Hammond, A Paraphrase and Annotations upon the Books of the Psalms (1659)

The sex of a book-owner is easy enough to determine with a full name. However, plenty of owners throughout Western book history have used initials or a first initial followed by a surname to sign their books. Oftentimes we assume these owners are men, but we sacrifice a more accurate and nuanced picture of book ownership and reading in the early modern period when we default to assumptions of maleness or whiteness.

There are several examples of early women book owners signing books and other documents using only initials. Discussing Elizabeth Puckering (1621/2–1689), David McKitterick says, “More often, and more consistently, she placed her initials ‘EP’ just above or to the side of the beginning of the first line of the text — either the main text or sometimes the preface.” Likewise, Anne Wolferstan, granddaughter of famous bibliophile Frances Wolfreston, initialed her copy of the Satires of Juvenal and Persius “A W” on the title page. Other initialers include Mary Astell, Mary Bankes, Frances Egerton, Sophia Hamilton, and Anne Hyde, Duchess of York (Book Owners Online). Mary Dormer, Countess of Carnarvon (1655–1709), utilized armorial bindings with her initials MC and also inscribed books “M Carnarvon” (BOO). Still other owners like Anne Fanshawe had armorial binding stamps, sans any initials. Elizabeth Talbot Grey’s bindings are distinguished by a Talbot hound with a lolling tongue and smartly curling tail.

In February 2022, I was browsing antiquarian books on eBay when my eye was caught by an unassuming copy of Henry Hammond’s Annotations on the Psalms. As far as seventeenth-century books go, it is common. Dozens of 1659 copies are reported to the ESTC Online and at any given time a copy or two can usually be found for sale on eBay or AbeBooks.

What drew my eye was the inscription on the half-title page: “L Huntingdon. April 1st 1666.” It tickled my memory. For no reason that I could discern, I thought, This is a woman’s inscription. I bought the book, convinced I’d stumbled on something important and unwilling to let it disappear.

It wasn’t long before I recalled Rosalind Smith and Kathy Acheson’s “Women and Marginalia in English Printed Books” seminar at the 2021 virtual Shakespeare Association of America conference. Diana Barnes had presented a wonderful paper on Lucy Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon’s elegiac manuscript poem from her copy of Lachrymae Musarum, a volume of poetry which commemorates her son Henry Hastings, heir to the earldom.

Lucy Hastings was born to Eleanor (née Touchet) and John Davies in 1613. Davies was a politician and poet whose works won the attention of Queen Elizabeth I, while Eleanor was an ardent Protestant who became infamous for publishing pamphlet prophecies from 1625 to her death in 1652. One, From the Lady Eleanor, Her Blessing, to Her Beloved Daughter the Right Honorable Lucy, Countesse of Huntingdon (1622), was addressed to Lucy. With such parents, it is not surprising that Lucy was well-educated. The famed educator and writer Bathsua Makin was her tutor and instructed her in divinity and languages, which included “Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Spanish” (Stevenson & Davidson 246).

In 1623, Lucy was married to fourteen-year-old Ferdinando Hastings when she was approximately eleven years old. The marriage was probably not consummated until she was around seventeen, as Henry, their first child, was not born until ca. 1630.

Lachrymae Musarum, consisting of 39 elegies by male poets minor and major, including Andrew Marvell and Charles Cotton, was published after Henry died of smallpox in 1649. Notably, John Dryden’s first published poem also appears in the volume. The Huntington Library’s copy of the book (RB102354) belonged to Lucy and once contained her manuscript poem on a front flyleaf, which is now detached and stored separately. The poem is in italic script and signed “L H.”

This manuscript’s significance as a poem by Lucy Hastings in her hand was first noted in 1952 by H.T. Swedenberg. In it, she laments her son’s death through imagery of bowels, clay, canker, and dust.

Other examples of Lucy’s writings survive in the Morgan Library, which holds her handwritten bond for £200 dated 3 September, 1667, and the University of Edinburgh Laing manuscript 444, which the Perdita Project describes as “Poems compiled by or for Lucy Davies (c. 1630).” Other manuscripts are held by the Huntington, which has over 50,000 items in its Hastings collection.

Lucy Hastings’ signature on the bond, Morgan Library MA 1475.16 [above]. This more formal version of her signature is similar to the one on her 1656 will at the Huntington Library [below].
The final page of MS Laing III. 444, which features two manuscript poems about a “Blackmoor” woman courting a white boy. The screenshot is from the manuscript digitized through the Perdita Project and is used only for educational purposes.

