Evaluating women’s book ownership in the early modern period from their ownership inscriptions alone is as complicated as it is essential. The conclusions we’re able to draw from one woman’s ownership of one book are, in many cases, limited. However, sometimes even the smallest additional details may take on larger importance.
Perhaps the most interesting element of early female owner Ann Clarke’s inscription in the above book is that she designates it “No: 14:.” While numbering was a common way to mark works within a Sammelband, it seems unlikely due to the book’s 238-page length that it would have been fourteenth in a single volume. Does “14” refer, then, to the order of acquisition? Was the book fourteenth on the shelves of Ann’s closet or in a storage chest? Was it the fourteenth work of theology in her collection? Or even the fourteenth work that she owned by Royalist minister Christopher Love?
Searching ESTC’s copy-specific notes (a strategy I discuss in my essay in the recent Women’s Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation) for “Ann Clarke” brings up seven results, one for a title published in 1588 and six for titles published between 1650 and 1691. All but six are theological in scope. While Ann Clark(e) was a common enough name, it may be worth exploring these seven books in the future to see if the handwriting is similar and, if so, whether they contain the same classification system.
Source: Book offered for sale on AbeBooks by James Cummins Booksellers, 12/18/18. Image used with permission.