Ariosto, Orlando Furioso (1634)

Still in print today, Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso has remained one of the most popular works of literature since its first publication in 1516. The poem continued Matteo Maria Boiardo’s unfinished multi-part Orlando Innamorato, which was published in Western printing’s infancy between 1483 and 1495. Its earliest editions are either lost or survive in very few copies.

Orlando Furioso quickly eclipsed the popularity of Boiardo’s work. Ariosto revised the poem at least twice, with a second edition released in 1521 and a posthumous third edition with several additional cantos published in 1532. The work⁠—a chivalric romance that follows the journey of the hero, Roland, after the loss of a love and his sanity⁠—was published in dozens of Italian and Latin editions in the sixteenth century. However, English readers not fluent in either language (a good number of women among them) would have to wait 75 years to read the work in the vernacular.

Courtier John Harington’s translation first appeared in 1591, with a second edition and third edition in 1607 and 1634, respectively. A notoriously lengthy poem, it was published in folio and accompanied by 46 engraved illustrations, which would have initially restricted its readership to those who could afford a copy. Women therefore might not have been able to read the work very widely until secondhand copies began to circulate.

One of these readers was Elizabeth Tyringham. She inscribed a front flyleaf “Elizabeth Tyringham, Her Book {Aprill ye 5[th] 1668;},” which suggests she acquired the book some thirty years after it was originally published.

Genealogical resources reference a number of Elizabeth Tyringhams, but their dates are either too early or too late to be this copy of Orlando Furioso‘s owner. It is possible, if not likely, that Elizabeth was the “only daughter and heiress of the grandson [Sir William Tyringham (d. 1685)] of Sir Anthony [Tyringham]” who “married to John Backwell, Esq.” (d. 1708) in 1678, her new husband succeeding to the Tyringham estate through his marriage to her [1], [2], [3]. The Tyringhams were of Buckinghamshire, but the usual nineteenth-century male-centric genealogies are interested in Elizabeth insofar only as she advanced the family line. She was said to have died “twenty years before” her husband, so in the year 1688 [4].

If she is the same Elizabeth, these scant biographical details tell us nothing about her reading life. Could this have been a volume from the Tyringham family library that she claimed for herself in 1668? Or was it a secondhand acquisition for her personal collection?

The volume is bound in contemporary double-ruled calf, with the gilt lettering and leather at the foot of the spine a later restoration. A remnant of what appears to be a shelf label survives at the head of the spine, although whether this is contemporaneous to Tyringham’s inscription or a later addition is debatable.

What can be said is that Tyringham (if she is the heiress Tyringham) owned the book a decade before she married and was probably young, perhaps in her late teens or early twenties, when she inscribed it. The flourishes in her signature denote care in making the inscription; the date is enclosed by curly brackets and underlined. Though the seller indicates that the copy is clean, an examination of the book’s over 450 pages may yet reveal traces of reading.

Even without a firm identification, it is an interesting example of women’s ownership of canon literature in the late seventeenth century.

Source: Book offered for sale by D&D Galleries in April 2022. Images used with permission.

Bibliography

[1] Sir Bernard Burke. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, vol. 1 (London: Harrison & Sons, Pall Mall, 1886), 1873.

[2] James Joseph Sheahan. History and Topography of Buckinghamshire Comprising a General Survey of the County (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862), 625.

[3] “History of the Wood.” Hollington Wood. Philip Solt. Accessed April 24, 2022. http://www.hollingtonwood.com/history-of-the-wood/.

[4] George Lipscomb. The History and Antiquities of Buckinghamshire, vol. 4 (London: J&W Robins, 1847), 376.

Cyrano de Bergerac, The Comical History (1687)

By Sophie Floate

In my work cataloguing the rare books of several Oxford College libraries, I come across many interesting clues as to the provenance of the books. Though some books were bought directly from the booksellers by the colleges, others came from alumni, who in turn acquired their books from a variety of sources. I was cataloguing a copy of Cyrano de Bergerac’s A Comical History of the States and Empires of the Worlds of the Moon and Sun, printed in London in 1687, in the library of Hertford College, Oxford, when I noticed a distinctive signature on one of the endpapers.

Feeling sure I had seen this signature before, I searched these pages and found Sarah Lindenbaum’s blog post of March 30, 2020. The inscription in our book matches the others found by Sarah, this time with the date 1706 and the price 3s 6d. We can’t be sure how this book ended up in Hertford College Library, though it has certainly been here since the 19th century, as it has an ownership note of “Magdalen Hall Library” on the title page.

https://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/tfl55h/oxfaleph022773301

Magdalen Hall later became the second iteration of Hertford College (the first Hertford College was founded in 1740 but dissolved in 1805) when it was refounded in 1874–you can read more about its history here: https://archive-cat.hertford.ox.ac.uk/researchGuides/briefGuide. However, there is an earlier, as yet unidentified, provenance inscription on the first free endpaper, which pre-dates Katherine’s.

This edition of Cyrano de Bergerac’s work, first published posthumously in France in 1657, also has a correction, possibly by Katherine, on a torn page (leaf ²B8).

It is an interesting work to add to the others found by Sarah, continuing to show the breadth of Katherine’s interests. This early work of science fiction inspired the work of later writers such as Jonathan Swift and Voltaire and touches on philosophy, religion, and politics.

Hertford Library collection is open to researchers (https://www.hertford.ox.ac.uk/and-more/rarebooks-archives/rare-books) and partly catalogued on the university catalogue SOLO. There is still much to be discovered within the collections at Hertford College, and the ongoing cataloguing project will hopefully provide more interesting examples of early female owners.

Images by Sophie Floate, © Principal, Fellows and Scholars of Hertford College, University of Oxford. Reproduced with permission.

The Great Bible (1540)

By Michael Durrant

We often find extensive evidence of use in early modern Protestant bibles, including transcribed sermons, commonplaced passages from other religious books, forms of cross-referencing, annotation, and self-accounting, alongside pen trials, signatures, doodles, ownership marks, recipes, financial accounts, and (perhaps especially) family histories. As other entries in this blog will attest, it is not unusual to find extensive lists of births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths recorded on the pastedowns and endleaves of early modern protestant bibles, books objects that could remain in active use long after their production, serving as participatory sites of material accumulation and readerly intervention for a broad socio-economic cross-section of users, and usually over very long periods of time.

Bangor University’s copy of the third edition of ‘THE BYBLE | CRANMER VERSION’ (1540), otherwise known as the Great Bible, nicely illustrates this point (Fig. 1). As I have written elsewhere, Bangor’s Great Bible is replete with a range of readerly interventions, including handwritten signatures, ownership marks, pen trials, and forms of commonplacing, which are variously dated from the mid-sixteenth century through to the early decades of the twentieth century.[1] These inscriptions were made by up to ten separate individuals, although only three of them, all male, can be identified as former owners. These include a man called Benjamin Rogers, who identifies himself as a “yomon” residing in “Rowin[g]ton” in Warwickshire, and who is active in its margins between 1710 and 1743; one “Rev J[ohn] T[heodosius] Jones” (c. 1786–1851), a “Vicar of Saintbury” in Gloucestershire, and a former Master of the Grammar School of King Edward VI, Stratford-upon-Avon; and finally Richard Hughes (1837–1930), an Anglesey-based farm labourer who donated this Great Bible to Bangor University in 1930. 

