800: A Handbook (2005; rpt. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2014), 68-73, 133-38. 

[4] Gentleman’s Magazine: and Historical Chronicle, vol. 8 (London, 1738), 435.

[5] Christie’s, Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, 2 November 2005, lot 1.

[6] Sir John Cullum, The History and Antiquities of Hawsted, in the County of Suffolk (London, 1734), 37. Stow Hall is probably West Stow Hall, a still-surviving Tudor manor that features Elizabethan wall-paintings depicting the “Four Ages of Man”: https://weststowhall.com.

A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen (1611)

A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen, often attributed to Hugh Plat, was first published in 1608. A women-owned edition of this work in a Sammelband was discussed by Tara Lyons in April 2019. Like the copy previously featured, this second edition is also bound in limp vellum, but in this case it is purely utilitarian with no tooling or decoration.

It is inscribed on the inside front cover in a slightly spidery hand “Mary Squire her booke.” Though we do not have an image of it, the original bookseller’s description documented a second inscription at the foot of page 29: “Mary Squire / Her Booke / 12.” (What could the ’12’ have meant?)

The text was popular, with seventeen editions appearing by 1656. Despite its wide circulation, comparatively few copies survive today, which is certainly due to heavy use by owners. The book provided a variety of recipes for cosmetics, candies, cures for common ailments, and perfumes and was often issued with Plat’s famous Delights for Ladies, although the contemporary binding of this copy suggests it was purchased discretely as well. The book’s strong association with Plat is still belied, however, by the manuscript spine title, which reads Dolightes ad […?].

The bookseller’s description noted that “a number of leaves [were] significantly stained and thumbed” and it seems safe to say that the book saw good use while it was in Mary’s possession. Mary is unidentified, alas, and a search of ESTC does not bring up any hits in spite of her somewhat common name.

Source: Book offered for sale by Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books & Manuscripts in June 2019 and since sold. Images used with permission.

The Whole Book of Psalms (1629)

One publication which reliably contains the early ownership inscriptions of women is The Book of Psalms.

This edition of 1629 was once owned by Mary Crosse, who left an inscription on the verso of a rear flyleaf: “Mary Crosse / Mary Crosse / Her Booke / 1678.” Though the Bible and The Book of Psalms fell solidly within the confines of acceptable reading for women in a century where anxieties about the suitability of certain genres (e.g. literature) for the female sex still lingered, scholars like Femke Molekamp have shown that even prominent religious works encouraged women to come to their own interpretations and produce their own texts.

A surname (or possibly a place name) in an apparently later hand appears at the head of the title page. The book is bound in olive morocco and features a gilt medallion on each board, nestled within gilt-tooled borders. If this binding is contemporary to her signature, we might conclude that Mary had some measure of money at her disposal and that it was an important text to her. Otherwise, there are no clues about who Mary was.

Source: Book offered for sale by James Cummins Bookseller in February 2022. Images used with permission.

Further Reading

Femke Molekamp. “Early Modern Women and Affective Devotional Reading,” European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire 17:1 (2010), 53-74. DOI: 10.1080/13507480903511926

Femke Molekamp. Women and the Bible in Early Modern England: Religious Reading and Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Salomon de Caus, La perspective (1612)

This 1612 edition of La perspective avec la raison des ombres et miroirs by Salomon de Caus (1576-1626) is a fascinating book. The work develops a theory of perspective in drawing by the French Huguenot De Caus, a hydraulic engineer, architect, and garden designer who designed gardens, fountains, grottoes, and aviaries for Queen Anna of Denmark, King James’s eldest son Prince Henry, and his sister Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia.

La perspective develops a theory of perspective drawing, ranging in subjects from anamorphosis to shadows and mirrors. It also includes wonderful paper flaps and pop ups. Christies notes that it is “apparently only the second book printed in England to make use of folding or pop-up flaps in illustrations, after John Dee’s Euclid of 1570.”

This particular copy of the book is extremely significant in terms of its provenance since it is bound in vellum bearing the arms of Elizabeth Stuart and her husband Frederick I, King of Bohemia.

