James Shirley, The Maides Revenge (1639)

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If you look closely, you can just make out the name “Dorothy” on the title page of this copy of James Shirley’s The Maides Revenge, thought to be printed in early 1640 despite its 1639 imprint date. Filtering the title page in retroReveal clarifies the inscription, located to the left and right of the three small ornaments near the bottom. Writing to the right of the ornaments seems to read “my book,” but it is impossible to say for certain.


I explore using retroReveal to illuminate washed ownership inscriptions in a 2017 blog post on Frances Wolfreston for the Folger Shakespeare Library. Incidentally, Wolfreston also owned a 1639 edition of this same play, which has not yet been traced.

UPDATE: On October 14, 2019, Aaron Pratt of The Harry Ransom Center identified this book as previously belonging to Dorothy Barrington. The expunged inscription reads in full “Dorothy Barrington given by my mother.” He provides an example of Dorothy’s unwashed inscription (https://twitter.com/aarontpratt/status/1183813930394771456) and also notes that Texas Christian University holds Dorothy Barrington’s copy of the play The Bloody Brother (1639), likewise containing the refrain “given by my mother” (Lewis PR2505 .B45 1639).

Source: Book offered for sale by ebay seller sweetsmom0_2, 1/4/19. Images used with permission.

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