Fig. 1

Benjamin Rogers is by far the most active book user in Bangor’s Great Bible. His name appears over 200 times throughout, and it is usually accompanied by the formulaic phrase “His Booke” or by his favoured passage adapted from Proverbs, “Give me neither poverty nor Riches but food.” Benjamin’s presence is also experienced in generic aphorisms—”Benjamin Rogers is my name and with my pen I writ[e] the | Same and if my pen it had been better I should have mended | Every Letter”—or, continuing the theme of mending, in the numerous examples of patchwork repair undertaken within the book, which see Benjamin reaching in to dress wounded pages with hand-written supplements (Figs. 2-3).

Fig. 2
Fig. 3

There is, to put it another way, a very real sense that Bangor’s Great Bible is “His Booke.” Indeed, Benjamin’s claims to ownership feel almost overwhelming, and he appears to have had a surveillant eye set on the presence of hands that are not his own. As can be seen in Figures 4 and 5, printed manicules situated within the margins of the text incite self-reflexive phrases like “the hand” or, in one instance, “wittnes my hand,” an expression that seems almost to will the typographical hand to point away from the biblical text and back to Benjamin as reader and owner. Elsewhere, an inscription dated 1670—this time a reworked passage from Owen Feltham’s bestselling essay collection, Resolves: Divine, Moral, Political (1620), which is signed by one “George Rogers”—prompts Benjamin, later in 1733, to respond with “hand of that man.” Whether or not George Rogers was a relative of Benjamin Rogers is unclear, but his “hand of that man” phrase, which loiters on the periphery of George’s earlier inscription, seems curiously combative.

Fig. 4
Fig. 5

From another perspective, however, Benjamin’s focus on hands (his own and those of others) need not be read as a sign of his guarded attitude to book ownership. The book’s emotive/devotional force seems to be located in a sense that Benjamin is not, in fact, alone, that his hands are in communal alignment with others. In one instance, for example, Benjamin’s claims to book ownership will spill over into a broader claim to patriarchal possession in marriage, and in doing so he introduces us to a female figure who can be incorporated into this book’s history of ownership: “Benjamin Rogers His Book 1739 | Susanna Rogers His Wife” (Fig. 6).   

Fig. 6

Evidence from the marriage register for St Nicholas’ Church, Warwick, suggests that this inscription was made about sixteen years after a “Benjamin Rogers of Rowington” married “Susannah Ward of Claverton” on the 13 January 1723. In that time, Susanna made her presence felt within Bangor’s Great Bible, although, unlike Benjamin, she never deployed the ownership phrase, “Her Book.” Instead, we find her formulating her signature in the margins of the Book of Esau, cautiously repeating the “S” “S” “S” “S” of “Susanna” as she prepares to write out her name in full (Fig. 7); a “Susanna” also appears once in the margins of the Book of Job, six times in the margins of the Book of Numbers, and twice in Deuteronomy; further, the letter “S” appears randomly in several other sections within Bangor’s Great Bible, which together hint at her readerly presence even if that “S” did not form itself into a fuller “Susanna.”  

Fig. 7

Susanna is/was there, moving through the book’s pages with a pen in her hand, making herself known in ways that are less insistent than that of her husband, but that are still visible to us. The same is true of other women, and other men, who materialise on an interleaved sheet that appears at the back of Bangor’s Great Bible, situated between the main text block and the lower board. There we find the name “Mary Elderidge,” which has been written out at least three times, as well as the signatures of “Thomas Reynolds,” “Joseph Bernard,” and a “Thomas Drury,” which is dated “1740.” On the same sheet we find the ubiquitous “Benjamin Rogers,” who, nestled within this messy, overlapping cluster of hands, has dated his own inscriptions “1739,” “1740,” and “1741” respectively (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8

The image above suggests that, whilst this book may be “His,” it is clearly also an object that moved within a larger community, and it got folded into these other lives as it moved. As such, Bangor’s Great Bible serves as evidence not of an isolated reader/book owner, but one whose reading practices were enlivened, and even authorised by, a wider network of men and women within and outside of the Rogers family. Benjamin’s “wittnes my hand” inscription seems to suggest as much, pointing us to the forms of early modern “witnessing” that Jason Scott-Warren has described, in which claims to book ownership were staged before observing, participating audiences.[2] In the case of Bangor’s Great Bible, this audience was made up of women like Mary and Susanna, and, if we can say that, between 1710 and 1743, Bangor’s Great Bible was his book, it’s conceivable that this was made possible by the fact that it passed through their hands as well.  

Source: The Byble in Englyshe: that is to saye the conte[n]t of al the holy scrypture, both of yer olde, and new testame[n]t, with a prologe therinto, made by the reuerende father in God, Thomas Archbyshop of Cantorbury. This is the Byble apoynted to the vse of the churches (Bangor University Library, shelf mark X/EC1 1540). Images reproduced with the permission of Bangor University Archives and Special Collections.


[1] Michael Durrant, “Old Books, New Beginnings: Recovering Lost Pages,” Inscription: The Journal of Material Text – Theory, Practice, History 1 (2020) https://inscriptionjournal.com/2020/06/25/old-books-new-beginnings-recovering-lost-pages/

[2] Jason Scott-Warren, Shakespeare’s First Reader: The Paper Trails of Richard Stonley (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), pp.119-25.

George Savile, The Lady’s New Year’s Gift (1688)

We have posted before on The Lady’s New Year’s Gift by George Savile on this blog, suggesting that the book had lasting appeal for women readers. We have recently encountered more evidence of the advice book’s popularity. A copy of the book has appeared at auction recently, bearing multiple traces of female ownership and passing down of the book from one generation to another.

The title page, as shown above, carries the signature “Mary Isham.” But front and end pages in the book show more signatures:

Jane and Mary have helpfully dated their signatures. Jane Isham’s 1706 signature is followed by Mary Brooke’s 1738 signature, which indicates that the book was a gift of her mother. This leaves us with the Mary Isham on the title page, which seems a different hand from Mary Brooke’s and possibly an earlier one.

While Isham is a relatively common name, some investigation has brought up an identification, beginning with a rector in Barby, Northamtonshire, named Thomas Isham (d. 1676), who was married to Mary, who died in 1684. Thomas and Mary had a son named Zacheus Isham (1651-1705), who became a clergyman and had a rather distinguished career at Oxford and beyond, including a position as chaplain to the Bishop of London and a prebendary in St. Paul’s Cathedral. He married Elizabeth Pittis, and they had eight children. Their third daughter was named Jane (c. 1699-1757), who is possibly be the person who signed her name twice in this book; if so, she signed the book when she was only seven years old. Her older sister and second daughter of Zacheus and Elizabeth was Mary Isham (c. 1696-1750), who possibly wrote the signature on the title page and who married Arthur Brooke (c. 1695-1754). Their eldest daughter was Mary Brooke (1723-1782), the likely writer of the note about receiving the book from her mama in 1738, when she would have been fifteen years old. This Mary married Richard Supple (1720-1797), and their son, Richard Brooke Supple (1758-1829) became a Baronet. The Ishams were related to another aristocratic Isham family as Zacheus Isham was a cousin of Sir Thomas Isham, third Baronet of Lamport, in turn a nephew of Elizabeth Isham, now best known for her diaries.