The University of Edinburgh’s manuscript, described in the Laing handlist as “The first Fifty Psalms in Verse, translated by Sir John Davies, 1624, with other Poems,” contains transcriptions of over fifty Psalms and dozens of poems by John Davies such as “A Maid’s Hymn in Praise of Virginity.” Only two poems in the volume break the Davies pattern. They are on the final page in an apparently different script, one much like Lucy’s, and indeed the initials “L H” appear in the right margin. The uppermost is Henry Rainolds’ “A Blackmoor Maid Wooing A Fair Boy” and the lowermost Henry King’s “The Boy’s Answer to the Blackmoor,” and the pair have been the subject of scholarship by Dr. Brandi K. Adams.

HAF, Box 20, Folder 8, the second of two religious “memoranda books” by Lucy Hastings at the Huntington Library. Her daughter’s ownership inscription “Eliza: Hastings” is in the center of the blank front wrapper, while Lucy’s effaced inscription “Lucy Huntingdon” is beneath. The books contain detailed notes on Bible verses from Proverbs, Ephesians, John, etc. and are in keeping with someone who would be interested in deep reading on the Psalms.

So was the L. Huntingdon who inscribed Hammond’s Annotations Lucy Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon? Huntingdon is often a peerage title, though some individuals from the early modern period like preacher John Huntingdon make clear it was surname, as well. It is also possible that Huntingdon is an alternative spelling of Huntington, a commoner surname, which could make the owner of the book L. Huntington, not Huntingdon.

However, if the Huntingdon is a peerage title rather than a last name, then it is harder to see who besides Lucy could have signed the Hammond. The Huntingdon title attaches only to the earl, his spouse, and his direct male heir (note in the image above how Lucy’s daughter signs her name Eliz: Hastings, not Eliz: Huntingdon). The book was published in 1659 and the inscription dated 1666. The only peerage-linked L. Huntingdon in 1666 would appear to be Lucy. Her husband Ferdinando Hastings, 6th Earl of Huntingdon, died in 1656 and was succeeded by their son Theophilus, born 1650, who did not begin having children himself until the 1670s. His direct heir, also named Theophilus, was not born until 1696.

If the Hammond did belong to Lucy, it is a rare example of a book owned by her; I know of no surviving specimens in institutions besides the Lachrymae Musarum. What understanding does the book bring to her life and work? Was she interested in the Psalms because of her father’s translation, piety’s sake, or both? Her memoranda books, after all, consist of detailed notes on Bible verses. Could her reading of them be connected to her son Henry’s untimely death 17 years earlier?


While the book is not heavily annotated, there are a few marginal references and corrections toward the front of the book, suggesting a close reading. What might such marginalia suggest? Is it in Lucy’s hand or one of her children’s?

The contemporary calf binding of the Hammond is worn, but close inspection reveals a blind rule with stamped corner-pieces on each board, as well as blind-tooled spine compartments. While not a fine binding by any stretch, it would have suited a woman of Lucy’s station.

I welcome readers’ thoughts on whether they believe the book was owned by Lucy Hastings and, if so, how they might contextualize it.

Source: Book in ownership of blog author. Other images featured with permission. My thanks to Martine Van Elk, Philip Palmer, and Danielle Clarke for assisting in my research for this blog.

Further reading

Brink, Jean R. “Royalist Correspondent: Lucy Davies Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews 5 (2–3: Renaissance Studies), 1992: 61–63.

“Lucy Hastings, née Davies, Countess of Huntingdon (b. 1613).” In Early Modern Women Poets: An Anthology, edited by Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson, 246–247. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

O’Donnell, Mary Ann. “Hastings Family Tree, 1381-1874” in “A Survey of the Poetry Collection in Manuscript of the Noble Family of Huntingdon.” Harvard Library Bulletin 28 (3), Fall 2017: v–vi.

John Fletcher, The Tragoedy of Rollo Duke of Normandy (1640)

Today’s book will make its appearance in the forthcoming Spring 2023 Focus on Women sale by Swann Galleries, who have generously allowed it to be previewed here.

Printed in Oxford, The Tragoedy of Rollo is attributed to John Fletcher, although its true authorship has been the subject of scholarly debate. It first appeared in print in 1639 as The Bloody Brother, its text was from a different quarto. John E. Curran, Jr. attributes the play to Fletcher, Philip Massinger, “and probably some others,” while the English Short Title Catalogue suggests that it was probably written by Fletcher and Ben Jonson, then revised by Massinger. Similarly, R. Garnett argued in 1905 that Act IV, Scene II was penned by Jonson. Although the play was included in the Second Folio of Beaumont and Fletcher (1679), Fletcher’s frequent collaborator did not participate in its writing. Others have proposed that George Chapman was one of its writers, or that Fletcher merely revised the play.

