This first edition of The Church History of Britain (1655), bound with The History of the University of Cambridge and a short history of Waltham Abbey, is one of many history books for which we have found evidence of female ownership in the early modern period. Thomas Fuller, whose work has featured on this website before, was a clergyman and a moderate royalist, who lived during the turbulent times of the Civil Wars and their aftermath, which had a deep impact on his career. He was known for his support for peace, preaching sermons that urged King and Parliament to reconcile during the war and attempting unsuccessfully to aid in negotiations between the two. As W. B. Patterson notes in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “Fuller’s career was shattered by the defeat of the royalist cause,” though he managed to convert this defeat into a professional opportunity as a historian, producing important works of history.
The Church History contains no fewer than 166 dedications, a sign of the troubled state of Fuller’s professional life in the 1650s, but also, Patterson explains, of wider support: “Each of its eleven books and each of the appended works is dedicated to a member of a noble family. There are also dedications of sections of the book to merchants and lawyers in London and gentry in the counties around London. These patrons evidently helped to support his research and the publication of the work. They comprise an extensive network of persons apparently supportive not only of Fuller’s work but of the monarchy and the established church of the pre-war period.”
What makes this copy of the book particularly important is its female owner’s inscription. The book contains the signature of Arundell Penruddock, born Freke (c. 1616–1666), wife of the royalist John Penruddock (1619–1655).
John Penruddock was a member of the landed gentry in Wiltshire and a well-known royalist conspirator, who attempted to restore the Stuarts to the throne in the uprisings associated with the secret organization the Sealed Knot. When he was tried for treason and condemned to death, Arundell made a number of failed petitions for clemency on his behalf, most importantly to Oliver Cromwell himself. But her efforts proved in vain, and Penruddock was beheaded in 1655. Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth gives a full account of these and later petitions in this blog post, showing that Arundell continued to attempt to restore her husband’s property to her family on behalf of her seven children and to restore her husband’s reputation after the Restoration, with some degree of success.
Fuller’s book came out in the year of Penruddock’s execution, and since Arundell signed it in 1657, we can only wonder about her feelings upon reading it so soon after her husband’s death. As Patterson writes, “Fuller’s book … provided an explanation for the tumultuous religious and political events of his own time, and it included the first detailed account of the decades immediately prior to the civil wars to be published.” Thus, to Arundell, Fuller’s work may have offered important historical perspective on the events that affected her family so personally. Although it is not pictured here, the bookseller notes that this copy also contains a 19th century Penruddock bookplate.
Source: Book offered for sale by Colin Page Books, 12/1/20, and since sold. Images reproduced with permission.
Ainsworth, Sarah-Jayne. “The Penruddock Petitions: The Aftermath of a Royalist Revolt, 1655-1660.” The Power of Petitioning in Seventeenth-Century England. 12 May 2020. https://petitioning.history.ac.uk/blog/2020/05/the-penruddock-petitions-the-aftermath-of-a-royalist-revolt-1655-1660/.
Durston, Christopher. “Penruddock, John (1619–1655), royalist conspirator.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 21 May 2009. https://doi-org.access.authkb.kb.nl/10.1093/ref:odnb/21893.
Patterson, W. B. “Fuller, Thomas (1607/8–1661), Church of England clergyman.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 3 January 2008. https://doi-org.access.authkb.kb.nl/10.1093/ref:odnb/10236.
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