Their armorial stamp can also be seen on the binding of the British Library copy of Jean Baptiste Legrain’s Decade contenant la vie et gestes de Henry le Grand Roy de France et de Navarre (1614), shown in the British Library’s database of bookbindings, here.

In her excellent biography of Elizabeth, Nadine Akkerman notes that 1612, when the book came out, was when De Caus “allegedly taught her and her brother Henry art and music … the year after he had designed Anna’s French garden in Greenwich” (110), though she is careful to note that there is no clear source that helps us establish De Caus’s role as tutor (431, n. 11). De Caus dedicated La perspective to Henry, who would die later that year.

Bookseller Detlev Auvermann suggests the book may have been given to Elizabeth by De Caus on the occasion of her marriage in 1613, which certainly appears to be a possibility. It is not included in a list of eighty books sent to Elizabeth in 1622, while she lived in exile in the Netherlands. As Emily Rose’s article on the list shows, Elizabeth’s reading was broad and multilingual–the list itemizes books in four languages. Rose notes that a few books from her collection are extant but does not list La perspective among them.

In any case, Elizabeth was, as Rose explains, “an avid book collector” (156). Akkerman discusses her early representation as reader in a youthful portrait in which she holds her prayer book with an inscription by her mother. In a twist, she covers the last word of the inscription with her thumb, an indication of a type of agency, writes Akkerman, for a “young woman whose legacy was contested from the moment she was born” (45).

Robert Peake the Elder, portrait of Princess Elizabeth, ca. 1606. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Kate T. Davison, in memory of her husband, Henry Pomeroy Davison, 1951 (51.194.1) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/437263

Akkerman recounts how in 1614, two years after La perspective was published, De Caus was made “Master of the Gardens, Fountains and Grottoes of Heidelberg Castle.” Elizabeth would continue to be his patron and employer until 1619, as he worked with her not only as garden designer but also as designer of masques, another art form that requires a keen sense of perspective (see Akkerman, 110-112).

Source: book offered for sale 5/22/2022 by Detlev Auvermann Rare Books; images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Nadine Akkerman, Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Hearts. Oxford University Press, 2021.

David Marsh, “Solomon de Caus in England.” Garden Trust Blog, 2019. https://thegardenstrust.blog/2019/09/21/solomon-de-caus-in-england/

Emily Rose, “Books Owned by a Renaissance Queen: Elizabeth of Bohemia (1622).” De Gulden Passer 98.1 (2020): 151-193.

Monro, Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions (1693)

Alexander Monro was a Presbyter of the Church of Scotland and Principal of the College of Edinburgh who published a number of polemical religious works between 1691 and 1696. The title page of this particular publication tells us that most of the aforesaid sermons were preached at St. Giles Church in Edinburgh before an audience of judges and magistrates.

The copy here is signed “Anne Cornwall” on the imprimatur page in a contemporary hand. She is one of the many female book owners whose too-common name complicates her identification, but the binding may lend some clues.

The gilt stamp on the binding is that of Sir George Steuart, 5th Baronet of Grandtully and Murthly in Perthshire, Scotland (1750–1827) [1]. The stamp features a helmet with three plumed feathers at the top, two bees within the circle beneath, and an apparent saltire in the base. The book, then, was owned by a Scotsman, which makes a certain amount of sense since the author too was Scottish. We might guess that Anne, whose signature appears to predate the binding, was also Scottish.

She does not appear to have an obvious familial connection to Sir Steuart; his mother was Clementina and his sisters were Clementina and Grizell. It may simply be that Steuart obtained the book as a secondhand purchase and has no link whatever Anne.

The Folger Shakespeare Library holds a copy of Antoinette Bourignon’s The Confusion of the Builders of Babel (1708), which is bound with Parts I through III of the author’s The Academy of Learned Divines and signed Anne Cornwall. It would be interesting to note if the hand is the same and, if so, whether the Folger volume has any further clues to Anne’s identity.

