By Sarah Lindenbaum and Tara Lyons
The Illinois State University’s Milner Library in Normal, IL is where the famous early reader Frances Wolfreston’s copy of Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania (1621) came to reside. The book is twice inscribed by Wolfreston “bot at london” and proves that she did buy books in the city, a fact that until recently was not conclusive .
However, this essay is about a different female Wolferstan book owner—Frances’ granddaughter, Anne Wolferstan—whose inscribed copy of John Dryden’s edition of the Satires of Juvenal and Persius (1693) recently found its home in Milner Library’s Special Collections (PA6447.E5 D7 1693). The Urania entered the library by happenstance, the Satires through the collaboration of Sarah Lindenbaum and Dr. Tara Lyons, co-authors of this essay. When Lindenbaum found the volume for sale and noted its fascinating provenance, Lyons made the case to Milner librarians (Jean MacDonald and Maureen Brunsdale) to purchase it and join the two Wolfreston-owned books on the shelves for researchers and students to explore for years to come. Students in Lyons’ early modern literature and bibliography courses were so taken with the volumes during visits to Special Collections that they invited Lindenbaum to class for an impromptu guest lecture in Fall 2019 wherein Lindenbaum generously shared her knowledge about women’s reading and book collecting in the early modern period. The books have inspired a whole generation of ISU English majors who know the significance of the name “Wolfreston” in the history of book collecting in England.
Though Frances Wolfreston (1607–1677) had at least two sons who seemed to inherit her bibliomania, none of her three daughters—Grace Wolfreston, Anne Arblaster, Elizabeth Bott—appear to have caught her book-collecting bug. In fairness, they probably did read some of her books. In willing her physick and “godly” books to her youngest son Stanford, Wolfreston says he may have the rest of her books conditionally as long as “any of his brothers ore sisters” can read them “any tim[e],” a wording which suggests they must have read books from her library in the past . However, no surviving books, Wolfreston’s or otherwise, contain the ownership inscriptions of her daughters, in contrast to a handful of extant books that do bear the annotations and ownership inscriptions of her sons Stanford and Francis Wolferstan. If her daughters shared her voracity for reading and book-collecting, they did not systematically sign books as their mother so notably did.
Wolfreston’s granddaughter Anne Wolferstan, in contrast, was a reader, owner, and inscriber of books. A 1679 New Testament at the Bodleian Library (Vet. A3 e.2217) bears her 1680 ownership inscription, made when she was only six or seven years old.
And the 1693 edition of Dryden’s translations of the Satires at the Milner Library is hers, inscribed on the front pastedown: “Anne Wolferstan: Statf:ld in Com: Staff: / the Guift of Dr: Fowke / 8:ber 15. 1694.” There is a lot to unpack in this fourteen-word inscription, but first, more about Anne.
She was born on 21 November 1673 when her bibliophile grandmother was sixty-six years old. Frances Wolfreston marked Anne’s birth in an annotated Poor Robin almanac, also held at the Bodleian Library: “my dater wolfreston was brot to bed of a dater the 21 day of the month betwen i and 2 a clock at nit being Friday” . This “dater wolfreston” was Hester Bowyer, first wife of Wolfreston’s eldest son Francis. Hester died less than a month later, likely due to complications of childbirth.
When Wolfreston died in January 1677, Anne was only three years old, so it is unlikely that Anne would have had any memories of her. Nonetheless, among Wolfreston’s numerous grandchildren, Anne may have had a special relationship with her. In her will, Wolfreston left clothing to seven of her granddaughters, but singled out Anne for a different bequest: “itom i geue my godater anne wolfreston 10 £ to be put out to the best aduantig for hor.” As Frances Wolfreston’s godchild, Anne would have received religious instruction from her. Evidence that Wolfreston played a role in her grandchildren’s spiritual upbringing survives in the form of a pamphlet entitled The School of Learning, or, A Guide for Children: Wherein Is Contained Prayers for Every Day in the Week, Both for Morning and Evening (British Library 3456.a.45). The earliest Wolfreston could have obtained the pamphlet is 1668, the year it was published. By then, all of her children were grown, meaning that she must have used it as an educational tool for their children. Whether Wolfreston read to Anne from this specific book cannot be known for certain, but is a possibility.
