James Howell’s Lexicon Tetraglotton (1660)

By Melanie Bigold

In the Folger Library’s copy of James Howell’s Lexicon Tetraglotton (1660), an English-French-Italian-Spanish dictionary, there is a defaced name that can just be made out despite the heavy scoring: ‘Kath. Bridgeman’. There is also an armorial bookplate, identified by the Folger cataloguer as belonging to the Bridgeman family. The simple calf binding looks to be contemporary, though the spine has since been repaired.

When you work on provenance, names start to sound familiar, but a quick glance through my spreadsheet of female owners of libraries revealed why this one jumped out. ‘Kath’ or Katherine Bridgeman has the distinction of being one of the few women whose library is documented in the form of a sale catalogue. The late Robin Alston’s excellent work, Inventory of Sale Catalogues of Named and Attributed Owners of Books Sold By Retail or Auction, 1676-1800 (2010),lists a 1743 auction catalogue for her library: A Catalogue of the Entire Library of Mrs. Katherine Bridgeman, (Of Cavendish Square) Deceased. The catalogue itself lists 752 lots, including numerous manuscripts and prints. Is Howell’s Lexicon among the works listed? Why yes, it is.

A contemporary, annotated copy of the catalogue, marked with the prices realised at the auction, also survives in the Bodleian library collections. This informs us that Howell’s dictionary went for just 3 shillings and 9 pence in 1743 (it is item #52 above). More Bridgeman-associated books are listed on the University of Toronto’s British Armorial Bindings website. Almost all of them are also in the auction catalogue. One now at Cambridge contains an inscription: ‘Bought at Mrs Bridgeman’s Sale Feb 8th 1742’ (https://armorial.library.utoronto.ca/node/30951).

The Toronto website indicates that the Bridgeman binding is associated with Richard Bridgeman. The sale catalogue identifies these books as Katherine’s and her defaced signature suggests that she attempted to mark her ownership. Were Richard and Katherine married? Is this an example of a joint or inherited family library that was finally dispersed at the death of Katherine? If you know of any other Bridgeman examples that might shed light on the library, please let us know.

Email: bigoldm@cf.ac.uk; Twitter: @womenslibraries


Photos by Melanie Bigold, reproduced with permission.

Folger’s copy of Howell’s Lexicon (shelfmark H3088 Folio): http://hamnet.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=135055

Bodleian copy of Katherine Bridgeman’s catalogue (shelfmark Mus. Bibl. III 8° 55(1)): http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/89vilt/oxfaleph013512096

Bridgeman bindings on the British Armorial Bindings website (University of Toronto): https://armorial.library.utoronto.ca/stamps/IBRI002_s1 https://armorial.library.utoronto.ca/stamps/IBRI002_s2

One thought on “James Howell’s Lexicon Tetraglotton (1660)

  1. Pingback: Merkwaardig (week 44) | www.weyerman.nl

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