Update June 7, 2022: While updating the website’s finding aid, Martine Van Elk noticed that we had previously featured a Lady Anne Cornwall in April 2020. The hand in the 1618 Bible is not dissimilar, but Lady Anne Cornwall died in 1657, so naturally she could not have been the owner of the 1693 Monro sermons. However, she did have a daughter of the same name and it is quite likely that one or more of her sons would have also named their daughters Anne Cornwall. At this time, a relation between the two Annes cannot be proven, but Lady Anne’s Bible hints at a possible identity of the later Anne Cornwall.

Bibliography

“Steuart, George, Sir, 5th Baronet (1750 – 1827) (Stamp 1).” British Armorial Bindings, University of Toronto Libraries. Accessed 25 April, 2022.

Source: Book offered for sale by robinrarebooks in April 2022. Images used with permission.

Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (1634)

Still in print today, Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso has remained one of the most popular works of literature since its first publication in 1516. The poem continued Matteo Maria Boiardo’s unfinished multi-part Orlando Innamorato, which was published in Western printing’s infancy between 1483 and 1495. Its earliest editions are either lost or survive in very few copies.

Orlando Furioso quickly eclipsed the popularity of Boiardo’s work. Ariosto revised the poem at least twice, with a second edition released in 1521 and a posthumous third edition with several additional cantos published in 1532. The work⁠—a chivalric romance that follows the journey of the hero, Roland, after the loss of a love and his sanity⁠—was published in dozens of Italian and Latin editions in the sixteenth century. However, English readers not fluent in either language (a good number of women among them) would have to wait 75 years to read the work in the vernacular.

Courtier John Harington’s translation first appeared in 1591, with a second edition and third edition in 1607 and 1634, respectively. A notoriously lengthy poem, it was published in folio and accompanied by 46 engraved illustrations, which would have initially restricted its readership to those who could afford a copy. Women therefore might not have been able to read the work very widely until secondhand copies began to circulate.

One of these readers was Elizabeth Tyringham. She inscribed a front flyleaf “Elizabeth Tyringham, Her Book {Aprill ye 5[th] 1668;},” which suggests she acquired the book some thirty years after it was originally published.

Genealogical resources reference a number of Elizabeth Tyringhams, but their dates are either too early or too late to be this copy of Orlando Furioso‘s owner. It is possible, if not likely, that Elizabeth was the “only daughter and heiress of the grandson [Sir William Tyringham (d. 1685)] of Sir Anthony [Tyringham]” who “married to John Backwell, Esq.” (d. 1708) in 1678, her new husband succeeding to the Tyringham estate through his marriage to her [1], [2], [3]. The Tyringhams were of Buckinghamshire, but the usual nineteenth-century male-centric genealogies are interested in Elizabeth insofar only as she advanced the family line. She was said to have died “twenty years before” her husband, so in the year 1688 [4].

If she is the same Elizabeth, these scant biographical details tell us nothing about her reading life. Could this have been a volume from the Tyringham family library that she claimed for herself in 1668? Or was it a secondhand acquisition for her personal collection?

The volume is bound in contemporary double-ruled calf, with the gilt lettering and leather at the foot of the spine a later restoration. A remnant of what appears to be a shelf label survives at the head of the spine, although whether this is contemporaneous to Tyringham’s inscription or a later addition is debatable.

What can be said is that Tyringham (if she is the heiress Tyringham) owned the book a decade before she married and was probably young, perhaps in her late teens or early twenties, when she inscribed it. The flourishes in her signature denote care in making the inscription; the date is enclosed by curly brackets and underlined. Though the seller indicates that the copy is clean, an examination of the book’s over 450 pages may yet reveal traces of reading.

Even without a firm identification, it is an interesting example of women’s ownership of canon literature in the late seventeenth century.

Source: Book offered for sale by D&D Galleries in April 2022. Images used with permission.

Bibliography

[1] Sir Bernard Burke. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, vol. 1 (London: Harrison & Sons, Pall Mall, 1886), 1873.

[2] James Joseph Sheahan. History and Topography of Buckinghamshire Comprising a General Survey of the County (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862), 625.