The book appears, then, to have been passed from sister to sister and then mother to daughter, as Mary Brooke’s inscription tells us. If Mary Brooke’s mother signed the title page, then all three women made note of their ownership. Alternatively, it is possible that the “Mary Isham” on the title page is the signature of Mary and Jane’s grandmother, also named Mary Isham, who died six years after the book was published. If that is the case, the object shows evidence of even more generations of female book ownership, as this particular family appears to have cherished the advice of Savile to his daughter.

Source: Book sold at auction February 10, 2022, by Forum Auctions. Images reproduced with permission.

Henry Smith, Foure Sermons (1617)

By Joseph L. Black

This copy of Henry Smith’s Foure Sermons (1617) contains evidence of female ownership. Elizebeth King’s fully secretary hand suggests that her ownership inscription is contemporaneous with the publication of the volume on which it appears, centered confidently on the title-page verso:

Elizebeth King
her Booke.
Reed and regard
god be thy guide
           in faith be prepared
with him to abide.

I have not yet found evidence of other books owned by this early seventeenth-century Elizebeth King, but her beautifully formed inscription makes it likely that this copy of Smith’s Sermons was not her only book: her notably clear hand reveals her as a practised and accomplished writer. I have also not yet discovered other iterations of the accompanying ownership poem, a fluent cento of devotional commonplaces. Should other examples of the poem be identified, they may help situate Elizebeth King chronologically, geographically, or within her broader community.

The only additional provenance information the book offers in its current (disbound) form is the 1849 signature of Job Lousley (1790-1855), natural historian and antiquarian of Hampstead Norris, Berkshire. Lousley was a book-mad bibliophile who accumulated a library of about 30,000 volumes,[1] so the presence of any book in his collection is unlikely to be the consequence of a family or geographical connection with any previous owner.

The sermons of Henry Smith (c. 1560-1591), the Church of England clergyman known as “Silver-Tongued Smith” or the “Silver-Tongued Preacher,” were enormously popular, appearing in scores of editions from the year of his early death through to the mid-seventeenth century, and then more sporadically until the 1670s. About twenty copies of his sermons appear in records edited so far in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England (PLRE) database (plre.folger.edu), substantially more than any other English sermons, including the popular works of John Calvin and Hugh Latimer.

Henry Smith, possibly by Thomas Cross; line engraving, possibly early 17th century
NPG D25253 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The fourteen owners of Smith’s sermons currently represented in PLRE are divided evenly between men and women. The seven male owners include tradesmen, MPs, and lawyers as well as clerics. The seven women range from aristocrats (the Countesses of Kent, Bridgewater, and Home) to upper gentry (Lady Dorothy Cockayne, Lady Margaret Heath) to women of unknown social status whose property included only a handful of books (Elizabeth Colman of Parham, Suffolk; Margaret Barret, of Cavendish, Suffolk). These ownership records indicate that the silver-tongued Henry Smith was genuinely popular, with an appeal that spanned class and gender. This copy signed by Elizebeth King joins a copy of Smith’s Twelve Sermons (1629) featuring the early italic ownership inscription of “mary ann hey” posted on this site on April 23, 2020.

As mentioned earlier, Elizebeth King’s copy of Smith’s Foure Sermons is disbound and appears to have been removed from a larger volume, either a bound-together collection or, more likely, the collection of Smith’s sermons in which it was usually issued: STC 22758, Henry Smith, Six Sermons (London: T. D[awson] for Nicholas Bourne, 1617). Foure Sermons has a separate title-page with its own dated imprint, but the register is continuous with Six Sermons: a quarto in eights, Foure Sermons collates [C8] D-G8 H4 I2, with [C8] the title-page. The works of Henry Smith, however, are bibliographically complex: they were packaged in a variety of entrepreneurial combinations by many stationers and survive in a wide range of bound-together combinations. This edition of Foure Sermons, with its separate title-page, may have circulated separately: the Short Title Catalogue (STC) provides numbers for several earlier editions of Foure Sermons issued, like this one, within larger collections (STC 22749-51). The presence of Elizebeth King’s signature on the verso of a title-page that would normally appear about forty pages into the collection as normally issued might indicate that her copy of Smith’s Foure Sermons was separate when she signed it, with the title subsequently bound with others and then disbound at some later point. The bibliographical complexity of Smith’s sermons is best illustrated by a typographical joke hidden in the revised edition of the STC: at the top of the second column in volume 2, page 340, the heading “Smith, Henry, Minister” unexpectedly becomes “Smith, Henry, Monster.” The story is that an exasperated Katharine Pantzer, given the unenviable duty of sorting out the Smith entries, insisted on retaining the “Monster” reading in the face of repeated efforts by press copy-editors and proof-readers to correct it (I am grateful to John Lancaster for this information).

Source: Private collection. Unless otherwise noted, photos by Joseph L. Black, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Mark Empey, “Lady Margaret Heath (née Miller). Gentry: Inventory (upon decease). 1647,” Private Libraries in England 296, vol. 10 (1992): 263-285.

R. J. Fehrenbach, “Lady Dorothy Cockayne. Landowner: Inventory (household). c. 1594,” Private Libraries in Renaissance England 264, vol. 8 (1992): 275-280.

Alfred W. Pollard, A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland and of English books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640. 2nd ed. Ed. W. A. Jackson & F. S. Ferguson, completed by Katharine F. Pantzer. London: Bibliographical Society, 1976-1991.


[1] Job Edward Lousley, “The Library of Job Lousley (1790-1855),” Notes and Queries n.s. 10 (1963), 429-30.

Lady Dorothy Long’s Library

While most of our posts involve single books or evidence of book ownership in the form of marginalia and signatures, another key area of provenance research is in the form of inventories and book lists. The fascinating database and journal series Private Libraries of Renaissance England have showcased a number of key women for whom the content of larger libraries are known. These lists, whether they are based on inventories or wills, help us determine not only what women read, but also, as Edith Snook notes, how they wanted to present themselves. Indeed, in her essay on the private library of Elizabeth Isham, Snook calls the booklist a form of life writing or “ego document,” a source that can tell us something about women’s senses of identity, particularly for noble women whose profile was of necessity at least to some degree public.

In his chapter in the collection Women’s Bookscapes, Joseph Black predicted that “Unpublished early modern booklists will … continue to turn up” (219). A few months ago, I was delighted to receive a message from Tim Couzens, who offered to share with us and our readers two lists of books that he has found in the papers of Lady Dorothy Long housed at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Though he will be editing and publishing these lists more fully soon, we get here an advance look at the contents. The lists were evidently drawn up to facilitate their placement in the household, as they are books to be put on “the high shelf,” some of them grouped among the “little books to be put on the high shelf.” Whether the “high shelf” indicates that they needed to be placed out of reach or were stored where they were not readily accessible is unclear.

Lady Dorothy Long, née Leche (c. 1620-1710) was married in around 1640 to Sir James Long, second Baronet (1617-1692), a politician. The couple lived in their estate at Draycot, Wiltshire. Sir James had fought on the side of the royalists in the Civil Wars, but nonetheless, according to biographer John Aubrey, befriended Oliver Cromwell through his interests in hawking, a lifelong passion. Aubrey lists James Long under “amici” (friends) in his Brief Lives.

