This set of Ben Jonson’s Workes includes a first volume printed in 1616 and a second volume printed in 1640. The first volume shows an interesting instance of use of an older manuscript as endpaper.
Pen trials appear on the flyleaf of the volume and a bookplate has been pasted onto the endpaper. The bookplate belonged to John Stackhouse, possibly the botanist, whose bookplate is in a collection in the British Museum.
For our purposes the second volume is even more interesting. The title page, which shows the book was printed for Richard Meighen, has several inscriptions on it that show women’s interest in displaying their ownership.
A “William Owen Esq” has signed the book twice, once around the word “Viz.” and his name appears again twice times before the list of plays, as if appropriating each title as his. At the very top of the page, a relative has written “Madm Elizabeth Owen her book.” The same name appears between the lines immediately below, and perhaps she is also the person who has copied the date, 1640, and the word “Printed” at the bottom of the page. The positioning of the “her book” phrase at the very top seems designed to override all other claims to ownership below.
Still, the name Elizabeth appears three more times on the page, twice crossed out, as is made visible by RetroReveal.
Although it is difficult to read the last name or other words that have been crossed out and we cannot tell whether these are by the same woman, it is clear that the female owner or owners of the volume wanted to mark their ownership on the title page. Title pages can, as in this instance, become spaces for competing marks and pen trials, as we have seen before on this blog.
Source: book offered for sale by Whitmore Rare Books, July 2021. Images reproduced with permission.