[3] “History of the Wood.” Hollington Wood. Philip Solt. Accessed April 24, 2022. http://www.hollingtonwood.com/history-of-the-wood/.

[4] George Lipscomb. The History and Antiquities of Buckinghamshire, vol. 4 (London: J&W Robins, 1847), 376.

Cyrano de Bergerac, The Comical History (1687)

By Sophie Floate

In my work cataloguing the rare books of several Oxford College libraries, I come across many interesting clues as to the provenance of the books. Though some books were bought directly from the booksellers by the colleges, others came from alumni, who in turn acquired their books from a variety of sources. I was cataloguing a copy of Cyrano de Bergerac’s A Comical History of the States and Empires of the Worlds of the Moon and Sun, printed in London in 1687, in the library of Hertford College, Oxford, when I noticed a distinctive signature on one of the endpapers.

Feeling sure I had seen this signature before, I searched these pages and found Sarah Lindenbaum’s blog post of March 30, 2020. The inscription in our book matches the others found by Sarah, this time with the date 1706 and the price 3s 6d. We can’t be sure how this book ended up in Hertford College Library, though it has certainly been here since the 19th century, as it has an ownership note of “Magdalen Hall Library” on the title page.

https://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/tfl55h/oxfaleph022773301

Magdalen Hall later became the second iteration of Hertford College (the first Hertford College was founded in 1740 but dissolved in 1805) when it was refounded in 1874–you can read more about its history here: https://archive-cat.hertford.ox.ac.uk/researchGuides/briefGuide. However, there is an earlier, as yet unidentified, provenance inscription on the first free endpaper, which pre-dates Katherine’s.

This edition of Cyrano de Bergerac’s work, first published posthumously in France in 1657, also has a correction, possibly by Katherine, on a torn page (leaf ²B8).

It is an interesting work to add to the others found by Sarah, continuing to show the breadth of Katherine’s interests. This early work of science fiction inspired the work of later writers such as Jonathan Swift and Voltaire and touches on philosophy, religion, and politics.

Hertford Library collection is open to researchers (https://www.hertford.ox.ac.uk/and-more/rarebooks-archives/rare-books) and partly catalogued on the university catalogue SOLO. There is still much to be discovered within the collections at Hertford College, and the ongoing cataloguing project will hopefully provide more interesting examples of early female owners.

Images by Sophie Floate, © Principal, Fellows and Scholars of Hertford College, University of Oxford. Reproduced with permission.

The Great Bible (1540)

By Michael Durrant

We often find extensive evidence of use in early modern Protestant bibles, including transcribed sermons, commonplaced passages from other religious books, forms of cross-referencing, annotation, and self-accounting, alongside pen trials, signatures, doodles, ownership marks, recipes, financial accounts, and (perhaps especially) family histories. As other entries in this blog will attest, it is not unusual to find extensive lists of births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths recorded on the pastedowns and endleaves of early modern protestant bibles, books objects that could remain in active use long after their production, serving as participatory sites of material accumulation and readerly intervention for a broad socio-economic cross-section of users, and usually over very long periods of time.

Bangor University’s copy of the third edition of ‘THE BYBLE | CRANMER VERSION’ (1540), otherwise known as the Great Bible, nicely illustrates this point (Fig. 1). As I have written elsewhere, Bangor’s Great Bible is replete with a range of readerly interventions, including handwritten signatures, ownership marks, pen trials, and forms of commonplacing, which are variously dated from the mid-sixteenth century through to the early decades of the twentieth century.[1] These inscriptions were made by up to ten separate individuals, although only three of them, all male, can be identified as former owners. These include a man called Benjamin Rogers, who identifies himself as a “yomon” residing in “Rowin[g]ton” in Warwickshire, and who is active in its margins between 1710 and 1743; one “Rev J[ohn] T[heodosius] Jones” (c. 1786–1851), a “Vicar of Saintbury” in Gloucestershire, and a former Master of the Grammar School of King Edward VI, Stratford-upon-Avon; and finally Richard Hughes (1837–1930), an Anglesey-based farm labourer who donated this Great Bible to Bangor University in 1930. 

