The sex of a book-owner is easy enough to determine with a full name. However, plenty of owners throughout Western book history have used initials or a first initial followed by a surname to sign their books. Oftentimes we assume these owners are men, but we sacrifice a more accurate and nuanced picture of book ownership and reading in the early modern period when we default to assumptions of maleness or whiteness.
There are several examples of early women book owners signing books and other documents using only initials. Discussing Elizabeth Puckering (1621/2–1689), David McKitterick says, “More often, and more consistently, she placed her initials ‘EP’ just above or to the side of the beginning of the first line of the text — either the main text or sometimes the preface.” Likewise, Anne Wolferstan, granddaughter of famous bibliophile Frances Wolfreston, initialed her copy of the Satires of Juvenal and Persius “A W” on the title page. Other initialers include Mary Astell, Mary Bankes, Frances Egerton, Sophia Hamilton, and Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (Book Owners Online). Mary Dormer, Countess of Carnarvon (1655–1709), utilized armorial bindings with her initials MC and also inscribed books “M Carnarvon” (BOO). Still other owners like Anne Fanshawe had armorial binding stamps, sans any initials. Elizabeth Talbot Grey’s bindings are distinguished by a Talbot hound with a lolling tongue and smartly curling tail.
In February 2022, I was browsing antiquarian books on eBay when my eye was caught by an unassuming copy of Henry Hammond’s Annotations on the Psalms. As far as seventeenth-century books go, it is common. Dozens of 1659 copies are reported to the ESTC Online and at any given time a copy or two can usually be found for sale on eBay or AbeBooks.
What drew my eye was the inscription on the half-title page: “L Huntingdon. April 1st 1666.” It tickled my memory. For no reason that I could discern, I thought, This is a woman’s inscription. I bought the book, convinced I’d stumbled on something important and unwilling to let it disappear.
It wasn’t long before I recalled Rosalind Smith and Kathy Acheson’s “Women and Marginalia in English Printed Books” seminar at the 2021 virtual Shakespeare Association of America conference. Diana Barnes had presented a wonderful paper on Lucy Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon’s elegiac manuscript poem from her copy of Lachrymae Musarum, a volume of poetry which commemorates her son Henry Hastings, heir to the earldom.
Lucy Hastings was born to Eleanor (née Touchet) and John Davies in 1613. Davies was a politician and poet whose works won the attention of Queen Elizabeth I, while Eleanor was an ardent Protestant who became infamous for publishing pamphlet prophecies from 1625 to her death in 1652. One, From the Lady Eleanor, Her Blessing, to Her Beloved Daughter the Right Honorable Lucy, Countesse of Huntingdon (1622), was addressed to Lucy. With such parents, it is not surprising that Lucy was well-educated. The famed educator and writer Bathsua Makin was her tutor and instructed her in divinity and languages, which included “Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Spanish” (Stevenson & Davidson 246).
In 1623, Lucy was married to fourteen-year-old Ferdinando Hastings when she was approximately eleven years old. The marriage was probably not consummated until she was around seventeen, as Henry, their first child, was not born until ca. 1630.
Lachrymae Musarum, consisting of 39 elegies by male poets minor and major, including Andrew Marvell and Charles Cotton, was published after Henry died of smallpox in 1649. Notably, John Dryden’s first published poem also appears in the volume. The Huntington Library’s copy of the book (RB102354) belonged to Lucy and once contained her manuscript poem on a front flyleaf, which is now detached and stored separately. The poem is in italic script and signed “L H.”
This manuscript’s significance as a poem by Lucy Hastings in her hand was first noted in 1952 by H.T. Swedenberg. In it, she laments her son’s death through imagery of bowels, clay, canker, and dust.
Other examples of Lucy’s writings survive in the Morgan Library, which holds her handwritten bond for £200 dated 3 September, 1667, and the University of Edinburgh Laing manuscript 444, which the Perdita Project describes as “Poems compiled by or for Lucy Davies (c. 1630).” Other manuscripts are held by the Huntington, which has over 50,000 items in its Hastings collection.