Sir James Long, by an anonymous painter. Oil on canvas, feigned oval. © National Portrait Gallery, NPG 4638.

In their edition of Elizabeth Isham’s autobiographical writings, Elizabeth Clarke and Erica Longfellow mention Lady Long (“Dolly”)’s correspondence with Isham’s brother and contrast her style with that of the more sober Isham: “[Long’s] letters employ the banter of a royalist coterie, complete with nicknames and a (mocking) reference to their ‘Academy’, in a style reminiscent of the more familiar and accomplished works of Margaret Cavendish and Katherine Philips. Lady Long does display an interest in literature, particularly the salacious Ovid, but she mocks the Countess of Dysart’s serious study of Donne.” Long donated to the Ashmolean, and their Book of Benefactors describes her in much different terms, as “the pride and joy of her family and her sex … [She] showed a deep interest in primitive religions and antiquities. Her piety and great good will to this University led her to give a carved ivory crosier [head] which had belonged to Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, to this museum to be placed with the other treasures.”

Given these contrasting descriptions, it is fascinating to think, with Snook, of the two lists of books that belonged to Long as a form of life writing to counter the narratives of royalist eccentricity and piety.

Here is Tim Couzen’s transcription, along with his preliminary identifications of the books in brackets:

Little books to put ith highe Shelf. [15 July 1704, from content]

Narrative oth Fire at London [An Historical narrative of the Great and Terrible Fire of London, Sept 2nd1666. Gideon Harvey. This may be an original of the book published more generally by W. Nicoll in 1769.]

Epitome of Husbandry [The Epitome of the Art of Husbandry: comprising all necessary directions for the Improvement of it. Etc, by J.B. Gent (Joseph Blagrave), 1675.]

Flatmans Poems [Dr. Thomas Flatman (1635–1688) Fellow of the Royal Society, Poet and miniature painter. Probably Poems and Songs (1674).]

Counr Manners Legacy tos Son. [Counsellor Manners, His Last legacy to His Son: etc. Probably the first edition, published in 1673, by Josiah Dare.]

Dr Gouge Domestick dutys [Of Domesticall Duties, eight treatises etc. by William Gouge, 1622.]

Pasquin risen from ye Dead [London, 1674.]

Nat: Culverwel on ye Light of Nature [Nathaniel Culverwell (1619–1651), An elegant and learned discourse of the Light of Nature, 1652.]

The History of Joseph &c: [Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews. Probably the 1700 edition.]

Theopanila Broms Poems [William Sales’s Theophania (London, 1655) and Alexander Brome’s Poems.]

G [Gaius] Velleius Paterculus [Roman Historian (c 19BC – c AD31). There are several early editions.]

Evagoros. [Evagoros. [Two possible identifications: Paul Salzman has suggested this is Evagoras, a Romance by L.L. Gent (London, 1677). A second possibility is the Greek oration by Isocrates on the King of Salamis (Unknown edition). Given the mixture of romances, for Dorothy Long’s own use, and text books from her grandson, James, it is not possible to be certain, but the former seems much more likely.]

Bookes to put into ye High Shelfe ye 15o July 1704. 

The Countise Montgomerys Urania [romance by Mary Wroth (1587–1653), dedicated to Countess of Montgomery; the book was first published in 1621.]

Orlando Furiosa: Abraham Cowleys workes [Two separate books. The first is Orlando Furioso, an Italian epic poem of Ludovico Ariosto (1516–1532), presumably in an early, but un-named translation.  Abraham Cowley (1618–1667), was an English poet, with 14 printings of his works published between 1668 and 1721.]

Mrs Phillipes’s Verses. orinda. [Katherine Philips (1631/32–1664), known as “The Matchless Orinda,” was an Anglo-Welsh royalist poet, translator, and woman of letters. After her death, in 1667, an authorized edition of her poetry was printed entitled Poems by the Most Deservedly admired Mrs Katherine Philips, the Matchless Orinda, which included her translations of Pompee and Horace.]

Scarrons Comicall Romance [Paul Scarron (1610–1660) was a French dramatist and novelist. The Roman Comique was reworked by a number of English authors.]

The Lusiad. or Portingales His: a Poem [The Lusiads is a Portuguese epic poem written by Luis vaz de Camoes (c1524/5–1580) and first published in 1572. The date and author of the early translation is not stated.]

The warres of Justinian [The history of the warres of the Emperour Justinian in eight books: etc. Written in Greek by Procopius etc. Englished by Sir Henry Holcroft (1586–1650). Published in 1653.]

Micrographia. By Rob: Hooke [Likely to be a first edition (1665) directly from the author. The book is listed in the 1846 Draycot House contents catalogue.]

The Civell warrs of Spain [Joseph Black has identified this as Prudencio de Sandoval, The Civil Wars of Spain (published in multiple editions from 1652 to 1662) This book is also listed in the 1795 Draycot House Inventory.]

Phillipe De Comines. [An early translation from French of the Memoirs of Philippe de Commines. The usual publication date for Volume 2 is 1712.]

Cornelius Tacitus Tacitus Arriana. [The Annales of Cornelius Tacitus: The description of Germanie. Translated by Richard Greenway and Sir Henry Savile (1549–1622). Published London, 1640; Ariana is a romance by Jean Desmarets, Sieur de Saint Sorlin, originally translated in 1636.]

Of Goverment of obeydiense by Jo: Hall. [Of Government and obedience as the stand directed and determined in Scripture and reason, four books by John Hall of Richmond. London, 1654.]

Cass[andra?] Sanders on Memory &c. [The title is obscured by the fold; the first book is Cassandra the fam’d romance: the whole work: in five parts / written originally in French: now elegantly rendred into English by a person of quality. Cassandra is a translation of a romance novel by Gaultier de Coste La Calprenède, translated in 1652. Possible second work is unidentified.]

Pasquil risen from ye Dead to put higher [see above.]

Standly’s 7: wise Men &c. [Thomas Stanley (1625–1678) was an English Author and translator. The History of Philosophy, 3 volumes published in 1655, 1656, and 1660, includes the seven wise men (sages) of Greece.]

A larg print of Cardinall Richeleis House [Probably the Chateau de Richelieu, south of Chinon, Touraine, rather than the Palais Royal in Paris.]

Nero Ceazar. & ye warr of Jugurth &c: [Two separate books. The first title is possibly Nero Caesar, or Monarchy Depraved. An Historical Work, by Edmund Bolton (published 1627). The second is an early English translation of Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus). The Warre of Jugurth is by Thomas Heywood, 1608.]

The collection of books is, as Tim Couzens notes in his email to me, largely associated with her schooling of her grandsons, Sir Giles and Sir James Long (later 5th Baronet), before they went on to tutors and governors and to Oxford. But many women’s collections included works of history and politics, whether or not they used them to educate their children.

Poems by the Most Deservedly Admired Mrs Katherine Philips, Folger Shakespeare Library, P2035.

Readers of this blog will be particularly interested to see both Mary Wroth’s Urania and Katherine Philips’s Poems in the listing, and, compared with other such inventories, there are surprisingly few devotional books. Though Margaret Cavendish is missing, the presence of Philips certainly shows, much like the romance texts, an affiliation with royalist culture. Links between different books are evident: Thomas Flatman, author of a book of poems listed here, had written a dedicatory poem for Philip’s collection, and as it happens, another copy of Philips’s poems we have featured on this site (housed by the Folger Shakespeare library) was owned by Hannah Flatman, Thomas Flatman’s wife.

