Barbara Golde and the Duchess of Suffolk: the Sermons of Hugh Latimer (1549)




The Folger Library copy of the sermons of Hugh Latimer printed in 1549 (STC 15270.5; bound with 15274) bears traces of women’s book patronage and ownership: Katherine Willoughby Brandon, the Duchess (dowager) of Suffolk (1519-80) sponsored the book which was printed with her coat of arms on the verso of the title page; and an unknown woman, Barbara Golde, inscribed her name on the title page.

In 1549 the reformist preacher Hugh Latimer delivered seven high-profile sermons in front of King Edward VI and the court at the large outdoor pulpit at Westminster Palace (see Wabuda). Latimer ruffled feathers by lambasting some of his auditors for their moral failings, but he praised both the Duchess of Suffolk and Queen Katherine Parr as exemplary reformed Christians.

The sermons were printed with a dedication in which Thomas Some boldly aligned the duchess with the Old Testament prophetess, Huldah (3v). Suffolk’s coat of arms are found in at least 10 religious volumes printed between 1548 and 1549, and Nicholas Lesse praised her as one “at whose handes . . . the common people hath received already many comfortable & spiritual consolations, instructions, and teachings” (A5v-A6r).

The Folger library copy provides evidence of several readers who presumably received such “consolations, instructions, and teachings” from this Latimer-Suffolk collaborative volume. The volume was signed by Barbara Golde who placed her name in a prominent spot on the title page. Sadly there are no other records of Golde’s book ownership in the ESTC. The volume is also signed by R. Brown and R. Barker. There are a few marginal markings but it is impossible to determine who made them. Manuscript and printed waste (from 1548) were used as guards when the book was bound.


Hugh Latimer, The First Sermon of Master Hugh Latimer. John Day, 1549. STC 15270.5.

Nicholas Lesse, trans. A Very Fruitful and Godly Exposition upon the Fifteenth Psalm. John Day, 1548. STC 10429.

“Latimer, Hugh (c. 1485–1555).” by Susan Wabuda. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  September 23, 2004. Oxford University Press, Date of access 5 May. 2019.

Book Source: Folger Library, STC 15270.5; bound with 15274. Photos by Micheline White with permission from the Folger Library.



Aristotle, Operum… philosophorum omnium longè principis noua editio, Graecè & Latiné, ed. Isaac Casaubon (Geneva, 1590)

Micha Lazarus, Trinity College, University of Cambridge


Not a female owner, but a remarkable inscription in memory of a remarkable woman. Mildred Cecil, Lady Burghley (1526-1589) was the second wife of William Cecil – probably the most powerful and certainly the longest serving of Elizabeth’s ministers. Mildred’s father, Sir Anthony Cooke, gave his daughters an even better humanist education than his sons. The Cooke sisters were true intellectual aristocracy. Mildred was renowned for her Greek, which she was reputed to speak as fluently as English. She translated several works, including a sermon by St Basil; on one occasion she praised the hospitality of St John’s College, Cambridge (which William Cecil had attended) by writing the fellows a letter in Greek.

She used her standing to gather around her a strong intellectual community, and built up one of England’s finest private scholarly libraries. After her death on 4 April, 1589, some of her books were distributed, as she had ordered, to Christ Church in Oxford, St John’s in Cambridge, and Westminster school. Other books of hers survive at Hatfield House, including some she had acquired from Roger Ascham and his circle of Cambridge humanists.

Mildred Cecil didn’t live to see Isaac Casaubon’s great volume of Aristotle’s complete works, the first bilingual edition to be published. But this copy bears her name nonetheless. The title page is inscribed:

Ex dono Gulielmi Caecilij Baronis
Burghlei ob memoriam Mildredae
vxoris defunctae

[‘A gift of William Cecil, Baron Burghley, in memory of his deceased wife Mildred’]

The title page also bears an old shelfmark, ‘F.4.1’, and a few other inscriptions, none of which can be traced with certainty: Deus prouidebit [‘God will provide’], Alienum est omne quicquid optando uenit [‘Everything that comes [to you] by your own wish is not your own’, from Seneca’s Epistles 8], and in Greek, μητὲ μέλι μητὲ μελίσσας ἀνεὺ πόνου [‘neither honey nor bees without labour’, adapted from Sappho, fragment 113, which became proverbial]. Nor can we be sure who received the gift. Doubtless it was given to an institution, but mottoes of this kind are normally the work of individuals rather than libraries.

The volume was printed in March 1590, so it must have been donated at least a year after Mildred passed away. Two other books, now at Trinity and Sidney Sussex colleges in Cambridge, have bookplates that show they were likewise donated by Cecil in her memory. He must have kept making donations in his wife’s name for a year or two.

Cecil was devastated by Mildred’s death; he arranged a lavish funeral for her featuring more than 300 mourners, and wrote a moving epitaph at Westminster Abbey. Perhaps Casaubon’s magnificent new Graeco-Latin Aristotle was another collegiate purchase, enabled by gifts Cecil left them to continue Mildred’s lifelong support of classical scholarship. No less than her funeral, Cecil would have seen this magnificent edition as testament to her learning as well as the ‘harty love which I did beare hir, with whom I lyved in the state of matrimony forty and tow yers contynually without any unkyndnes’.

Source: Harvard, Houghton Library, shelfmark f *56-1812. Photographs by Micha Lazarus.


Allen, Gemma, The Cooke Sisters: Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013).

Bowden, Caroline, ‘The Library of Mildred Cooke Cecil, Lady Burghley’, in Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England, 1550-1700, Volume 1: Early Tudor Women Writers, ed. Elaine V. Beilin (Farnham, 2009), 399-425.

Croft, Pauline, ‘Mildred, Lady Burghley: The Matriarch’, in Patronage, Culture and Power: The Early Cecils, ed. Pauline Croft (New Haven, London, 2002), 283-300.

Selwyn, Pamela, ‘An Armorial Binding of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley’, in The Founders’ Library, University of Wales, Lampeter: Bibliographical and Contextual Studies: Essays in Memory of Robin Rider, ed. William Marx, Trivium, 29-30 (Lampeter, 1997), 65-78.

The Holy Bible (1599)


When looking for early modern Chinese books in the Special Collections of the University of Colorado Library, Katherine Alexander came across this instance of English female book ownership (see her blog post about it): a 1599 bible in which a woman named Susanna Harding inscribed her signature no fewer than three times. Interestingly, she also noted the price and date of purchase: “Her Bible Cost 2 s [shillings], the first Day of December 1742.” This means she acquired a bible that was 143 years old, making it “Her Book.” This type of inscription is common in early modern books, and it is helpful in terms of dating the signature, the moment of acquisition, and book prices. Two other owners (presumably not related to Susanna Harding since she bought it) signed the book before her, Thomas Finch in 1686 and George Heath in 1714.

Source: University of Colorado, Boulder, Special Collections, shelf mark BS170 1599. Photo taken by Katherine Alexander and reproduced with permission.