Bartolo of Sassoferrato’s Super prima parte Digesti novi (1478)

By Meghan Constantinou, Librarian, The Grolier Club

At the Grolier Club Library, we were pleasantly surprised to discover an inscription documenting ownership by the English Restoration poet, Rachel Jevon (bap. 1627), on our copy of Bartolo of Sassoferrato’s Super prima parte Digesti novi, printed by Nicolas Jenson in 1478 (ISTC ib00216000). The inscription was discovered by John Lancaster while recording provenance details of the Club’s copy in CERL’s Material Evidence in Incunabula database (MEI). The database is searchable by gender, as well as many other facets. [1]

Rachel Jevon, born to a clergyman in the Diocese of Worcester in 1627, is known for writing a poem celebrating the restoration of Charles II in 1660. She wrote the poem in Latin and in an English translation entitled, Exultationis Carmen: To the Kings Most Excellent Majesty upon his most desired return, by Rachel Jevon; presented with her own hand, Aug. 16th (London: John Macock, 1660). (The Latin version is entitled: Carmen thrīambeūtīkou regiae majestati Caroli II). These are the only two recorded works attributed to her, and there is little other documentation about her life. Jevon’s panegyric to the restoration of the monarchy—the only such poem written by a woman in 1660—may have been part of a strategy to win the king’s favor, as two years later, she made a petition to the monarch for a position in the royal household. Elaine Hobby has remarked: “it was very rare for women to be taught Latin in the period, and almost unknown for them to publish in the language.” (p. 19).

Bartolo of Sassoferrato (Italian, 1314-1357) was one of the most important jurists of the Middle Ages. His Super prima parte Digesti novi, written in Latin, was a commentary on part of the Digest of Roman Law, compiled by order of the Roman emperor Justinian I in the 6th century CE. The edition owned by Jevon was printed by the important Venetian printer, Nicolas Jenson, in 1478. The copy is in a contemporary, blind-tooled Italian binding, and, aside from some marginal annotations in a 15thc hand, the text is unadorned, lacking even painted initials to cover the guide letters. The lined-through signature (“Ex dono Rachell Jevon”) indicates that the volume was given as a gift, although the recipient is unknown.  While we will never know why Jevon owned this work of medieval civil law, it would have been well-suited to a woman who was highly educated, skilled in Latin, and, as her poetry shows, in command of a wide range of subjects. [2] 

*Questions about this work may be addressed to

Further Reading

Juan de Dios Torralbo Caballero, “’Behold how Thames Doth Smooth Her Silver Waves! […] Proud to Receive You to Her Watery Bed’: An Introduction to Rachel Jevon’s Stuart Poetry,” The Grove. Working Papers on English Studies 24 (2017): 153-167. DOI: 10.17561/grove.v24.a7. Accessed 15 August 2019 With further references.

Elaine Hobby. Virtue of Necessity: English Women’s Writing, 1649-88. London: Virago Press, 1988.

[1] A search for the phrase “gender:1001” retrieves all female owners of incunabula that have been recorded in either the main MEI database of individual copies, currently 811 copies that were owned by one or more women, or the database of owners, currently 354 women owning those copies. Of course, many of those owners are not from the early modern period; the search can also be qualified by date range – limiting the search to those active before 1800 returns only 27 women owners of incunabula (including also groups of religious women, i.e. convents). My thanks to John Lancaster for this information.

[2] Seventeen incunabula editions of Bartolus’s work have been recorded, indicating its importance. My thanks to John Lancaster for pointing this out.


John Bunyan, The Doctrine of the Law and Grace Unfolded (1701)

Bunyan, Law title copy

bunyan, law, sigsbunyan, law, board

By Jenny-Lyn de Klerk

In Law and Grace, one of his Bunyan’s most theologically technical works, he presents his view of covenant theology, which was probably influenced by his reading of Luther. This second edition is signed by a woman who was given the book by her father: “Mary Adams Her Book given by her father This book was given me by my father dear that I may sarve the Lord With Joy and fear and not to Look but understand the same that I may mount upon the wings of fame.”