Fig. 1

Benjamin Rogers is by far the most active book user in Bangor’s Great Bible. His name appears over 200 times throughout, and it is usually accompanied by the formulaic phrase “His Booke” or by his favoured passage adapted from Proverbs, “Give me neither poverty nor Riches but food.” Benjamin’s presence is also experienced in generic aphorisms—”Benjamin Rogers is my name and with my pen I writ[e] the | Same and if my pen it had been better I should have mended | Every Letter”—or, continuing the theme of mending, in the numerous examples of patchwork repair undertaken within the book, which see Benjamin reaching in to dress wounded pages with hand-written supplements (Figs. 2-3).

Fig. 2
Fig. 3

There is, to put it another way, a very real sense that Bangor’s Great Bible is “His Booke.” Indeed, Benjamin’s claims to ownership feel almost overwhelming, and he appears to have had a surveillant eye set on the presence of hands that are not his own. As can be seen in Figures 4 and 5, printed manicules situated within the margins of the text incite self-reflexive phrases like “the hand” or, in one instance, “wittnes my hand,” an expression that seems almost to will the typographical hand to point away from the biblical text and back to Benjamin as reader and owner. Elsewhere, an inscription dated 1670—this time a reworked passage from Owen Feltham’s bestselling essay collection, Resolves: Divine, Moral, Political (1620), which is signed by one “George Rogers”—prompts Benjamin, later in 1733, to respond with “hand of that man.” Whether or not George Rogers was a relative of Benjamin Rogers is unclear, but his “hand of that man” phrase, which loiters on the periphery of George’s earlier inscription, seems curiously combative.

Fig. 4
Fig. 5

From another perspective, however, Benjamin’s focus on hands (his own and those of others) need not be read as a sign of his guarded attitude to book ownership. The book’s emotive/devotional force seems to be located in a sense that Benjamin is not, in fact, alone, that his hands are in communal alignment with others. In one instance, for example, Benjamin’s claims to book ownership will spill over into a broader claim to patriarchal possession in marriage, and in doing so he introduces us to a female figure who can be incorporated into this book’s history of ownership: “Benjamin Rogers His Book 1739 | Susanna Rogers His Wife” (Fig. 6).   

Fig. 6

Evidence from the marriage register for St Nicholas’ Church, Warwick, suggests that this inscription was made about sixteen years after a “Benjamin Rogers of Rowington” married “Susannah Ward of Claverton” on the 13 January 1723. In that time, Susanna made her presence felt within Bangor’s Great Bible, although, unlike Benjamin, she never deployed the ownership phrase, “Her Book.” Instead, we find her formulating her signature in the margins of the Book of Esau, cautiously repeating the “S” “S” “S” “S” of “Susanna” as she prepares to write out her name in full (Fig. 7); a “Susanna” also appears once in the margins of the Book of Job, six times in the margins of the Book of Numbers, and twice in Deuteronomy; further, the letter “S” appears randomly in several other sections within Bangor’s Great Bible, which together hint at her readerly presence even if that “S” did not form itself into a fuller “Susanna.”  

Fig. 7

Susanna is/was there, moving through the book’s pages with a pen in her hand, making herself known in ways that are less insistent than that of her husband, but that are still visible to us. The same is true of other women, and other men, who materialise on an interleaved sheet that appears at the back of Bangor’s Great Bible, situated between the main text block and the lower board. There we find the name “Mary Elderidge,” which has been written out at least three times, as well as the signatures of “Thomas Reynolds,” “Joseph Bernard,” and a “Thomas Drury,” which is dated “1740.” On the same sheet we find the ubiquitous “Benjamin Rogers,” who, nestled within this messy, overlapping cluster of hands, has dated his own inscriptions “1739,” “1740,” and “1741” respectively (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8

