Henry Smith, Foure Sermons (1617)

This copy of Henry Smith’s Foure Sermons (1617) contains evidence of female ownership. Elizebeth King’s fully secretary hand suggests that her ownership inscription is contemporaneous with the publication of the volume on which it appears, centered confidently on the title-page verso:

Elizebeth King
her Booke.
Reed and regard
god be thy guide
           in faith be prepared
with him to abide.

I have not yet found evidence of other books owned by this early seventeenth-century Elizebeth King, but her beautifully formed inscription makes it likely that this copy of Smith’s Sermons was not her only book: her notably clear hand reveals her as a practised and accomplished writer. I have also not yet discovered other iterations of the accompanying ownership poem, a fluent cento of devotional commonplaces. Should other examples of the poem be identified, they may help situate Elizebeth King chronologically, geographically, or within her broader community.

The only additional provenance information the book offers in its current (disbound) form is the 1849 signature of Job Lousley (1790-1855), natural historian and antiquarian of Hampstead Norris, Berkshire. Lousley was a book-mad bibliophile who accumulated a library of about 30,000 volumes,[1] so the presence of any book in his collection is unlikely to be the consequence of a family or geographical connection with any previous owner.

The sermons of Henry Smith (c. 1560-1591), the Church of England clergyman known as “Silver-Tongued Smith” or the “Silver-Tongued Preacher,” were enormously popular, appearing in scores of editions from the year of his early death through to the mid-seventeenth century, and then more sporadically until the 1670s. About twenty copies of his sermons appear in records edited so far in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England (PLRE) database (plre.folger.edu), substantially more than any other English sermons, including the popular works of John Calvin and Hugh Latimer.

Henry Smith, possibly by Thomas Cross; line engraving, possibly early 17th century
NPG D25253 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The fourteen owners of Smith’s sermons currently represented in PLRE are divided evenly between men and women. The seven male owners include tradesmen, MPs, and lawyers as well as clerics. The seven women range from aristocrats (the Countesses of Kent, Bridgewater, and Home) to upper gentry (Lady Dorothy Cockayne, Lady Margaret Heath) to women of unknown social status whose property included only a handful of books (Elizabeth Colman of Parham, Suffolk; Margaret Barret, of Cavendish, Suffolk). These ownership records indicate that the silver-tongued Henry Smith was genuinely popular, with an appeal that spanned class and gender. This copy signed by Elizebeth King joins a copy of Smith’s Twelve Sermons (1629) featuring the early italic ownership inscription of “mary ann hey” posted on this site on April 23, 2020.

As mentioned earlier, Elizebeth King’s copy of Smith’s Foure Sermons is disbound and appears to have been removed from a larger volume, either a bound-together collection or, more likely, the collection of Smith’s sermons in which it was usually issued: STC 22758, Henry Smith, Six Sermons (London: T. D[awson] for Nicholas Bourne, 1617). Foure Sermons has a separate title-page with its own dated imprint, but the register is continuous with Six Sermons: a quarto in eights, Foure Sermons collates [C8] D-G8 H4 I2, with [C8] the title-page. The works of Henry Smith, however, are bibliographically complex: they were packaged in a variety of entrepreneurial combinations by many stationers and survive in a wide range of bound-together combinations. This edition of Foure Sermons, with its separate title-page, may have circulated separately: the Short Title Catalogue (STC) provides numbers for several earlier editions of Foure Sermons issued, like this one, within larger collections (STC 22749-51). The presence of Elizebeth King’s signature on the verso of a title-page that would normally appear about forty pages into the collection as normally issued might indicate that her copy of Smith’s Foure Sermons was separate when she signed it, with the title subsequently bound with others and then disbound at some later point. The bibliographical complexity of Smith’s sermons is best illustrated by a typographical joke hidden in the revised edition of the STC: at the top of the second column in volume 2, page 340, the heading “Smith, Henry, Minister” unexpectedly becomes “Smith, Henry, Monster.” The story is that an exasperated Katharine Pantzer, given the unenviable duty of sorting out the Smith entries, insisted on retaining the “Monster” reading in the face of repeated efforts by press copy-editors and proof-readers to correct it (I am grateful to John Lancaster for this information).

Source: Donated since original posting to the library of the Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst, shelfmark BX5133.S548 S5 1617. Unless otherwise noted, photos by Joseph L. Black, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Mark Empey, “Lady Margaret Heath (née Miller). Gentry: Inventory (upon decease). 1647,” Private Libraries in England 296, vol. 10 (1992): 263-285.

R. J. Fehrenbach, “Lady Dorothy Cockayne. Landowner: Inventory (household). c. 1594,” Private Libraries in Renaissance England 264, vol. 8 (1992): 275-280.

Alfred W. Pollard, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland and of English books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640. 2nd ed. Ed. W. A. Jackson & F. S. Ferguson, completed by Katharine F. Pantzer. London: Bibliographical Society, 1976-1991.

[1] Job Edward Lousley, “The Library of Job Lousley (1790-1855),” Notes and Queries n.s. 10 (1963), 429-30, and “Job Lousley (1790-1855) of Blewbury and Hampstead Norris,” Berkshire Archaeological Journal 63 (1967-68), 57-65.


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