By Jenny-Lyn de Klerk
One of my favorite things to discover in the Allison Library’s rare books collection at Regent College (Vancouver, BC, Canada)—even better than pressed flowers and funny marginalia—are signatures from women. As a woman studying the Puritans in her doctoral degree and working with their books as Regent’s Puritan Project Assistant, I find there is something especially heartening and heartwarming about finding signs of female ownership of antiquarian Puritan books. Books I have bought or borrowed, studied or skimmed, written an interpretation of or had my heart interpreted by, have not only been used by me, but women throughout history. Just like them, I may never be famous during my lifetime or remembered long after it, but the comfort, joy, and truth I find in books from Puritans like Sibbes, Burroughs, and Bunyan, have been and will be experienced by many other women.
Sibbes, who is known for emphasizing the biblical metaphor of marriage between Christ and the church, wrote this book to help believers understand and experience the good things God prepared for them. Not surprisingly, he devotes many pages to the concept of love, saying it is “above all other affections, because love is the commanding affection of the soul. It is that affection that rules all other affections. Hatred, and anger, and joy, and delight, and desire, they all spring from love; and because all duties spring from love both to God and man, therefore both tables [of the Ten Commandments] are included in love… it is such an affection as cannot be dissembled… love is the very best affection of truth… without this, all that we do is nothing, and we are nothing… all is empty without love” (pp. 154-157). This first edition not only has a beautiful frontispiece engraving, but also signatures from two women: “Ellinor Grame har book” and “Mary Cawdwell Har Book may 1712 mary Cawdwell.”
Source: currently being catalogued at the Allison Library, Regent College. Photographs by Jenny-Lyn de Klerk.