Anne’s father Francis Wolferstan doubtless had a larger role in influencing her learning and apparent predilection for reading; he was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford and was a barrister of the Inner Temple until Anne was about fifteen. Several books in institutions across the United States and United Kingdom bear his ownership inscriptions, shelf-marks, and annotations, indicating that he had his own library, which his daughter, who lived with him until her marriage at age twenty-nine, would have been able to access. Since Frances Wolfreston willed her physick and religious books to her youngest son Stanford who lived over thirty miles away in Wootton Wawen, it is not known whether Anne and her father utilized any of these books after Wolfreston died. There is, however, evidence of other bibliographic contact between the two families. Stanford Wolferstan signed Anne’s New Testament, writing “A b c d e f g h i” after his signature. Beneath, a child shakily copied the alphabet, as though their uncle was teaching them their letters.
Anne would be her father’s only surviving child. Her three oldest siblings all died between 1669 and 1673 (the last just thirteen days before she was born), and her older brother Francis died of smallpox sometime between 1698 and 1699. Her father’s second wife Eleanor had no live births. Of course, Anne’s sex meant that she could not inherit Statfold Hall when her father died in 1712, although John Burke does call her “heiress to her father’s purchased estates” . On June 14th, 1703, she became the second wife of Sir John Egerton, 3rd Baronet and left Statfold Hall to reside with him at Wrinehill Hall, some fifty miles northwest of her previous home.
Returning to Anne’s copy of the Satires, the book contains a surprising amount of information about Anne’s reading, interests, and possible social circle. Describing the book in October 2018, the bookseller made the following note: “ ‘Dr Fowke’ was pretty certainly Phineas Fowke (1638–1710) of Little Worley Hall, Shropshire . He was not only a physician but also a man of letters; of particular interest, bearing in mind the present volume, is the fact that he contributed to the many-handed translation of Plutarch’s Lives published by Dryden in 1683–6.” Little Worley Hall, also known as Little Wyrley Hall, survives to this day and is located about twenty miles (give or take) from Statfold Hall. Anne’s ownership inscription indicates that Fowke gifted her the Satires on October 15th in 1694. The portion reading “Statf:ld in Com:” is written over a strip of white paper affixed to the pastedown, which either disguises a tear in the paper or a mistake in the portion of the inscription beneath .
The pastedown did not remain static once Anne made the gift inscription; several expunged inscriptions and verses adorn it. Anne also appended the original inscription with the following: “Doct.r Fowke departed this Life Sunday morng., Jan: 21. 1710/11.” These markings point to Anne’s multiple interactions with the book throughout her life and perhaps a lasting friendship or acquaintance with the physician.
The expunged inscriptions include what appears to be an earlier, shorter version of the gift inscription; it is located above the extant gift inscription and filtering tools show that it begins with “Anne Wolferstan” and ends with “1694.”
This would seem to suggest that Fowke’s acquaintance and his gift were of distinct importance to her; the extant inscription is written in what appears to be her best hand, her initials “A” and “W” drawn with bold flourishes, and the fact that she may have erased an earlier version of the inscription signifies concern with its content and appearance. The expunged inscriptions beneath the note about Dr. Fowke’s death include a four-line verse in Anne’s hand as well as two inscriptions reading “Anne Egerton,” her married name. If Anne was the one who effaced these markings, her reasons for doing so are not clear.
After Anne married John Egerton, she gave birth to at least three children. Two died in infancy, while daughter Catharine died aged fifteen. With no biological heirs, Anne willed her possessions to Edward Egerton, her husband’s third son. After his death the following year, the book apparently passed to Ralph Egerton, her husband’s fourth son. “Ralph Egerton” is inscribed on the book’s title page, overshadowing its original owners more modest initials (“A W”) which flank the printed Latin motto below.
The title page of John Dryden’s Satires of Juvenal and Persius (1693) is a perfect starting point for understanding the significance of this volume and Anne Wolferstan’s ownership of it. As the edition’s title page reveals, Dryden was responsible for translating Persius’s satires and some of Juvenal’s, but at least half of those by Juvenal were rendered into English by “Several other Eminent Hands.” These other hands were Nahum Tate, William Bowles, George Stepney, Stephen Hervey, William Congreve, Thomas Power, Thomas Creech, Richard Duke, and two of Dryden’s sons, Charles and John. Even before the Satires was published, Dryden’s name guaranteed the quality of the book in its entirety, at least according to Peter Motteux who in the Gentleman’s Journal (February 1692) assured future buyers, “you need not doubt since [Dryden] hath so great a share in the Undertaking, but the rest [of the translations] will be well done” . That Dryden took up editorship of the volume is likely.