Generally, Long’s inventories reveal her political affiliations, her investment in learning (or teaching the boys in her family), and a wide range of interests in romance, history, philosophy, and poetry, with only minor concerns with household management and domestic advice so commonly found in women’s inventories and little in books of devotion that normally dominate such libraries. Perhaps those books were placed on the lower shelves.

We want to thank Tim for providing us with transcriptions and pictures of the two lists of books owned by Lady Dorothy Long and Sara Morrison and Anabel Loyd for permission to reproduce both the transcription and images.

Source: Wiltshire and Swindon History Center 2943B/1/35. Draft letters and notes by Lady Dorothy Long [No description] (1686-1704). 35 documents.

Further Reading

Joseph L. Black, “Women’s Libraries in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England Project.” Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation. Edited by Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Saur. University of Michigan Press, 2018. 214–229.

Elizabeth Clarke and Erica Longfellow, “Introduction to the Online Edition.” Elizabeth Isham’s Autobiographical Writings. Center for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick, 2015. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/researchcurrent/isham/texts/.

Tim Couzens, Hand of Fate: The History of the Longs, Wellesleys and the Draycot Estate in Wiltshire. ELSP, 2001.

PLRE.Folger: Private Libraries in Renaissance England. Ed. Joseph L. Black et al. Folger Shakespeare Library. https://plre.folger.edu/

Private Libraries in Renaissance England vols. 8-9 (2014–16).

Thomas Seccombe (rev. Henry Lancaster), “Long, Sir James, second baronet (bap. 1617, d. 1692), politician.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Date of access 23 Jan. 2022, <https://www-oxforddnb-com.access.authkb.kb.nl/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-16968>.

Edith Snook, “Elizabeth Isham’s ‘own Bookes’: Property, Propriety, and the Self as Library.” Women.’’ Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation. Edited by Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Saur. University of Michigan Press, 2018. 77–93.

John Suckling, Fragmenta Aurea (1658)

By Molly G. Yarn

The Rasmussen Hines Collection holds a copy of the third edition of Sir John Suckling’s works, Fragmenta Aurea (1658), with a complex and interesting #herbook provenance.

The first dated inscription in this copy is that of “Anne Boyle,” 1673. Although not a terribly unusual name, several other inscriptions in the volume, including the names “Coote” and a cut-off “Blesinton,” allow us to identify Anne confidently as Lady Anne Coote Boyle (1658–1725), Viscountess Blessington. Anne was the daughter of Charles Coote, the second Earl of Mountrath (1628–1672) and Alyce Meredith. Anne’s grandfather Charles, first Earl of Mountrath (a brutal soldier and rapacious acquirer of Irish land, and by all accounts a ruthless oppressor of Irish Catholics), led Parliamentary forces in Ireland and served in the protectorate parliaments but managed, with his ally Roger Boyle (Lord Broghill and the future Earl of Orrery), to switch sides, offering his support to Charles II prior to the Restoration and becoming Earl of Mountrath for his efforts. Coote’s son Charles, the second Earl and Anne’s father, outlived his father by only ten years and seems not to have been a significant political player; however, the Cootes were major Protestant landowners with several large ironworks and strongly positioned for success after the Stuarts returned.[1] In 1672, the same year as her father’s death, Anne Coote married Murrough Boyle (c. 1645–1718), a member of the powerful Boyle clan and cousin to Mountrath’s ally Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery. The following year, Murrough Boyle became the first Viscount Blessington (originally spelled “Blesinton”). In addition to Anne’s 1673 signature, this ornate signature several pages later, which appears to read “A Blesint—,” is likely also hers.

Murrough Boyle, Viscount Blessington, was a man with literary ambitions – he was the author of a tragic play entitled The Lost Princess, which a critic described as “truly contemptible” (Doyle, “Boyle, Murrough”). As a member of the Boyle family, he also had numerous literary connections that make this copy of Fragmenta Aurea’s provenance particularly interesting. Roger Boyle, first Earl of Orrery, was himself an accomplished author and friend to many writers, including John Suckling himself. One of Suckling’s poems in Fragmenta Aurea, “Ballade upon a Wedding,” may have been written to commemorate Roger Boyle’s marriage to Margaret Howard. Orrery and his siblings – Richard Boyle, second Earl of Cork, and his wife, Elizabeth Clifford, Katherine Boyle Jones, Lady Ranelagh, Mary Boyle Rich, Countess of Warwick, Robert Boyle, the chemist, and Francis Boyle, first Viscount Shannon, and his wife Elizabeth Killigrew, sister of writers William and Thomas Killigrew – were all, in their own rights, major figures in the English literary and intellectual circles of the mid to late seventeenth century.[2]

In her discussion of the Boyle women’s life writing, Ann-Maria Walsh emphasizes the significance of dynastic marriages to the Protestant “New English” families of landowners in Ireland, and Murrough and Anne’s marriage sits within a complex and shifting network of alliances. Anne’s grandfather, Charles Coote, was allied with Roger Boyle, the first Earl of Orrery; they served together as two of the three lord justices of Ireland in 1660. In this context, a marriage between the two families makes sense. Murrough Boyle, however, came with his own set of baggage. He was the son of Michael Boyle, archbishop of Dublin and the lord chancellor of Ireland. Although Michael Boyle and his father had benefited from the influence of their more powerful cousins, particularly the earls of Cork, Michael Boyle married the Hon. Mary O’Brien in the 1640s. Mary was the sister of Murrough O’Brien, the first Earl of Inchiquin and a long-time enemy of Orrery. Michael Boyle aligned himself with the O’Briens, even serving as Inchiquin’s emissary during delicate negotiations. The Inchiquin-Orrery feud is too complex to detail here; however, the two men decided to make peace during the late 1660s, cementing their friendship with a marriage between Orrery’s daughter Margaret and Inchiquin’s son William in 1665. Orrery’s son Henry would also marry Inchiquin’s daughter Mary in 1679. The 1672 marriage between Anne Coote, daughter of a close Orrery ally, and Murrough Boyle, cousin of Orrery and nephew of Inchiquin, whose branch of the Boyles had recently been reconciled with the Cork/Orrery branch, fits into this pattern of dynastic and political alliances.[3] The personal connection between Orrery and Suckling, particularly the link between Orrery’s own wedding and one of the volume’s poems, make this book a remarkably evocative item for Anne to have acquired, or at least inscribed, the year of her own marriage into the Boyle family.

