Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies (1632)

We have seen several examples of female book ownership of plays lately, but this is a particularly interesting one, of the 1632 Folio of Shakespeare’s complete works. The wonderfully useful Shakespeare Census has located 53 copies of pre-1800 Shakespeare works owned by a woman and currently housed in libraries all over the world. But occasionally an example ends up for sale and thereafter possibly in private ownership.

This copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio has a lovely binding and multiple ownership inscriptions.

A closer look at the title page, which I enhanced with Adobe Lightroom, reveals at least one female owner, Joanna White, who appears to be the person who has not only written her name, but also copied the title of the play that begins next to the page, The Winter’s Tale. The other name, Richard Carrington, seems to be written in a different hand than the one that wrote and practiced the title of the play. If it is Joanna, she might be marking a particular fondness for Shakespeare’s late romance.

Potential other female scribblings can be seen on the page, with some upside down (something we see frequently in early modern books). It is possible that one reads “mery” or Mary, a name we also see below Joanna White’s signature in the image above.

The bookseller has a blog and short video on their website, allowing us to see the book in more detail (including another page of pen trials with male names). This copy of the Folio was on the market earlier this year.

Source: book for sale on 26 February 2020 by Peter Harrington. Images reproduced with permission.

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