The London publisher of the edition, Jacob Tonson, can also be considered a collaborator on the project; indeed, he was probably the impetus. In his note “The Bookseller to the Reader” in Dryden’s third miscellany, Examen Poeticum (1693), Tonson admits his part in “Solliciting the Translation of Juvenal and Persius.” Encouraging the project must have made good financial sense to the publisher. Having also published and vended Dryden’s other classical translation projects, including Ovid’s Epistles (1680), Plutarch’s Lives (1683–86), Micellany Poems (1684), and Sylvae, or, The Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies (1685), Tonson might even be said to have taken on the role of “patron” to the respected writer . That Tonson was distributing Dryden’s dramatic works is likewise evident on the title page of the Satires. At the Judge’s-Head in Chancery Lane, readers could find “Compleat Sets of Mr Dryden’s Works, in Four Volumes in Quarto, the Plays being put in the order they were Written.”
The Satires of Juvenal and Persius was a popular seller, going through six more editions from 1697 to 1754. Anne received her copy just a year after the Satires publication, so Fowke likely presented her with a new first edition. Anne was twenty years old when she received it, and as suggested above, it seems she cared for the book over time. Like many other late-seventeenth century women, Anne may not have been educated in Latin, but this would not have precluded her from studying classical literature and ancient history. The Satires might even have been used as a tool for Latin learning. In fact, the volume shows signs of use by a reader who was comparing passages in the Satires across other editions of Juvenal. This example from Satire VIII shows readerly interest in this sententious phrase typographically marked with inverted commas with a user’s manuscript manicule:
In the outer margin, a reader has set out the corresponding verse numbers in three different editions of Juvenal’s Satires. This hand, however, is distinct from Anne’s inscription in the inner cover. It is most likely that of her father Francis; the handwriting is identical to his, and he habitually made bibliographical references of this sort in books that he read.
In 1866, Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge sold a 1676 edition of “Six Comedies in English and Latine” by Terence translated by Charles Hoole and printed by Elizabeth Flesher. It contained the undated ownership inscription of William Inge and a “168*” [sic] ownership inscription from Charles Gresley. It must have also been signed by one of the Wolferstans, since Sotheby’s identified it as “from the Wolfreston Library” . The Inges and Gresleys were both landed Staffordshire families and closely acquainted with the Wolferstans. Given that the 1676 Terence ultimately ended up in the library of John Morewood Gresley, either Inge or one of the Wolferstans must have given it to Charles Gresley in the 1680s. Anne may have been too young to use the book before it left Statfold Hall, but it is further evidence of the family’s keen interest in English translations of classics. A 1614 edition of Terence in English owned by Stanford Wolferstan is now at the University of Glasgow Libraries (Sp Coll 716), and Frances Wolferstan published a translation of Ovid’s The Art of Love in 1661. He gave Anne’s mother Hester a copy as part of their courtship.
Whether or not Anne had some facility with Latin, Dryden’s Satires were intended for “persons of understanding and good sense who, not having been conversant in the original, or at least not having made Latin verse so much their business as to be critics in it, would be glad to find if the wit of our. . . great authors be answerable to their fame and reputation in the world” (p. lii ). That Dryden expected women like Anne to read the Satires is also apparent in the preface to Juvenal’s notoriously misogynistic Satire VI. Dryden assures readers that he does not condone the Roman author’s invectives against women, even confessing that he translated this satire out of necessity because no one else would agree to do it. Wishing not to make enemies of his own English female readers, Dryden begs them not to conflate his opinions with Juvenal’s: “Whatever his Roman ladies were, the English are free from all his Imputations” (p. 87).
It would be fascinating to know what Anne thought of Juvenal’s Satire VI and Dryden’s apology, but the majority of annotations presumably in her hand appear before the text proper begins. On the flyleaf (recto and verso) and next half title, Anne has transcribed three lists under the following headings:
“The name of the 40 pagan emperours of Rome with their several mottos”
The names of the 32 Christians Eastearn Greeks & their Mottos”
The names of the 25 Western Franks with their several mottos &. .”