The Coote connection links Anne to another interesting woman-owned book, which has been described by Kate Lilley. Anne Tighe Coote was the wife of Anne Coote Boyle’s second cousin Thomas and the owner of a 1669 edition of Katharine Phillips’ Poems. Her copy, now held at the National Art Library at the V&A, includes a transcription of a poem entitled “The Teares of the Consort for Mr Tighe Writt by My Lord Blessington 1679,” signed by “Ann: Tighe: August ye 26th 1680.” “Mr Tighe” was Anne Tighe’s first husband, William, who died in 1679; “My Lord Blessington” was, of course, Murrough Boyle, Anne Coote Boyle’s husband. Anne Tighe owned the book before her marriage into the Coote-Boyle family in 1680 (the monogram on the binding, “ANTIGHE,” indicates that it was likely bound, or at least stamped, during her marriage to William Tighe, 1675–1679), but the choice to inscribe it with Murrough Boyle’s poem seems deliberate, a nod to her future husband’s family connections and, likely, an indication that Anne Tighe developed a personal relationship with Anne and Murrough Boyle. Katharine Phillips was closely involved with the Boyle circles – she dedicated various poems to Elizabeth Boyle, Countess of Cork, and her daughters, and the Earl of Orrery wrote one of the volume’s commendatory poems. Clearly, Anne Tighe was aware of the Boyle family’s patronage of Phillips, and this inscription reflects, in Lilley’s words, “a complex web of associations” similar, and related to, the one found in the Coote-Boyle copy of Suckling (121).

Anne Boyle may have only kept Fragmenta Aurea for about a year of her married life. By 1673, some time after she and Murrough became Viscountess and Viscount Blessington (as indicated by the “ABlesint” signature) she had passed it along to a new owner, at least temporarily – “Coote” is written on the dedication page and, although it has been scratched out, “Charles Coote His Booke 1673” appears opposite the title page of The Last Remains of John Suckling.

[Image enhanced with retroreveal.]

Taking the date into account, this Charles Coote was most likely Anne’s brother, the third Earl of Mountrath. Like his brother-in-law Blessington, Coote supported Hugh Capel and experienced a brief rise in his political fortunes during the mid 1690s, then a fall into irrelevance.

The signature below Charles’s throws an additional curve ball: “Elizabeth Adshead her booke 169-.” Unfortunately, the binding hides the final digit of Elizabeth’s date, but, if accurate, this suggests that Charles Coote had passed the book along by 1699 at the latest. Based on this, and the loss at the edges, the copy was trimmed and bound sometime after c. 1700.

The matching lower-case “th” in “Elizabeth,” “tho,” and “that” suggests that Elizabeth herself wrote something like “the man is bleest that” below her signature. I have been unable to identify Elizabeth Adshead. A large Adshead family is associated with Cheshire, but I see no links between them and the Coote-Boyles. The line below offers another clue:

[Image enhanced with retroreveal]

It appears to read “alizabeth kinder her,” but there is certainly room for interpretation in that transcription. The similarity between the “d” in Adshead and in “kinder” inclines me to think that Elizabeth Adshead wrote all three lines. If it is a name, perhaps it is her maiden name? It could also be a continuation of the quotation (if such it is) on the line above: “______ hath hinder her,” maybe?

If Charles Coote was the book’s owner until the 1690s, his family’s fortunes could explain how the book ended up with a new owner. As a Protestant supporter of William and Mary, Charles Coote’s estates were forfeited during the Jacobite-Williamite War (1688–1691), although they were restored and enlarged after William’s victory. Many large houses belonging to Williamites were looted. The Coote family supposedly experienced “considerable deprivation” during the War, with Coote’s wife, Isabella, dying “out of grief, pawning her last ring” (Doyle, “Coote, Charles”). The book, along with many of his other belongings, could have left his possession during that period. One more inscription in the book, however, may hint at another owner before 1689-1691:

Although partially scratched out, image manipulation reveals more details:

The date under “1672” appears to be “1679,” although it could also be “169_,” with the last digit cut off during rebinding. I am inclined toward “1679,” however, with the “7” set slightly above the “9” and connected to the “6.” Although it’s difficult to be sure, the handwriting appears to slightly resemble Anne’s above (see the similarity of the “6”); if this is the case, Charles Coote may have returned the book to his sister, who added the additional date and crossed out Charles’s inscription on the later page to reassert her ownership. In that case, a different narrative would be required to explain why the book passed out of the Coote-Boyle family’s hands. Murrough’s father, Michael Boyle, built an enormous mansion at Blessington, in County Wicklow, around the time of Anne and Murrough’s marriage, which was “plundered” in 1689 (Breffny). Perhaps it ended up in the library there? As Walsh explains, however, the Boyle women were extremely mobile, traveling to family properties across Ireland and England. The Cootes either owned or let a London house in Soho Square, where Murrough is known to have stayed with them (Barnard, 331). Either Anne, Charles, or an unknown person could have left, lost, or given away the book in any number of places around England and Ireland, making the timeline of its ownership quite murky.

Speaking of an unknown person, however, if 1679/169_ does not belong with Anne’s inscription, it may be associated with the partially lost text beneath it. That handwriting, in combination with the forceful erasure, is challenging, but I’m currently inclined to read it as “Lord” and something like “Peiret”; if this rings a bell with anyone, I’d be very happy to hear from you!

Source: Rasmussen Hines Collection. Photos by Molly G. Yarn, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Toby Christopher Barnard, Making the Grand Figure: Lives and Possessions in Ireland, 1641-1770 (Yale University Press, 2004).

Brian de Breffny, “The Building of the Mansion at Blessington, 1672,” The GPA Irish Arts Review Yearbook, 1988, 73–77.

T.J. Doyle, “Boyle, Murrough,” Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009 <doi.org/10.3318/dib.000851.v1>

T.J. Doyle, “Coote, Charles,” Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009 <doi.org/10.3318/dib.002019.v1>.

Kate Lilley, “Katherine Philips, ‘Philo-Philippa’ and the Poetics of Association.” Material Cultures of Early Modern Women’s Writing, ed. by Patricia Pender and Rosalind Smith (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), pp. 118–39.

Jane H. Ohlmeyer, Making Ireland English: The Irish Aristocracy in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).

Ana-Maria Walsh, “The Boyle Women and Familial Life Writing.” Women’s Life Writing and Early Modern Ireland, ed. by Julie A. Eckerle and Naomi McAreavey, Women and Gender in the Early Modern World (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2019), pp. 79–98.


[1] For the Coote-Boyle clan’s involvement in 17th century politics, see (among many others) Ohlmeyer.

[2] See individual entries in the ODNB and the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

[3] There are documents related to the negotiation of their marriage and to Murrough Boyle’s financial affairs in the De Vesci papers at the National Library of Ireland [MS 38,748/4; MS 38,831/1-2; MS 38,837].

Vander Sterre, Het Leven van den H. Norbertus (1623)

Jesuit abbot Johannes Chrysostomus vander Sterre first published his biography of St. Norbert of Xanten in Latin in 1622, exactly 40 years after the saint’s canonization by Pope Gregory XIII. The book saw a Dutch translation the following year, a copy of which is featured in this post. St. Norbert of Xanten was ordained as a priest in 1115 and founded a monastery at Prémontré which became the seat of the Premonstratensian order of Canons regular. He was made archbishop of Magdeburg in 1126 and was instrumental in securing King Lothair III’s defense of Pope Innocent II, whose claim to the papacy was challenged by Anacletus II, the Antipope.

The copy featured here has the ownership inscriptions of two early Dutch female readers. The first reads “Desen boek hoort Aen theresia ver achteren Anno 1721” (This book belongs To theresia ver achteren the year 1721) and is partly obscured in the image by a portion of old musical manuscript binding waste.

An earlier interior inscription on a blank divisional page reads: “DESEN BOECK HOORT TOE MARIA QVINION ANNO i647.” Beneath it, someone, perhaps a child, has copied DESEN in red pencil and made curlicues that almost appear to be in the shape of a bird. The same red pencil appears on the verso, echoing “boeck,” “desen,” and “hoort.”