Whatever the truth, we can be sure that the playbook’s owners were more focused on plot than author. The titular character is based on the real-life Rollo, a Viking and the first ruler of Normandy. Rollo’s descendants were known as the Normans, who of course famously conquered England in 1066. Fletcher (and / or whoever else wrote the play) gives Rollo a fictional brother, Otto, with whom he wrestles for control of the kingdom. After a brief reconciliation between the two gives way to suspicion and tension, Rollo murders Otto in front of their mother and has several of Otto’s supporters killed. Rollo is ultimately killed by Hamond, captain of his guard, after ordering the execution of Hamond’s brother Allan, and his kinsman Lord Aubrey ascends to the dukedom.

The recto of the first blank leaf is signed “Grace Jefferson’s Book 1696” along the upper edge. Beneath it, later owner Thomas Pennington has tried four different versions of his signature, the first dated 1710. The book later belonged to the Legh family of Norbury Booths Hall, whose armorial bookplate on the front pastedown is dated 1826. The book may have entered the family’s library during Peter Legh’s lifetime, as he lived until 1857. It was owned most recently by collector Kenneth Rapaport.

Like so many women who inscribed books, Grace Jefferson is unidentified, but demonstrates seventeenth-century women’s interest in drama.

Source: Book to be offered for sale by Swann Auction Galleries in Spring 2023. Images used with permission.

Margaret Cavendish, Poems, and Fancies: Written by the Right Honourable, The Lady Newcastle (1653)

When this book was first published in 1653, Dorothy Osborne wrote to her sweetheart William Temple: “a book of poems newly come out, made by my Lady Newcastle … they say ’tis ten times more Extravagant than her dress.”[1] This rather “catty” remark concerned Margaret Lucas Cavendish, wife of William Cavendish, marquess of Newcastle. Margaret had married her much older husband in Paris in 1645 where she was serving as a maid of honor at the court of exiled Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. As part of the company of royalist exiles, the Cavendishes lived mainly in Antwerp where Margaret had time to write (and presumably to experiment with her wardrobe creations). In 1651 when she traveled back to London to try to recoup some of her husband’s estates, she took her poems with her and arranged to have them published. This was her first book in print.

For Margaret, poetry was a continuing process, and seeing her works in print often led to further corrections–some of which she made herself in copies of her own books before giving them as gifts and others made by herself or the printers in subsequent editions. This 1653 edition of Poems, and Fancies was the first of three, appearing in 1664 and 1668. But the 1653 edition itself occurs with variations, and the particular copy here belongs to the third variant, where her ‘royalist’ title on the title page has been reduced from “Countess” to simply “Lady,” a nod to the times under Cromwell’s Protectorate.[2]

The first owner of this copy to sign her name on the title page was Elizabeth Pain, inscribing the date as “13th January 16[?]3.” It’s tantalizing that an ink blot prevents us from knowing the exact year. We do know that the book was published early in 1653, but was Elizabeth one of its first owners, or did she acquire it ten or twenty years after the book was published? And who was Elizabeth Pain? There are many Pain, Pains, Paynes, etc. in seventeenth-century England and some in America. Was she the wife of William Payne of Essex, clergyman, ultimately prebendary of Westminster, who married Elisabeth Squire in 1675? There is no indication that they had any children, but the substantial library came up for auction in 1698 and 1699. More likely she was from a family that spelled their name “Pain” or “Paine,” since the subsequent owners, “Elias Harry Paine and Mary Paine, their book 1747” use that spelling. The family might have been in New England, since the proceeds of this sale are to benefit Historic Deerfield, and the book may just have stayed on this side of the Atlantic.

Whatever the case, Elizabeth Pain staked out her ownership right below “The Lady Newcastle” on the title page, a practice followed by other women book owners who sometimes seem to make a point of attaching their name to that of another woman associated with a book. For example, several copies of Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia have women’s inscriptions on the page dedicating the book to his sister, Lady Mary Sidney.

The later inscription by Harry and Mary Paine suggests that the book came down in the family, a frequent occurrence, making them more than books but objects that carry an accrued genealogy. Joint ownership marks by husband and wife are not uncommon in seventeenth-century books, and extend into the eighteenth century as well, but the particular inscription here “thair book” suggests, as Katharine Acheson has written about another book, “not only their shared investment in the content of the book, but a quality of their relationship which enables them to share possessions within the marriage.”[3] In other words, the inscription suggests a companionate marriage in which husband and wife might have enjoyed reading aloud to each other. Margaret herself had such a relationship with William who was also an author.