The image above suggests that, whilst this book may be “His,” it is clearly also an object that moved within a larger community, and it got folded into these other lives as it moved. As such, Bangor’s Great Bible serves as evidence not of an isolated reader/book owner, but one whose reading practices were enlivened, and even authorised by, a wider network of men and women within and outside of the Rogers family. Benjamin’s “wittnes my hand” inscription seems to suggest as much, pointing us to the forms of early modern “witnessing” that Jason Scott-Warren has described, in which claims to book ownership were staged before observing, participating audiences.[2] In the case of Bangor’s Great Bible, this audience was made up of women like Mary and Susanna, and, if we can say that, between 1710 and 1743, Bangor’s Great Bible was his book, it’s conceivable that this was made possible by the fact that it passed through their hands as well.  

Source: The Byble in Englyshe: that is to saye the conte[n]t of al the holy scrypture, both of yer olde, and new testame[n]t, with a prologe therinto, made by the reuerende father in God, Thomas Archbyshop of Cantorbury. This is the Byble apoynted to the vse of the churches (Bangor University Library, shelf mark X/EC1 1540). Images reproduced with the permission of Bangor University Archives and Special Collections.


[1] Michael Durrant, “Old Books, New Beginnings: Recovering Lost Pages,” Inscription: The Journal of Material Text – Theory, Practice, History 1 (2020) https://inscriptionjournal.com/2020/06/25/old-books-new-beginnings-recovering-lost-pages/

[2] Jason Scott-Warren, Shakespeare’s First Reader: The Paper Trails of Richard Stonley (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), pp.119-25.

George Savile, The Lady’s New Year’s Gift (1688)

We have posted before on The Lady’s New Year’s Gift by George Savile on this blog, suggesting that the book had lasting appeal for women readers. We have recently encountered more evidence of the advice book’s popularity. A copy of the book has appeared at auction recently, bearing multiple traces of female ownership and passing down of the book from one generation to another.

The title page, as shown above, carries the signature “Mary Isham.” But front and end pages in the book show more signatures:

Jane and Mary have helpfully dated their signatures. Jane Isham’s 1706 signature is followed by Mary Brooke’s 1738 signature, which indicates that the book was a gift of her mother. This leaves us with the Mary Isham on the title page, which seems a different hand from Mary Brooke’s and possibly an earlier one.

While Isham is a relatively common name, some investigation has brought up an identification, beginning with a rector in Barby, Northamtonshire, named Thomas Isham (d. 1676), who was married to Mary, who died in 1684. Thomas and Mary had a son named Zacheus Isham (1651-1705), who became a clergyman and had a rather distinguished career at Oxford and beyond, including a position as chaplain to the Bishop of London and a prebendary in St. Paul’s Cathedral. He married Elizabeth Pittis, and they had eight children. Their third daughter was named Jane (c. 1699-1757), who is possibly be the person who signed her name twice in this book; if so, she signed the book when she was only seven years old. Her older sister and second daughter of Zacheus and Elizabeth was Mary Isham (c. 1696-1750), who possibly wrote the signature on the title page and who married Arthur Brooke (c. 1695-1754). Their eldest daughter was Mary Brooke (1723-1782), the likely writer of the note about receiving the book from her mama in 1738, when she would have been fifteen years old. This Mary married Richard Supple (1720-1797), and their son, Richard Brooke Supple (1758-1829) became a Baronet. The Ishams were related to another aristocratic Isham family as Zacheus Isham was a cousin of Sir Thomas Isham, third Baronet of Lamport, in turn a nephew of Elizabeth Isham, now best known for her diaries.

The book appears, then, to have been passed from sister to sister and then mother to daughter, as Mary Brooke’s inscription tells us. If Mary Brooke’s mother signed the title page, then all three women made note of their ownership. Alternatively, it is possible that the “Mary Isham” on the title page is the signature of Mary and Jane’s grandmother, also named Mary Isham, who died six years after the book was published. If that is the case, the object shows evidence of even more generations of female book ownership, as this particular family appears to have cherished the advice of Savile to his daughter.

Source: Book sold at auction February 10, 2022, by Forum Auctions. Images reproduced with permission.