Despite their distinctive names and bold inscriptions, the women remain unidentified so far. We might tentatively conclude that Maria Quinion was the book’s second owner given the 25-year gap between the original publication date and her inscription date. However, it is equally possible that Maria owned the book earlier and did not inscribe it until 1647. We might also assume that Theresia ver Achteren modeled her later inscription on Maria’s given the same phrase “Desen boeck hoort” and inclusion of a date for her ownership inscription.

Source: Book offered for sale by ElevenEleven Books, Inc. in October 2021. Images used with permission.

Citations

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Saint Norbert of Xanten.” Encyclopedia Britannica, June 2, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Norbert-of-Xanten.

Richard Barckley, A Discourse of the Felicitie of Man (1598)

Sir Richard Barckley, a knight about whom no biographical information exists, first published the commonplace book A Discourse of the Felicitie of Man, or, His Summun Bonum in 1598. The text was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I and was popular enough to see a “newly corrected and augmented” second edition in 1603 and a reissue by playwright Thomas Heywood in 1631. It serves as a philosophical and metaphysical meditation and advice book on the subject of happiness.

The copy featured here is in a contemporary triple-ruled binding with a blind-tooled centerpiece with scrollwork. The earliest known owner is a “John Mablon in Huggin Lane,” whose inscription appears on a front endpaper. The later name of “Elizabeth Dirdo” is written on the title page verso in a ca. seventeenth-century hand.

Like the author of the book she owned, Elizabeth Dirdo eludes identification. At least one other book with the inscription “Elizabeth Dirdo” survives, a 1640 edition of Sir Richard Baker’s Meditations and Disquisitions upon the Seven Penitentiall Psalmes, now Folger Shakespeare Library STC 1228. Dirdo, also spelled Dirdoe or Durdo, is an uncommon surname. Though limited, these two examples of her book ownership suggest an interest in religious texts.

Source: Book sold by Lux & Umbra Fine and Rare Books on 1 July 2021. Images used with permission.

Citations

Richard Barckley. Oxford Reference. Retrieved 11 Sep. 2021, from https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095446402.

Simon Patrick, Advice to a Friend (1673)

By Brenda Collins

This blog provides a useful outlet for the publication and exchange of information about the increasing complexity of findings of female book owners. It enables connections at an individual level to be made between time, space and place and these connections can sometimes be used in the interpretation of other events in the owners’ lives. In the case reviewed here, a book in the collections of the Armagh Robinson Library, Mark Empey interprets the two ownership signatures on the title page of Simon Patrick Advice to a Friend (1673) as those of a woman, Hellena (Helen, Ellen) Rawdon and her brother-in-law Edward Rawdon (see blog here). But I suggest that the E. Rawdon signatory on Hellena Rawdon’s book is Elizabeth Rawdon, Countess of Moira (1731-1808) whose husband was Helen’s grandson and therefore great-grandson of George and Dorothy Rawdon née Conway.

Source: Image reproduced by kind permission of the Governors and Guardians of Armagh Robinson Library.

Patrick’s book forms part of a collection originating within the Conway family. Though the first viscount Conway had a book collection, it was the second viscount, Edward (1594-1655) who had deep interests in the acquisition and ownership of books. Conway never inscribed the books with a signature nor were they annotated in the margins; however, a number of books contain signatures or initials of Rawdon descendants of the third viscount, later earl, of Conway (1623-1683) – George Rawdon’s son Arthur, daughter-in-law Hellena, their son, John, grandson John, first earl of Moira and of his wife, Elizabeth, spanning the period from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth century.  Thus, a book published in 1673 with a signature of Hellena Rawdon can form part of the Conway collection. There is no evidence that Arthur Rawdon’s elder brother, Edward, who died in his early 20s, owned or inscribed any of his grandfather Conway’s books, and his signature, habitually, was an abbreviation of his first name.

Signature of Edward Rawdon. Letter to his mother dated Apr 9 1675. HA15641, Hastings Collection, Huntington Library, California

Hellena and her husband Arthur Rawdon, together with their son John and grandson John all signed books with Conway’s crest as well as books of their own acquisition. Grandson John Rawdon married his third wife, Elizabeth Hastings, in 1752, and they became the earl and countess of Moira in 1762. The E in the signature of E Moira (in a letter from the Countess of Moira in 1782) seems very similar to that of the E inscribed on the book by Simon Patrick. This suggests that Elizabeth Rawdon inscribed her signature on the Patrick book before she became the countess of Moira. 

Tracing of signature of Elizabeth, Countess of Moira. Letter to Bishop of Dromore, 7 December 1782. Granard Papers T3765/J, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Many other Conway/Rawdon books in the Robinson Library are signed by the countess of Moira with the letter M (Moira) at the head or foot of the title page, which would only have been possible after her husband’s ennoblement. Elizabeth Rawdon, née Hastings, viewed any ancestral entitlements highly and valued her Conway connection. For all the Rawdons, the signatures provided endorsement of the connection that they felt had been wrongfully denied. Emphasis on tracing the family connections between the ownership of Advice to a Friend by a seventeenth-century woman and her grandson’s wife should not be allowed to obscure their intellectual capabilities. Hellena Rawdon was scholarly with a breadth of interests; other books in the Robinson Library with her signature include several on botany and on garden design, a passion shared with her husband, Arthur.[1] The countess of Moira also had a scholarly upbringing and interests which she demonstrated in later life.[2] She led intellectual soirées in Dublin in the 1780s and 1790s and was a patron and friend of a wide range of literary, cultural and political figures in Ireland and in Britain. For both women, the printed word provided access to knowledge beyond their immediate environments, which was of benefit in their everyday lives.

Source: Book in the Armagh Robinson Library. Images reproduced with permission.

[1] E. Charles Nelson, “Sir Arthur Rawdon (1662-1695) of Moira: His life and letters, family and friends, and his Jamaican plants,” Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society Vol.10, 2nd series 1977/8–1981/2, 30-52.

[2] ‘Rawdon, Elizabeth (1731-1808), countess of Moira, literary patroness, and amateur antiquarian’, Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Mr. William Shakespear’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1685)

By V. M. Braganza

Title page of the Fourth Folio of Mr. William Shakespear’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1685), up for auction at Christie’s as part of the Theodore B. Baum sale in September 2021.

But this rough magic
I here abjure, and when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.

Shakespeare, The Tempest (5.1.59-66)

You are what you read—at least, that’s how I have always understood the feeling of dissolving into a book. Books absorb us into their pages: we feel our edges blur and disappear. The world goes away, until reality breaks the charm and we resurface and reappear among the living.

Except when we don’t. Sometimes, those who are forgotten by history live on only in the books they left behind, fathoms beneath our memory of the past. That is exactly what happened to Charlotte Rowe (1718-1739), daughter of Nicholas Rowe, England’s fourth Poet Laureate and the first editor of Shakespeare’s works. Charlotte Rowe was swallowed by a book. In fact, she disappeared into the Fourth Folio of Shakespeare’s plays (1685).

Rowe’s signature on recto of the frontispiece leaf. The shadow of the intaglio portrait of Shakespeare on the verso is visible to the keen eye.

