Here is a book where the original binding belies its contents. The entire binding, made in the mid-17th century by John Houlden of Cambridge, is elaborately decorated with gilt filigrees, while the central panels on the back and front covers display a prominent crucifix. One would naturally expect to find the contents were Catholic in nature, but in fact they are two tracts by the Puritan divine, John Gaule (1604?-1687) – Folger STC 11690 and 11688.
What makes this copy interesting to us is that it contains contemporary inscriptions indicating ownership by at least three women: Nightingale Archer, Miss Haselwood, and Nightingale Longville. The inscriptions read as follows:
“Nightingale Archer Her Book. Given By my Godmother Mis [sup] Haselwood”
“Nightingale Longville Her Book Given by Her ant Archer” – this second inscription is written in a more childish hand first under Nightingale Archer’s inscription, and then in a more refined hand on the opposite page.
Some identification of the families is suggested in a 1652 law case brought in the Court of Chancery by “Nightingale Longvile, widow” with Robert Archer, James Thorneback, and William Ashby against Andrew Grace, concerning a property in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire (NA – C 6/116/108). Five years later in 1657, Nightingale Longville was involved in another lawsuit with John Tyms, who was apparently asking her for money (NA – C 7/426/108). Further research would no doubt turn up more about this family. In the meantime, in case you were wondering, the “3. B. 3.” written in pencil beneath Nightingale Longville’s inscription on the left page is the shelf mark showing that the book was once in the library of William Henry Miller (1789-1848) at Britwell Court – one of the most outstanding collections of its time.