This particular copy of Cavendish’s Poems holds yet another layer of meaning, since it was sold by “a Lady”–a designation that sounds vaguely quaint since it was used frequently in bygone book auctions and is obviously still used to protect the privacy of an owner. (Sometimes, “property of a Gentleman” is also found.) Women have collected books for a very long time–recorded in Europe since at least the fourteenth century­–but they often found it difficult to enter the predominantly white, male society of bibliophiles with the ambiance of a gentleman’s club. That began to change with major collectors such as Lisa Unger Baskin (books and ephemera by and about women and their work); Mary P. Massey (herbals); Caroline Schimmel (women in America), and many, many others, including young women who are now being encouraged to take up collecting by the Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize.[4] No doubt Margaret would have been pleased to find another one of her books in the company of women.

The beautiful binding is a modern creation by skilled American binder Philip Dusel who specializes in re-creating seventeenth- and eighteenth-century styles.

Source: Book offered for sale by Christies on December 7, 2022. Images reproduced with permission.


[1] Letter 18. Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple (1652-1654), edited by Edward Abbott Parry (London: Dutton, 1888), https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/osborne/letters/letters.html.

[2] On these editions see Liza Blake, Textual and Editorial Introduction to Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies: A digital critical edition. http://library2.utm.utoronto.ca/poemsandfancies/textual-and-editorial-introduction/.

[3] Katherine Acheson, “The Occupation of the Margins: Writing, Space, and Early Modern Women,” in Acheson, ed. Early Modern English Marginalia (New York and London: Routledge, 2019),

[4] https://www.honeyandwaxbooks.com/prize.php

Paul de Barry’s Eensaemheydt van Philagia (1646): A Jesuit Manual for Contemplation for Women

By Patricia Stoop

In 1638 the French Jesuit Paul de Barry (1587–1661) published his third book, entitled La Solitude de Philagie ou l’adresse pour s’occuper avec profit aux Exercices spirituels une fois tous les ans durant huict ou dix jour.[1] It was printed in Lyon in the printing house of Claude I Rigaud (1583–1628), which at that time was operated by his widow and his son-in-law Philippe Borde (d. 1669). De Barry, who was rector of the Jesuit colleges of Aix and Nîmes and later provincial of Lyon, was an esteemed preacher, but first and foremost a prolific author. Carlos Sommervogel, who composed the Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, attributes no fewer than twenty-five works to him. La Solitude de Philagie, which was first printed in 1638, must have been quite popular as it was reprinted no fewer than fourteen times until 1692 and new editions appeared half-way through the nineteenth century (in 1854 and 1859).[2]

Eight years after its publication, the text was translated into Dutch by Guilliam van Aelst, who, as is mentioned on the title page, was “gheboortigh van Antwerpen” (“born in Antwerp”). Van Aelst, who passed away before 1646, was an active translator with a strong connection to the Jesuits.[3] Before he translated De Barry’s La Solitude de Philagie into De eensaemheydt van Philagia, Dienende tot Gheestelijcke Oeffeninghe in eensaemheydt. Van acht ofte thien gheduerighe daghen ’s Iaers, Van Aelst published De Thien eerste Boecken Der Nederlandtsche Oorloge in 1645, which was a translation of De bello Belgico decades duae, 1555–1590 (Antwerp, 1635) by the Roman Jesuit Faminio Strada (1572–1649). In 1651 he translated the Traité de l’Amour de Dieu (De Liefde Godts), which was colloquially known as Theotimus (Lyon, 1616), by St Francis de Sales (1567–1622), who was educated by the Jesuits, later bishop of Geneva and a renowned mystic and reformer, as well as an inspiration for many members of the Society of Jesus, including De Barry.

Figure 1: Title page of the first edition of Paul de Barry, De eensaemheydt van Philagia (Antwerpen: Jacob van Ghelen, 1646). Copy owned by Marijken de Raedt, an Alexian sister in Aalst. University of Antwerp, Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 13. Reproduced with permission.

