A Pious Exercise of Devotion (1686)

This very small devotional book, easily held in the hand, is in the collection of early Catholic books at Georgetown University’s Library.  The seventeenth-century leather binding is well-worn, indicating much handling at prayers.

GT BT430 P58 1686 binding

The book was published by Henry Hills, “Printer to the King’s most Excellent Majesty, for His Houshold and Chappel.”  This would be the household of James II (ruled 1685-1688) and his queen, Mary of Modena – the first time in almost a century and a half that Britain had a Catholic ruler on the throne (the last one being Mary Tudor who ruled from 1553-1558).

GT BT430 P58 1686 tp

It is notable that this openly Catholic book was printed in England and even bears the emblem of the wounds of Christ as a printer’s device.  (Earlier Catholic books were mainly printed in France and the Netherlands, or on hidden presses within England.)

The book was owned by three women whose names appear inside the front cover.  On the left hand are two women, Mary Tichborne and Mary Norris.  Under the first inscription, “Pray for Mary Tichborne,” appears “M Norris this Book was given me by lady Tichborne,” and beneath that in what may be a later hand, “Pray for Mary Norris.”

GT BT430 P58 1686

Across from those inscriptions, on the recto of the first flyleaf, a third woman has written: “Juliana Nolan/ Pray for my brother Walter Blount & for me & those dear to us Living & Departed”.

GT BT430 P58 1686

Who were these women?  Mary, referred to as “Lady Tichborne,” is probably the wife of Sir Henry Tichborne.  This Catholic family lived at Tichborne House in Hampshire where they are depicted in a 1670 painting by Giles Tilburg, carrying on the custom of the “Tichborne Dole,” a distribution of food to the poor on March 25th or “Lady Day,” the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Giles Tilburg, “The Tichborne Dole,” 1670. Reproduced from Wikimedia Commons.

It is difficult to identify Mary Norris and Juliana Nolan, but certainly Juliana’s handwriting looks to be of a later date, possibly nineteenth-century.

Another interesting aspect of this book is its setting of the text of the service on facing pages of Latin and English.

GT BT430 P58 1686

That bilingual presentation was obviously meant to help the laity – and especially women – to follow the service.  It was Protestants who first wanted to make sacred texts accessible to the average person, but here we see by the latter seventeenth century with reforms in the Catholic Church, a move to make some of their texts more accessible as well.

Source: Georgetown University Library, Booth Family Center for Special Collections, General LC BT430.P58 1686. Photos by Georgianna Ziegler, reproduced with permission.


2 thoughts on “A Pious Exercise of Devotion (1686)

  1. Lisa VandenBerghe

    It’s possible that what you quote as “M Norris” could be “n Norris” short for “née”, french for “born” and often used to indicate a family name prior to marriage.


  2. Pingback: Anselm Crowther, Jesus, Maria, Joseph, or, The Devout Pilgrim, 1657 – Early Modern Female Book Ownership

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