The University of Edinburgh’s manuscript, described in the Laing handlist as “The first Fifty Psalms in Verse, translated by Sir John Davies, 1624, with other Poems,” contains transcriptions of over fifty Psalms and dozens of poems by John Davies such as “A Maid’s Hymn in Praise of Virginity.” Only two poems in the volume break the Davies pattern. They are on the final page in an apparently different script, one much like Lucy’s, and indeed the initials “L H” appear in the right margin. The uppermost is Henry Rainolds’ “A Blackmoor Maid Wooing A Fair Boy” and the lowermost Henry King’s “The Boy’s Answer to the Blackmoor,” and the pair have been the subject of scholarship by Dr. Brandi K. Adams.
So was the L. Huntingdon who inscribed Hammond’s Annotations Lucy Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon? Huntingdon is often a peerage title, though some individuals from the early modern period like preacher John Huntingdon make clear it was surname, as well. It is also possible that Huntingdon is an alternative spelling of Huntington, a commoner surname, which could make the owner of the book L. Huntington, not Huntingdon.
However, if the Huntingdon is a peerage title rather than a last name, then it is harder to see who besides Lucy could have signed the Hammond. The Huntingdon title attaches only to the earl, his spouse, and his direct male heir (note in the image above how Lucy’s daughter signs her name Eliz: Hastings, not Eliz: Huntingdon). The book was published in 1659 and the inscription dated 1666. The only peerage-linked L. Huntingdon in 1666 would appear to be Lucy. Her husband Ferdinando Hastings, 6th Earl of Huntingdon, died in 1656 and was succeeded by their son Theophilus, born 1650, who did not begin having children himself until the 1670s. His direct heir, also named Theophilus, was not born until 1696.
If the Hammond did belong to Lucy, it is a rare example of a book owned by her; I know of no surviving specimens in institutions besides the Lachrymae Musarum. What understanding does the book bring to her life and work? Was she interested in the Psalms because of her father’s translation, piety’s sake, or both? Her memoranda books, after all, consist of detailed notes on Bible verses. Could her reading of them be connected to her son Henry’s untimely death 17 years earlier?
While the book is not heavily annotated, there are a few marginal references and corrections toward the front of the book, suggesting a close reading. What might such marginalia suggest? Is it in Lucy’s hand or one of her children’s?
The contemporary calf binding of the Hammond is worn, but close inspection reveals a blind rule with stamped corner-pieces on each board, as well as blind-tooled spine compartments. While not a fine binding by any stretch, it would have suited a woman of Lucy’s station.
I welcome readers’ thoughts on whether they believe the book was owned by Lucy Hastings and, if so, how they might contextualize it.
UPDATE: Since this blog went live, I have received some interesting feedback. Dr. Beatrice Groves, who has published on Biblical marginalia in the early modern period, notes that the M2 and E2 marginalia “mean that the reader is marking up the psalms that were used in the BCP readings – a psalm read at morning prayer on the second day of the month and at evening prayer on the 1st day of the month. So s/he is either using this as a psalter (interesting!) or, if it doesn’t have texts, using it to compare across – also interesting!” Thank you for the great note, Beatrice!
Source: Book in ownership of blog author. Other images featured with permission. My thanks to Martine Van Elk, Philip Palmer, and Danielle Clarke for assisting in my research for this blog.
Brink, Jean R. “Royalist Correspondent: Lucy Davies Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews 5 (2–3: Renaissance Studies), 1992: 61–63.
“Lucy Hastings, née Davies, Countess of Huntingdon (b. 1613).” In Early Modern Women Poets: An Anthology, edited by Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson, 246–247. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
O’Donnell, Mary Ann. “Hastings Family Tree, 1381-1874” in “A Survey of the Poetry Collection in Manuscript of the Noble Family of Huntingdon.” Harvard Library Bulletin 28 (3), Fall 2017: v–vi.
2 thoughts on “Hammond, A Paraphrase and Annotations upon the Books of the Psalms (1659)”
Absolutely fascinating blog – especially to me (researching psalm versions of the 17th c). Thank you for finding this book. I have to go away and read Hammond’s text and think about the implications of her ownership as you suggest. I think there are reasons why anyone involved in the politics of the time would be interested in the psalms – they are deployed, and struggled over, by both sides of the civil war conflict.
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Thank you for the lovely comment, Melissa, and reminding us that such widespread texts as the Psalms would have had political implications to their readers, in addition to their obvious religious significance.