Charlotte is concealed by Shakespeare both historically and literally. If there’s a place one would least expect to find her name inscribed, it’s in Poets’ Corner, the most iconic pilgrimage site for lovers of English literature—yet there she is. Anyone who explores Westminster Abbey in London will soon find themselves in an alcove in the south transept crammed with tombs and memorials to some of the greatest English writers. In this part of the cathedral, there’s hardly an inch of space that isn’t carved with famous names. A visitor can’t take so much as a step without trodding on Charles Dickens or coming nose to nose with Geoffrey Chaucer. Even after the inscriptions had carpeted the stone floor and climbed up the marble walls, names began appearing in the stained-glass windows too. Poet’ Corner is one of the most magical places a passionate reader can find herself. The stone itself is alive, and one of its most electrifying features is an elaborate monument to Shakespeare.

The monument to Shakespeare in Poets’ Corner. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Drawn in by the sheer prominence of Shakespeare’s statue, most visitors don’t notice what sits just a few feet away. Next door is the tomb of Nicholas Rowe, which includes a memorial to his daughter, Charlotte.

The most prominent figures in the Rowe monument are a bust of Rowe and a symbolic statue of a mourning woman holding an open book. A carving of Charlotte in profile in a round frame hovers diffidently in the background. Even though it sits directly within view, it would easily escape the casual observer’s notice.

This only surviving portrait of Charlotte reflects the apparent position of many women. They hover in the background, metaphorically and spatially. Where their names survive, they play second fiddle to men’s names and achievements. And, too often, we can barely get a clear enough view of them to put a face to the name. The tiny glimpse we get of Charlotte raises more questions than answers.

Charlotte was born in 1718, the same year her father died. She never knew him personally, yet she owned a copy of Shakespeare’s Fourth Folio. Nicholas Rowe based his 1709 edition of Shakespeare primarily on the Fourth Folio which, at the time, was the most recently published version of the plays. It was also highly inaccurate, containing substantially different texts to those published in Shakespeare’s time and the First Folio (1623). Modern editors, who regard Shakespeare’s language as almost sacred, aim to recover it as accurately as possible. Today, the Fourth Folio’s differences are damning.

But that’s not how many of Rowe’s contemporaries would have seen it. From the late seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, writers and editors often took a liberty that would horrify Bardolaters today: they rewrote Shakespeare. Unthinkable though it seems to us, it wasn’t uncommon for Shakespeareans to take it upon themselves to ‘improve’ the plays. Nahum Tate, the Poet Laureate before Rowe, was put off by the unbearably tragic ending of King Lear—so he simply rewrote the play to give it a happy ending. In fact, it was Tate’s version, in which Lear and his beloved daughter Cordelia survive, and not Shakespeare’s original which ends in both characters’ deaths, that was performed on the English stage from 1681 until the mid-nineteenth century. For more than a hundred years, Shakespeare’s King Lear wasn’t Shakespeare’s King Lear!

In some ways, Rowe was ahead of his time. He pioneered many editorial features of Shakespeare’s plays that we take for granted: he divided the plays into five acts each, added stage directions, and included a Dramatis Personae, or list of characters, at the beginning of each play. He also claimed that he had compared “several Editions” to reproduce as nearly as possible “the Exactness of the Author’s Original Manuscripts.” In reality, his edition shows that he simply followed the Fourth Folio, and even included several plays incorrectly attributed to Shakespeare. But, in a time of Tates who freely abridged Shakespeare’s works, it was the thought that counted. Rowe was the first to express a desire to recover the author’s own versions—and Shakespeare’s original words have been pearls which editors have sought ever since.

That the daughter whom Rowe never met owned a copy of the Fourth Folio raises some unanswerable questions. Was this inscribed book her father’s copy, perhaps inherited after his death? Did Charlotte long to know more about the father she would never meet? And how might such a desire have driven her interest in Shakespeare? How would she have read a play like King Lear, in which death thwarts a reunion between a father and daughter? And is there a copy of Rowe’s 1709 six-volume edition with his daughter’s signature still waiting to be found—or have these volumes been drowned in the tides of time if they ever existed at all?

On these questions, Charlotte’s copy of the Fourth Folio is as silent as the grave. The book contains no further substantial annotations beyond her signature. Charlotte herself died at the age of twenty-one, giving birth to a daughter, Charlotte Fane (1739-1762), who would die, in her turn, at the age of twenty-three. The bare skeleton of these facts survives to tantalize us with truths we many never conjure from the pages of books. Charlotte’s Fourth Folio whispers,

Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

The Tempest (1.2.474–479)

So Shakespeare seemed to Rowe—so Rowe might have seemed to Charlotte. So Charlotte appears to us.

The best historical writing makes the past and its inhabitants come alive. But what are we to do with those individuals who have undergone a sea change into something strange and elusive? Many women’s histories exist but remain undiscovered—but even more have been reduced to flickers and flashes, as indistinct as water is in water. In the face of large-scale social inequity and subsequent historical neglect, women have disappeared into the books they owned and read. As a result, rare books are some of the most evocative places we can look for and attempt to discover them. When we do so, whether as historians or curious readers, we seek the pearls of great price that humankind has unwisely thrown away: the books and people time’s tempests have submerged.

Many heartfelt thanks go to Rhiannon Knol for showing me this book and, as ever, to the members of the Books and Manuscripts Division at Christie’s, for their warm and wonderful support.

Source: Book offered for sale by Christie’s, September 14, 2021. All images reproduced with permission.

Richard Allestree, The Ladies Calling (1673)

This copy of a second edition of Richard Allestree’s The Ladies Calling has an interesting set of marks showing a rich history of ownership. Allestree’s books have been featured repeatedly on this blog, showing the special interest of female readers in his conduct manual with its sections on modesty, meekness, compassion, piety, and other feminine virtues as well as, in the second part, explanations of expectations for virgins, wives, and widows.

This particular copy was clearly a treasured book, as its beautiful morocco binding and gold decorations suggest.

The foredge features additional decoration with angels’ faces and flowers.

The title pages, endpaper, and flyleaves of the book show both women and men read it and wanted to mark their ownership. The title page has been marked by a woman named Elice Christmas, whose hand suggest a later date.

Inside the book, there are two male bookplates, the first of which tells us the book belonged at some point to Harry Lawrence Bradfer Lawrence (1887-1965), an antiquarian and book collector.

The page preceding and the page featuring the frontispiece provide us with names of three previous owners. The bookplate tells us it belonged to Sir Edward Wilmot (1693-1786), a physician and later baronet from Derby. A woman named Mary Pooley wrote her inscription above the frontispiece.

Perhaps most interestingly, the third inscription shows evidence of female gift giving: “Mrs Chathrine Orson her book Given her by Mrs Cathrine Buttler anno Domini 1698.”

The use of “Mrs” for both owner and gift giver hints at a kind of formality, perhaps indicative of their relationship. But it also suggests that this inscription serves less as a personal moment in that relationship, and instead hints at an awareness of the fact that others will read it. As the reader records that one “Mrs” had given the book to another, she seems to be making a public self-representation of her own status and that of her friend that can be read alongside the book’s content. Both she and her friend, the inscription suggests, meet the expectations set by Allestree for proper, married womanhood.

Book offered for sale by Wisdompedlars, sold on 11/29/2020. Images reproduced with permission.