Like its French counterpart, De eensaemheydt van Philagia was quite successful. After the first edition was published in 1646 by Jacob van Ghelen, whose printing house was located at the Eiermarkt in Antwerp, three more editions (in four versions) were printed.[4] The second edition (“Den II Druck”) was printed again by Van Ghelen in 1649. In 1655 his colleague Arnout I van Brakel (1606–75) reissued this print, in identical form—even Van Ghelen’s 1649 colophon is present—but with a modified title page. That is to say, the printer’s name was altered and the date of publication was changed to 1655. In 1664, Van Brakel, whose shop was located at the other end of the Antwerp cathedral at the Wijngaardbrug, produced the third edition in a new lay-out. In 1711, the text was reprinted once more by Joannes Paulus Robyns, again in Antwerp.

Solitude as the Road to Holiness and Spiritual Perfection

With his Solitude de Philagie De Barry wanted to provide a tool for people who strive to make progress towards spiritual perfection and serve God, both within monasteries and in the world. In order to help these lovers of holiness—hence the word Philagia, a combination of φίλη (philè) and ἅγία (hagia) in, in the title—go through the three stages of the contemplative process (the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways), the Jesuit wrote spiritual exercises that should be done in eight or ten days. During this period the readers should act as if they were living in a large desert and personify solitude to talk to only with God and their own soul. In this way, they can overcome their evil inclinations and arrive at great purity of conscience and peace of mind.

After a short introduction containing the intentions of the author, a long list of general notes to be read in preparation for the eight- or ten-day exercises follows. Before starting, one must, for example, complete or suspend all one’s work, provide oneself with appropriate literature (apart from Thomas a Kempis’s Imitatio Christi, De Barry recommends works by fellow Jesuits), and contemplate on past sins in preparation for confession. Once these eight pages of instructions are mastered, the devotee can start the eight or ten days of meditations, the maintaining (‘onderhoudinghe’) of inner attitudes and devotional acts (e.g. the intimacy of the heart, the preparation for the yearly confession and the examination of conscience in preparation), and investigations (of the virtues for example).

On the first day, one should contemplate the reason why one is created. The second day is dedicated to repentance for the sins of the previous life. On the third day, faint-heartedness and sluggishness in the service of God take center stage. Next, one must consider what happens to one at the end of life. On day five to seven one should imitate Christ in the three stages of his life: in his youth, during his apostolate, and during his passion and death. The last three days of the process revolve around love owed to God, the unity with God, and the love for the Holy Sacrament. Once that whole process has been completed and readers have worked their way through nearly seven hundred pages of text, they are prepared for the New Year.

The Dedication by Catharina van Aelst

De Barry dedicated his original French La Solitude de Philagie “au glorieux S. Joseph, le plus aimable et le plus ayme de tous les Saincts, apres Jesus, & Marie’ (“to the glorious St Joseph, the most lovable and most loving of all the Saints, after Jesus and Mary”). The German translation by Martinus Sibenius also dedicated the text to Joseph, “der Mutter GOTtes allerwürdigstem Bräutigam, und allerweisesten Regierer des Worts, das Fleisch worden ist” (“the Mother of GOD’s most worthy Bridegroom, and most wise Ruler of the Word that became flesh”). With a general dedication like this, the book was aimed at all readers, men and women alike. In the Dutch version, however, the original dedication was replaced by a text by Catharina van Aelst, the daughter of the translator. Her father had passed away at the time that she wrote the dedication, “op den Voor-avont van’t Jaer 1646” (“on the Eve of the Year 1646”; fol. a6v):

Desen soo kostelijcken Lust-hof, van mijnen goeden Vader saeligher tot alghemeyn gherief van ons Nederlandt uyt de Fransche sprake overgeset, ende met meer andere sijne Boecken aen my als erfenisse ter handt ghekomen zijnde, alsoo hy aen een eighelijck van ons even nutbaer ende dienelijck is. (fol. A5v)[5]

(This so precious Garden of Delight has been translated from French by my good late Father for the general benefit of our Netherlands, and has come to me as an inheritance, together with more of his other Books, so that it is as useful as it is serviceable to all of us).

In her signature to the dedication, Catharina added the letters G.D. to her name. They can also be found after her initials on the title page of the 1646 edition: “[De eensaemheydt van Philagia] Wordt aen alle Gheestelijcke Dochters voor een Gheluck-saeligh Nieuw Jaer ghegunt Door C.V.A.G.D.” (“[The eensaemheydt of Philagia] is presented in kindness to all Spiritual Daughters for a Happy New Year by C.V.A.G.D.”). The abbreviation means that Catharina identified herself as a “Geestelijke Dochter” (“Spiritual Daughter”) or filia devota. She was one of the many single, Catholic women in the early modern Low Countries—often called “kloppen” or “kwezels”—who chose a chaste life dedicated to God outside monasteries and in secular contexts, often under the spiritual guidance of and in obedience to secular priests or, as in this case, Jesuits.