Filling almost 2.5 folio leaves, Anne copied the names of mottos from Mathias Prideaux’s An Easy and Compendious Introduction for Reading All Sorts of Histories (1655 or 1672). Prideaux’s edition functioned as an encyclopedia of historical figures and events, which was “contrived, in a more facile way then heretofore hath been published.” Anne Wolfreston appears to have combed through the volume from page 189 to 244, extracting the names and mottoes of the famous figures, perhaps as a learning exercise in ancient history or as a supplement for reading the works of Juvenal and Persius, who cite some of the rulers from ancient Rome who appeared in Anne’s transcribed lists.
This cross-referencing is something she had in common with her father and her grandmother. As noted above, Francis Wolferstan made copious bibliographical references in his own books, a few of his mother’s, and even in his daughter’s New Testament (see image above), while Frances herself drew connections among texts she had read. In her copy of Thomas Heywood’s The Iron Age (1632), she wrote “this and the forst part of the destrucktions of troy tragides both uery prity ons and good ons for the storay, and i think trower then the old history bouk,” and she copied a portion of the preface to Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy in her 1613 edition of Timothie Bright’s A Treatise of Melancholy (Bodleian, Vet A2. f.152) . By “the forst part of the destrucktions of troy tragides,” she probably meant Raoul Lefèvre’s Recueil des Histoires de Troyes, which was translated by William Caxton in the fifteenth century and holds the distinction of being the first book ever to be printed in English. Versions of Caxton’s translation were published in numerous editions throughout the seventeenth century under variations of the title The Destruction of Troy.
Identifying early female readers through ownership marks is often a difficult task. More often than not, we have only the name of a book owner and, rarely, the date of her inscription. Even when we are able to extrapolate the identity of a reader from historical and genealogical records, it is near impossible to learn whether book collecting ran in the family or whether that woman’s grandmother was an avid reader. Anne Wolferstan’s copy of the Satires is the exception to the rule, but perhaps it will not continue to function in this way. The genealogical pairing of the Anne Wolferstan and Frances Wolfreston volumes in Milner Library collections did not happen just by chance. The bibliographical labors of Sarah Lindenbaum in tracing the vast collection of Frances Wolfreston led her to search for books owned by someone with that surname. That Anne’s books began cropping up in her searches demonstrates to us just how rich and deep the field of female book ownership is when we know the identities of those we research. For educational institutions like Illinois State University with a modest budget for rare and fine books, it takes this kind of specialized knowledge, provenance expertise, advocacy for teaching resources, and enthusiastic, fast-acting bidding on the part of librarians to build collections that not only reveal the communities of women who owned books in the early modern period but also encourage future research on them.
Source: Milner Library’s Special Collections (PA6447.E5 D7 1693). Photographs by Sarah Lindenbaum.
 Lindenbaum, “Hiding in Plain Sight: How Electronic Records Can Lead Us to Early Modern Women Readers,” in Women’s Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation, ed. Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Sauer (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018), 200.
 Frances Wolfreston will, 4 July, 1676, GB124.E4/26/7, Egerton Family, Earls of Wilton, of Heaton Hall, Greater Manchester County Record Office.
 William Winstanley, Poor Robin, 1673: An Almanack after a New Fashion (London: Printed for the Company of Stationers, ), Bodleian Library, MS. Don. e. 246.
 John Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1836–38), p. 188.
 Little Worley Hall is actually situated in Staffordshire, not Shropshire.
 There is a nineteenth-century binder’s ticket on the pastedown that reads “Proudfoot. Binder 73 George St. Euston Sqr.” which is contemporaneous to the binding. Therefore, it is not clear whether the now pastedown on which Anne’s inscription appears was always a pastedown or if it was once a loose leaf.
 John Dryden, The Works of John Dryden, Volume IV: Poems, 1693-1696, ed. Edward Niles Hooker, Hugh Thomas Swedenberg, and Vinton A. Dearing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), p. 513.
 Stuart Gillespie, “The Early Years of the Dryden-Tonson Partnership: The Background to Their Composite Translations and Miscellanies of the 1680s,” Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700. 12.1 (1988), p. 11.
 Catalogue of the Very Valuable Topographical & Antiquarian Library of the Late Rev. John Morewood Gresley ([London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 1866]).
 Johan Gerritsen, “Venus Preserved: Some Notes on Frances Wolfreston,” English Studies 45:1–6 (1964), p. 273.