This remarkable hand-sized limp vellum sammelband (BEIN 2005 970) bears the signatures of four early female bookowners (Ellenor Hatcher, Rachel Dando, Rachel Wilson, Sarah Baylie) and records payment to a fifth woman (Mistress Carter).
The volume contains two texts by Sir Hugh Plat that targeted early modern “Ladies” in their titles. Both published by Arthur Johnson, the books were likely marketed or sold as a set. The two titles offered recipes and directions for cooking, distilling, preserving, canning, and treating illnesses with physic:
1) Delights for ladies to adorne their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories: with beauties, banquets, perfumes, and waters. At London: Printed by H[umfrey].L[ownes]. and are to be sould by Arthur Iohnson, 1617. (12°) STC 19983.3. Second edition.
2) A closet for ladies and gentlevvomen, or, The art of preserving, conserving and candying: with the manner how to make diverse kindes of syrupes and all kinde of banquetting stuffes: also divers soveraigne medicines and salues for sundry diseases. London: Printed for Arthur Iohnson dvvelling neare the great North dore of Paules, 1618. (8°) STC 5436.3. Fourth edition.
All Photographs by Tara L. Lyons
This limp vellum binding is stamped with an angel ornament, the scroll in its hands announcing “Gloria Deo.” The stamp appears on both covers, and all ornaments and roll lines were originally in gilt.
The binding is contemporary with the two Plat editions, and it bears striking resemblance to volumes in three seventeenth century travelling libraries commissioned by William Hakewill. Books in these elegant sets (given as gifts between 1615-1618) were bound in limp vellum, and the binder appears to have used the same or a similar angel ornament tool on select volumes. While Plat’s Delights (1617) and A Closet (1618) were not recorded as titles in any of the early travelling libraries, it seems likely this volume was bound in the same shop or by a binder with access to similar tools.
See images of the Traveling Library from 1617/8 in the Brotherton Leeds University Special Collections here. The other travelling libraries that use the same or similar binding tools are located in the British Library and Toledo Museum of Art. For more on the binding of volumes in the travelling libraries, see Howard M. Nixon and William A. Jackson, “English Seventeenth-Century Travelling Libraries,” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 7.3 (1979): 294-312.
The first signature in the volume appears on the inner cover. It is signed by “Ellenor Hatcher” and dated “1666”.
The second autograph appears on the verso of the title page. It is signed, “Rachel / Dando her book”.
Rachel Dando signed her name again on the volume’s final recto endleaf. On the previous verso, one can also make out “Joh” and “John” amid other scribbling.
The third and fourth signatures appear on the final pages of Delights (1617). On the left, Rachel Wilson marks it as “her Book” and on the right, “Sarah Baylie” indicates “her hand”.
The last annotations in the volume, appearing after A Closet (1618) on a final endleaf , records a payment to a “Mrs Carter” and possibly another to the same person or perhaps her husband, “Mr Carter.” The writer indicates that “forteen penc” and “t[w]o shaelings” have been “lad out” in letters. The phrase, “in letters” (or “in leter” in the second note), is ambiguous. It could mean that the payments were sent by letter, or it could record payments for carriage of letters. If “letters” means “books,” perhaps the notes documents the purchase of more little volumes like this!
The hand here, particularly with the letter “t”, looks similar to that of Ellenor Hatcher. Whether or not it’s her writing, this interesting little volume packs in a wealth of evidence of women’s engagement and use of “her book”.
Special thanks to the Beinecke Library, Yale University, for permission to photograph and post on this unique volume. See the Catalogue entry for BEIN 2005 970 at http://hdl.handle.net/10079/bibid/7037566