Catharina dedicated her father’s translation of De Eensaemheydt of Philagia to “alle gheesteliicke dochters. Beminde mede-Susters” (“all spiritual daughters, Beloved fellow Sisters”; fol. a2r). She encourages them to follow the example of Solomon in the Song of Songs 4. 16, who took his bride to the garden of delight. This can be done, she states referring to the eensaemheydt of De Barry’s title, by seeking the pleasure garden of solitude. It is there “dat onsen aldersoetsten Bruydegom Jesus noch alle daghen onse Zielen trouwt” (“that our most sweet Groom Jesus marries our Souls every day”; fol. A2v), in order to pull them “uyt de slavernije des duyvels, te weten, uyt het wereldts leven” (“out of the slavery of the devil, namely, of worldly life”). Subsequently, she explains that the “aldermeest gheachten Lust-hof van onsen Hemelschen Bruydegom, inden welcken hy sijnen aldermeesten lust heeft” (“most esteemed Pleasure-ground of our Heavenly Bridegroom in which he takes the most pleasure”; fol. a3v) is the bonus hortus virginitatis (delightful garden of virginity). In order to see to what exalted holiness and spiritual perfection of the soul solitude could lead, Catharina encourages people to look especially at

de heylighe en Lofweerdighe Societeyt Jesu, de welcke inden selven Lust-hof uyt Godt ontfanghen ende voort-gebraght, met het selve sogh onderhouden ende op-ghevoedt zijnde, tot alsulcke overvloedighe Heyligheydt ende volmaecktheydt ghekomen is, dat sy de heele wijde wereldt, ende onder andere oock ons haere Gheestelijcke Kinderen soo rijckelijck, als wy tot ons groot voordeel ende gheluck daghelijcks bevinden, vande selve is mededeelende. (fol. A5r–v)

(the holy and Praiseworthy Society of Jesus, which, received and brought forth from God in the same Garden of Delight, being nurtured and educated with the same milk, has come to such abundant Holiness and perfection, that it lets the whole wide world and also, among others, us its Spiritual Children, share the same so richly, as we experience to our great benefit and happiness every day).

Catharina’s dedication, which encourages the mystical wedding and the virginal matrimony of the soul with Christ, is written as a New Year’s wish. The fact that it is composed by a spiritual daughter of the Jesuit order and addressed to other spiritual daughters shifts the intended audience of De Barry’s devotional treatise. Rather than at a general audience, the text is now aimed at female addressees, and more specifically, female religious addressees. But which readers did the text actually reach?

For the Love of Holiness: The Readers of De eensaemheydt van Philagia

Not all the extant copies I have seen contain ownership inscriptions.[6] A good number of the ones that do, however, indeed belonged to women. In many cases the ownership inscriptions point out that the books were owned by individuals, albeit all members of religious communities. One copy of the 1646 edition, for example, was owned by Marijken de Raedt, who was a zwartzuster (Alexian sister) in the community in Aalst in East Flanders, which had been founded there in 1475 in order to take care of the sick (especially the plague victims) and continued to exist until 2020, when the remaining sisters moved to a neighbouring residential care center (Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 13; see Figure 1). A second copy (Kontich: Museum voor Heem- en Oudheidkunde, no shelfmark) made its way to Maria Theresia Peeters, who was a “beggijntien op het vermaert beggijn hof tot Lier” (“beguine in the renowned beguinage of Lier”), located some twenty kilometers southeast of Antwerp. When Marijken and Maria Theresia lived is not clear.

When Sister Josephine Vanherberghen, who was a hospital sister in the Sint-Janshospitaal in the Brabantine city of Tienen (near Louvain), lived is not clear either. She owned a copy of the 1649 edition and left the mark of her ownership on the flyleaf of her book (Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 14 bis): “Gasthuis Thienen Suster Josephine Vanherberghen.” Another copy of the same, second edition, however, was owned in the nineteenth century by a grey sister (grauwzuster), likely of the Third Order of St Francis. On the flyleaf at the front she wrote that she owned the book during the time of Sister Ida: “Van zuster MariAnna Spillebijkx grouw zuster geproffest den 7 october 1834 als zuster Ida overste was ende die is gestorven den 13 Mert 1839” (“Of Sister MariAnna Spillebijkx grey sister professed on 7 Oct 1834 as sister Ida was superior, who died on 13 March 1839”; Museum Plantin-Moretus, A 3446). Unfortunately, the book does not mention in which community the women lived. Interestingly, at another (later?) point in time the book was owned by a man. In the lower margin of the title page, a certain Frederic Verachter wrote his name.

