This copy of a second edition of George Herbert’s The Temple has a fascinating provenance, beyond what is usually our upper date limit of 1800, so I felt it was worth a post even though this is not strictly speaking an instance of early modern female book ownership.
Herbert’s book is signed on the title page by Rufus Greene, who helpfully added the date and place of acquisition, London, July 23, 1728. Greene (1707-1777) was a Boston silversmith whose works can be found today in museums, such as the Fitchburg Art Museum.
1728, the date in the inscription, is both the year of his marriage and the year he started his business. A portrait of Greene’s wife, Katherine Stanbridge, by John Singleton Copley sold at auction in 2017 and is currently in the Young Museum. Their daughter, Katherine Greene Amory (1731-1777), is today well known for the journal she kept during the American Revolution. She and her husband, John Amory, were loyalists who departed for England, leaving their children in America.
Katherine’s son John Amory Jr married Catherine Willard and their daughter, Catherine Willard Amory (1794-1831) wrote her own signature in Herbert’s book.
Her inscription shows her desire to give us both her family history and the history of the book’s ownership: “Catherine W. Amory formerly belonging to her Great Grandfather Rufus Greene.”
One of her portraits, by Alvan Clarke, was painted in the year of her death and is currently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
While we do not know when Catherine W. Amory made the inscription, it skips over the generations between herself and her great-grandfather, creating a direct link between nineteenth- and eighteenth-century ownership of Herbert’s famous collection of poems and between the two of them as readers.
Source: Book offered for sale by Manhattan Rare Books, July 2021. Images reproduced with permission.
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