A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen (1611)

A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen, often attributed to Hugh Plat, was first published in 1608. A women-owned edition of this work in a Sammelband was discussed by Tara Lyons in April 2019. Like the copy previously featured, this second edition is also bound in limp vellum, but in this case it is purely utilitarian with no tooling or decoration.

It is inscribed on the inside front cover in a slightly spidery hand “Mary Squire her booke.” Though we do not have an image of it, the original bookseller’s description documented a second inscription at the foot of page 29: “Mary Squire / Her Booke / 12.” (What could the ’12’ have meant?)

The text was popular, with seventeen editions appearing by 1656. Despite its wide circulation, comparatively few copies survive today, which is certainly due to heavy use by owners. The book provided a variety of recipes for cosmetics, candies, cures for common ailments, and perfumes and was often issued with Plat’s famous Delights for Ladies, although the contemporary binding of this copy suggests it was purchased discretely as well. The book’s strong association with Plat is still belied, however, by the manuscript spine title, which reads Dolightes ad […?].

The bookseller’s description noted that “a number of leaves [were] significantly stained and thumbed” and it seems safe to say that the book saw good use while it was in Mary’s possession. Mary is unidentified, alas, and a search of ESTC does not bring up any hits in spite of her somewhat common name.

Source: Book offered for sale by Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books & Manuscripts in June 2019 and since sold. Images used with permission.

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