A copy of the 1655 edition (i.e. the second edition as it was published by Arnout I van Brakel) also switched hands, but this time from woman to woman (Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 15). Judging from the location of the ownership inscription on the flyleaf as well as the handwriting, which is considerably older than the other signature, the book was initially owned by Maria Barbara Melijn and later transferred to Maria Bal who owned it in 1796. Both women indicate that they kept the book with the permission of their superior (“met orlof van haer oversten”). This indicates of course that these women were also members of a religious community. Possibly they lived in the female Dominican convent of Antwerp. The State Archives in that city own a donation deed that states that after the death of Peter Melijn (a building contractor who supervised fortification works in and around Antwerp between 1660 and 1680) six hundred gulden should be transferred to the Dominican convent where his daughter Maria Barbara Melijn was professed in 1670.[7]

Figure 2: Title page of Paul de Barry, De eensaemheydt van Philagia, in the second edition issued by Arnout I van Brakel (Antwerpen, 1655). Copy owned by Maria Barbara Melijn and Maria Bal. University of Antwerp, Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 15. Reproduced with permission.

A second copy of the same 1655 edition also contains two ownership inscriptions (Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience, F 88500, flyleaf at the front). Initially, the book was owned by someone who noted down two little verses: “Het is een vremdt gemoedt / Dat noch mint, noch minnen doet” (“It is a strange disposition / That neither loves nor enables to love”) and “En houdt voor geenen vriendt / Die verandert als den windt” (“And regard as no friend / Who alters like the wind”). In between likely the same person added an emblem with the initials A.M.V. and the date 1730. Subsequently Sister Coleta Bouckaert added her name under the verse lines. Again, she is difficult to identify. A beguine with this name passed away in the Groot Begijnhof in Ghent on 27 or 28 February 1832 at the age of sixty-two.[8] However, around the same date a Sister Coleta Bouckaert was prioress of the convent of St Trudo in Odegem near Bruges (canonesses regular of the order of St Augustine).[9] This makes it impossible at this stage to establish whether the book was located in Ghent or in Bruges in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The last edition that was published by Van Brakel in 1664 also found its way into women’s hands. The copy that is currently kept in the Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience in Antwerp (shelfmark F 126879) belonged, according to a note on the front flyleaf, to Sister Francoise Schrijnmaeckers in 1704. Whether she owned it earlier or later than Sister Tresa Boon, who left her ownership inscription at the back of the title page, is impossible to say. In any case Tresa was very concerned about her soul’s post-mortem well-being. She explicitly asked the readers of her inscription to pray for her after her death: “Tot behoef van suster Tresa Boon. Bidt voor mijn siel naer mijn doot op dat ick sondaers mach bevrijdt woorden van de eeuieghe doot” (“For the sake of Sister Tresa Boon. Pray for my soul after my death that I, sinner, may be freed from the eternal death”).

All the aforementioned copies of the Eensaemheydt of Philagia were owned by individual women who were members of religious communities. Two other books also circulated in women’s convents but were destined for common use. The 1655 edition that is nowadays at the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp (A 2221) explicitly mentions on the front flyleaf that the book is meant “Voor het gemeyn van Blyenberch” (“for common use of Bleyenberg”), a community of Victorines in Mechelen. The Norbertine sisters in Antwerp kept their copy (of the first edition of 1646) according to a note on the title page in their church: “Ecclesia Norbertinarum Antw[erpiensis]” (Museum Plantin-Moretus, A 3443). The third book (1649 edition) did not belong to a female community, but rather to the professed house of the Jesuits in Antwerp: “Dom[us] Prof[essa] Soc[ietatis] Jesu Antverpiae” (Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 14, 1e ex).

