We have posted before on The Lady’s New Year’s Gift by George Savile on this blog, suggesting that the book had lasting appeal for women readers. We have recently encountered more evidence of the advice book’s popularity. A copy of the book has appeared at auction recently, bearing multiple traces of female ownership and passing down of the book from one generation to another.
The title page, as shown above, carries the signature “Mary Isham.” But front and end pages in the book show more signatures:
Jane and Mary have helpfully dated their signatures. Jane Isham’s 1706 signature is followed by Mary Brooke’s 1738 signature, which indicates that the book was a gift of her mother. This leaves us with the Mary Isham on the title page, which seems a different hand from Mary Brooke’s and possibly an earlier one.
While Isham is a relatively common name, some investigation has brought up an identification, beginning with a rector in Barby, Northamtonshire, named Thomas Isham (d. 1676), who was married to Mary, who died in 1684. Thomas and Mary had a son named Zacheus Isham (1651-1705), who became a clergyman and had a rather distinguished career at Oxford and beyond, including a position as chaplain to the Bishop of London and a prebendary in St. Paul’s Cathedral. He married Elizabeth Pittis, and they had eight children. Their third daughter was named Jane (c. 1699-1757), who is possibly be the person who signed her name twice in this book; if so, she signed the book when she was only seven years old. Her older sister and second daughter of Zacheus and Elizabeth was Mary Isham (c. 1696-1750), who possibly wrote the signature on the title page and who married Arthur Brooke (c. 1695-1754). Their eldest daughter was Mary Brooke (1723-1782), the likely writer of the note about receiving the book from her mama in 1738, when she would have been fifteen years old. This Mary married Richard Supple (1720-1797), and their son, Richard Brooke Supple (1758-1829) became a Baronet. The Ishams were related to another aristocratic Isham family as Zacheus Isham was a cousin of Sir Thomas Isham, third Baronet of Lamport, in turn a nephew of Elizabeth Isham, now best known for her diaries.
The book appears, then, to have been passed from sister to sister and then mother to daughter, as Mary Brooke’s inscription tells us. If Mary Brooke’s mother signed the title page, then all three women made note of their ownership. Alternatively, it is possible that the “Mary Isham” on the title page is the signature of Mary and Jane’s grandmother, also named Mary Isham, who died six years after the book was published. If that is the case, the object shows evidence of even more generations of female book ownership, as this particular family appears to have cherished the advice of Savile to his daughter.
Source: Book sold at auction February 10, 2022, by Forum Auctions. Images reproduced with permission.
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