Source: Allison Library, Regent College. Shelf mark BT 760 .B86 1701 JRA RARE. Photographs by Jenny-Lyn de Klerk.

Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, A King and No King (1631) and George Gascoigne’s Hundreth Sundry Flowres [1573]

Bodleian Library, Wood 330(8)
Image by Tara L. Lyons

This copy of Beaumont and Fletcher’s A King and No King (1631, STC 1672) was owned and signed by the Oxford woman, Mary (née Pettie) Wood (1602-1667). On the title page of the playbook, Wood writes her name in the margin, the size of her signature announcing the unquestionable ownership of #herbook.

Mary Wood was from a well-respected Oxfordshire family, the daughter of Penelope (née Tavener) and Robert Pettie of Wyfald. In October 1622, she married Thomas Wood, an Oxford graduate and property owner. She had six children, one child dying in infancy. While it is often difficult to discover biographical details about non-aristocratic female book owners, Mary Wood has been the subject of scholarship as the mother of the Oxford antiquarian, Anthony Wood (1632-1695). Scholarly attention to her son’s book collecting has helped bring Mary Wood’s book ownership to the fore.

Anthony Wood’s collection of books and manuscripts were gifted upon his death in 1695 to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and among his bequest were volumes culled from his mother’s closet after her death. In 1858, the Wood collection was integrated into the Bodleian Library where A King and No King (1631) currently resides with other printed plays and poems, as the eighth item in a seventeenth century sammelband.

MS Table of Contents
Bodleian Library Wood 330, Front flyleaf verso
Image by Tara L. Lyons

In his edition of The Library of Anthony Wood (Oxford Bibliographical Society, 2002), Nicholas K. Kiessling reasons that Anthony signed and dated the manuscript table of contents in Wood 330 in February 1657 while the sammelband was still in his mother’s possession. Upon her death in 1667, Anthony acquired the volume and altered the date (p. 511). Mary Wood’s signature does not appear on any other items in Wood 300.

That Mary Wood was a reader of English vernacular drama and literature is supported by another volume bearing her inscription, also now in the Bodleian Library: George Gascoigne’s Hundreth Sundrie Flowres [1573, STC 11635].

Bodleian Library, Wood 329 (1)
Image by Tara L. Lyons
Bodleian Library, Wood 329(1), A3r
Image by Tara. Lyons

I here highlight Mary Wood’s ownership of English literary texts, but it should be noted that her book collection was certainly more diverse. Kiessling identifies ten more books bearing Mary Wood’s signature. I have compiled basic bibliographical information for these ten items below for ease of reference, but readers should be sure to consult Kiessling’s remarkable bibliography for more on these books and their provenance.

  1. Stocker, Thomas, trans. [A tragicall historie of the troubles and civile warres of the lowe countries] [1583, STC 17450.3]. Bodleian Library Wood 595. Kiessling 3506.
  2. John Day, Davids desire to goe to church (1615, STC 6423). Bodleian Library Wood C. 40(1). Kiessling 2192.
  3. Daniel Featley, Ancila pietatis: or, the hand-maid to private devotion (1626, STC 10726). Bodleian Library Wood 787. Kiessling 2963.
  4. Francis Seager and Robert Crowley, The schoole of vertue (1635, STC 22138.5). Bodleian Library Wood 792(1). Kiessling 5827.
  5. Church of England, A forme of common prayer, together with an order of fasting (1636, STC 16553a). Bodleian Library [MS] Wood B. 37(6). Kiessling 2519.
  6. William Lily, A short introduction to grammar (1636, STC 15632). Bodleian Library Wood 46. Kiessling 4160.
  7. [John Doughty], The kings cause rationally, briefly, and plainly debated (1640, Wing D1962). Bodleian Library [MS] Wood B. 34. Kiessling 2297.
  8. J[ohn].B[ulloka]., The English Expositor , or compleat dictionary (1641, Wing B5429). Bodleian Library Wood 34. Kiessling 1179.
  9. Church of England, A forme of common prayer, to be used upon the solemn fast (1643, Wing C4111). Bodleian Library [MS] Wood B. 37(7). Kiessling 2528.
  10. Jeremy Taylor and Christopher Hatton, eds. The Psalter of David (1644, Wing B2402). Bodleian Library Wood 811. Kiessling 6138.

