Francis Bacon, The Essays and Councils, Civil and Moral (1664)

An early inscription on the title page reads: “taken out of his parti[…?]n of scienc[…?] 2d: 2ii–“
Francis Bacon’s Essays was one of the polymath’s most popular works, reprinted in over fifty separate English-language editions from 1597 to 1800. As a consequence, pre-nineteenth century copies frequently appear for sale, and not uncommonly does one find a woman’s ownership inscription within. Katherine Blount, for instance, owned a 1673 copy of the Essays that remains untraced, and at least two copies reported to the ESTC belonged to women.

This 1664 edition of Bacon’s book is inscribed on the front paste-down in a rather florid italic hand: “Ex Dono Mary Thornton Rich.o Baugh.” “Mary Thornton” is echoed above in a plainer italic hand. This together with the “Ex Dono” suggests that the book was Mary’s, gifted to her by Baugh.


Like most female book owners featured on this website, Mary Thornton’s identity is a mystery, and it isn’t clear which other marks in the book may be hers. Someone traced Bacon’s outline on the verso of the frontispiece, shutting the book when the ink was still wet, and another (perhaps the same owner) noted the origins of the content of the book and the price that they paid for it on the title page.


The book was later owned by W. Felton of Sutton Coldfield, a suburb of Birmingham, but whether Thornton also lived in the region is unclear.

Source: Offered for sale by FAMILY ALBUM in March 2020. Images used with permission.


2 thoughts on “Francis Bacon, The Essays and Councils, Civil and Moral (1664)

  1. Re Sarah Lindenbaum’s post on the Mary Thornton copy of Bacon’s essays:
    Thank you for this useful information, Sarah, especially the good images.
    Your commentary, however, should have included some recent, suggestive
    information on women writers in the Thornton line; namely, the information
    I introduced to the scholarly community on the autobiographical writings of
    one Alice Thornton, whose five-volume memoir of her difficult life in Yorkshire,
    c1668-69, was preserved, in two extant volumes, in the Paula Peyraud
    Collection (NY), sold by Bloomsbury Auctions, NY, Spring, 2009, agent Quaritch,
    London. As I say in my detailed report on the Peyraud auction (Eighteenth-Century
    Stds., Fall, 2009; with several images & a list of buyers), the Peyraud copy of the
    Thornton diary was purchased by the B.L., 2 vols of the 5-volume set, Lot 464,
    $24,400. (Digital copies of Bloomsbury’s sale catalogue, and my auction report
    in ECS, are online; see Project Muse / JSTOR for my report.) Isobel Grundy,
    ever with a quick eye for new material, added Alice Thornton to the authoritative
    ORLANDO PROJECT (online). So, my Comment here supplies a connection
    for your Mary Thornton. (There has been recent scholarly activity on the Alice
    Thornton Yorkshire memoir; see online listings.)
    With best wishes & appreciation for news of another bibliophilic Thornton,
    Maureen E. Mulvihill, PhD / Princeton Research Forum, NJ. 16th April 2020.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.