Featured today is a 1648 King James Bible with the initialed binding of seventeenth-century owner Anne Sheather and signed by her on the verso of the divisional New Testament title page.
Many, though not all, Bible owners reserved their best handwriting for the sacred text. Here, Anne Sheather tries out two different styles, a form of blackletter for her uppermost signature and a stylized italic hand for the lower: “Anne sheather / her booke; i674.” The signatures are underlined and accented with calligraphic scrollwork.
What strikes me as even more remarkable is that the contemporary initialed binding suggest that the book was chiefly owned by Anne. The elaborate gilt-tooled boards feature a centerpiece flanked by the initials “AS.” There are holes in the boards where metal clasps once were, further confirming that this was not an inexpensive binding and suggesting that Anne may have been a woman of some financial means.
Her identity, however, is uncertain. An Ann Sheather seems to have been born around 1631 in Sussex to a Henry Sheather, although sources are conflicted about the surname of her mother. Variants of the name (Shether, Sheether) similarly lead to dead ends.
In any case, it is an interesting example of both female book ownership and binding, and sheds just a little more light on how women valued and interacted with their Bibles in the seventeenth century.
Source: Book offered for sale by Humber Books in May 2022. Images used with permission.