Thanks are due to the Bodleian Library for permission to share these images.

If you have more information about Mary Wood’s books in other libraries or collections, I’d love to hear from you. Tweet @TaraLLyons or email

Hannah Woolley, The Gentlewoman’s Companion (1673)

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Hannah Woolley’s hugely popular work has been featured on our blog before. The Gentlewoman’s Companion (1673) contained not the recipes for which Woolley was famous but directions on how to behave properly. Yet, there is a twist: Woolley herself denounced the work in a later publication; it appears to be an unauthorized edition with a complicated history and uncertain authorship. The frontispiece is not an image of Woolley and is itself the subject of speculation, as Heather Wolfe has explained in a fascinating blog post.

Adding to the interest of this book, the printer was Anne Maxwell, who had a long career independently of her husband (after his death), spanning from 1660 to 1684. The English Short Title Catalog credits her with having printed 98 works, including a number of works by the famous writer Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. It is difficult to know to what extent Maxwell was responsible for or aware of the unauthorized printing; usually the publisher and bookseller Dorman Newman is named as the offending party. But Maxwell reprinted the work for another bookseller, Edward Thomas, after Woolley had complained in her 1674 Supplement to The Queen-like Closet that she had been “much abus’d / By a late printed Book, my Name there us’d: / I was far distant when they printed it, / Therefore that Book to own I think not fit.”

Regardless of the tricky status of the authorship of The Gentlewomans Companion, it seems unlikely that the two female owners who inscribed their name in this copy were aware of the controversy; the name Hannah Woolley had ensured the work’s success. This copy has signatures on the opening and closing pages of the book: Eliz[abeth] Bamford and Ann Starkey, who added the conventional phrase “Her Book.”

Source: Early English Books Online, from the Huntington Library. Wing (2nd ed., 1994) / W3276A.

Further Reading

Maureen Bell, “Women in the English Book Trade,” Leipziger Jahrbuch zur Buchgeschichte 6 (1996): 13-45.

Katherine Ellison, “Introduction to The Gentlewomans Companion.” Emory Women Writers Resource. Emory University, n.d.

Heather Wolfe, “About that frontispiece portrait of Hannah Woolley…The Collation: Research and Exploration at the Folger. September 5, 2018.


Robert Bolton, Mr. Boltons Last and Learned Worke of the Foure Last Things, Death, Iudgement, Hell, and Heaven (1639)


Dated ownership inscriptions are always a delight to come across, since they indicate the time frame in which a woman book-owner acquired and / or inscribed a book. The above inscription, written on a front flyleaf in a 1639 edition of Robert Bolton’s Last and Learned Worke of the Foure Last Things, Death, Iudgement, Hell, and Heaven, reads: “Eliza: Blois her Booke giuen Me by my Aunt hodges In ye yeare: 1675.” Not only do we have a date for when the library entered Blois’s possession, but we also have a source: her aunt. Like most of our featured book owners so far, however, Elizabeth remains unidentified.


Source: Book offered for sale by Lyppard Books, 3/21/19. Images used with permission.

Jan David, Christeliicken Waer-seggher (Christian Truth-teller, 1603)

Scanned Image

By Joanna Rozendaal

This page features just a name: “Maria Elisabeth de Wale,” the ‘W’ written with a rather peculiar flourish. That is all information this eighteenth-century woman book owner inscribed in one of her books. Normally, the story would have ended there, but as it turns out, Maria Elisabeth de Wale is known to us still.

Maria Elisabeth de Wale (1691-1753) was the Lady of Ankeveen, a small Catholic enclave in the predominantly Protestant Dutch Republic. In her role as patroness of this village she made sure to protect and help her Catholic “flock,” among others by building almshouses for the local poor, supporting Catholic preachers, and providing local workers with ample employment. Works of Christian charity made up an important part of her life, it seems.[1]

Her strong sense of religiosity is reflected in her book ownership as well. Her book collection was brought to auction in 1755, two years after her death. It must have been quite an impressive library: the auction catalogue announcing the book sale is 234 pages long, offering well over 6,000 books. At first glance her library reflects an interest in a wide variety of subjects, but (practical) religious books comprise the most important part of her book collection.[2]

Scanned Image

The book discussed here, the Christeliicken Waer-seggher (The Christian Truth-teller), is a Catholic emblem book on religious life written by the Jesuit author Jan David and thus it fits well within De Wale’s large collection of religious, devotional books. It is one of the early publications in a relatively new genre of moral, religious literature in the Southern Netherlands: the Jesuit emblem book. Adorned with a hundred engravings by Antwerp engraver Theodoor Galle, this emblem book contains questions and answers on the principal truths of Catholic faith.[3]

This particular book is mentioned on page 39 of her sale’s catalogue and was sold to a new owner for either 1 guilder and 16 stuivers or 2 guilders (De Wale owned 2 copies of this particular edition). After the sale, the book disappeared from sight, but over a hundred years later it resurfaced when the book collection of the Flemish professor J.F. Heremans was gifted to the Ghent University Library, where it remains to this day.[4]


Source: David, J. Christeliicken waerseggher, de principale stucken van t’christen geloof en leuen int cort begrijpende. Met een rolle der devgtsaemheyt daer op dienende. Ende een Schild-wacht teghen de valsche waersegghers, tooueraers, etc., Antwerp, Plantijn, 1603. Copy: Ghent University Library, BIB.HER.000909. Photos reproduced with permission.


[1] Geheym-schryver van staat- en kerke der Vereenigde Nederlanden [..]. Utrecht, J.C. ten Bosch, 1759. Vol.1, pp. 376-77. Municipal Archives Gooi & Vechtstreek (SAGV). Registers van transporten, hypotheken en taxaties, 1648-1791. 155.1.3369 and 3370.

[2] Bibliotheca Ankeveniana. Sive Catalogus Exquisitissimorum & Rarissimorum Librorum. Latinorum, Gallicorum, Belgicorum &c. Amsterdam, H.W. van Welbergen, [1754]. Middlebrow Enlightenment: Disseminating Ideas, Authors, and Texts in Europe, 1665-1830 (MEDIATE) database. (the public version of the MEDIATE database sandbox will be available in late 2019 or early 2020)

[3] Corbellini, S.; Hoogvliet, M.; Ramakers, B. (eds.). Discovering the Riches of the Word: Religious Reading in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Leiden, Brill, 2015. p. 342 and further.

[4] Van Duyse, Johan. Heremans, Jacob F.J. (1825-1884). UGentMemorie. Edited on 10.03.2015.




John Bunyan, The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate (1688)

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By Jenny-Lyn de Klerk

Bunyan wrote this work to show that Christ’s role as advocate for believers, who, even though they are weak, are secure because Christ pleads for them before the Father. Bunyan believed this doctrine had not been communicated clearly enough in the church of his day and wanted to bring encouragement and comfort by explaining it. Though Bunyan’s genius for writing and communicating has been admired by many throughout history, he saw himself first and foremost as a pastor to those God had given him to teach and help, which mostly included those who were outcasts in society like the poor and uneducated.

This first edition of Christ as Advocate is flooded with signatures, several of which are from John Leakey who recorded information about Elizabeth Leakey. She “Was Born . . . 26 of January 1759 . . . half past 12 at mid Day and Christened the 11 of February 1759” as well as “married May 13th1787—Blessed are they that are called in this marriage Supper of the Lamb.” Her children’s birthdays are also recorded, as well as her death, to which is added “The day before she fell asleep in Christ the blessed Spirit most wonderfully & apparently form’d Christ in her Heart this Hope of love and made her powerfully feel the . . . need of his Blood & Righteousness. The book is also signed by “Molly Salsbury” and “Ann . . .”

Source: Allison Library, Regent College, shelf mark BT 255 .B86 1688 JRA RARE. Photographs by Jenny-Lyn de Klerk.