The last three books with ownership inscriptions I have found thus far probably belonged to lay people. On the flyleaf at the front of a copy held by the Museum Plantin-Moretus (A 3437), we read that “Dezen boek hoert toe aan Jozephina Lammens” (“This book belongs to Jozephina Lammens”). As Jozephina did not add “Sr” to indicate a religious profession to her name, we may assume that she was a lay woman or perhaps a spiritual daughter like Catharina van Aelst. The book with shelfmark BIB.ACC.012562 in the Universiteitsbibliotheek in Ghent (a copy of the 1649 edition) seems to have belonged to a couple: a note on the cover page expresses the hope that “Jehan en Marie wordt den besten trost” (“to Jehan and Marie the best consolation will come”), presumably in the hereafter. The 1664 version that is now in the Universiteitsbibliotheek at Ghent (BIB.158T008) has an ownership inscription on the front flyleaf that shows it belonged to a man: “Hic liber pertenet ad me Carolum Tileman anno 1762” (“This book belongs to me, Carolus Tileman, anno 1762”). He can be tentatively identified as the student who was mentioned in the Album studiosorum of the University of Leiden in 1756 and was born in The Hague in 1736.[10] If this identification is correct, this specimen is an outlier in many respects. It is not only the sole book thus far that has only been owned by a man and a student, but it is also the only copy that made its way to the Protestant north of the Low Countries.

Although De Barry does not seem to have had a distinct readership in mind, the dedication that Catherine added to her father’s Dutch translation clearly steered the reception of De eensaemheydt of Philagia. The majority of the books that have been studied thus far found their way to women who lived their lives as the Brides of Christ Catharina envisaged. Interestingly, however, most of the women who owned a copy lived such a life within (enclosed) convents of various orders, and not as the filiae devotae Catharina and the publisher seem to have had in mind when they addressed the book to “alle Gheestelijcke Dochters” (“All Spiritual Daughters”). Whether or not it was intended to, the book evidently reached a wide female audience and thereby played an important role in spreading Jesuit spirituality and mysticism to women’s religious communities in the Southern Low Countries.

Further reading

Album studiosorum academiae Lugduno Batavae xdlxxv–mdccclxxv: accedunt nomina curatorum et professorum per eadem secula. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1875.

“Barry, Paul de.” In Carlos Sommervogel and others, Bibliothèque de la compagnie de Jésus, 12 vols. Brussels: Schepens, 1890–1932. I (1890), cols 945–57.

“Barry, Paul de.” In Dictionnaire de spiritualité, ascétique et mystique, doctrine et histoire, ed. by Marcel Viller and others, 16 vols. Paris: Gabriel Beauchesne et ses fils, 1937–94. I (1937), cols 1252–55.

De Vlieger-De Wilde, Koen, ed. Adresboek van zeventiende-eeuwse drukkers, uitgevers en boekverkopers in Vlaanderen / Directory of Seventeenth-Century Printers, Publishers and Booksellers in Flanders. Antwerp: Vereniging van Antwerpse Bibliofielen, 2004.

De Vroede, Maurits. “Kwezels” en “Zusters”: De geestelijke dochters in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden, 17de en 18de eeuw. Brussels: Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België, 1994.

Monteiro, Marit Edin. Geestelijke maagden: Leven tussen klooster en wereld in Noord-Nederland gedurende de zeventiende eeuw. Hilversum: Verloren, 1996.

Olthoff, Frans. De boekdrukkers, boekverkoopers en uitgevers in Antwerpen sedert de uitvinding der boekdrukkunst tot op onze dagen. Antwerp: J.-B. Buschmann, 1891.

“Sibenius, Martin.” In Carlos Sommervogel and others, Bibliothèque de la compagnie de Jésus, 12 vols. Brussels: Schepens, 1890–1932. VII (1896), cols 1181–84.

Stracke, D.A. “Guilliam van Aelst en Guillaume van Aelst S.J.” De Gulden Passer 6 (1928), 239–49

Van Honacker, K. Het archief van de families de Lannoy, Melijn, de Heuvel en Meyers met inbegrip van het archief van de heren van Zwijndrecht. Antwerp: Het Rijksarchief in België, 2002. Identification number BE–A0511/Y1/010)

Verheggen, Evelyne M.F. Beelden voor passie en hartstocht: Bid- en devotieprenten in de Noordelijke Nederlanden, 17de en 18de eeuw. Zutphen: Walburg, 2006.


[1] This blog was inspired by the module ‘Vrouwen en literatuur in de vroegmoderne tijd’ of the undergraduate course Neerlandistiek in de praktijk (University of Antwerp, academic year 2021–22). My gratitude goes to my students Robin Van Gestel and Mie Verschooten for their enthusiastic exploration of the copy of De Barry’s De eensaemheydt van Philagia in the Museum voor Heem- en Oudheidkunde in Kontich.

[2] I have counted the editions mentioned in the Universal Short Title Catalogue and Sommervogel’s list here.

[3] It is not very clear who Guilliam van Aelst was, nor how many translations can be attributed to him. For an extensive discussion on both questions, see D.A. Stracke, “Guilliam van Aelst en Guillaume van Aelst S.J.,” in De Gulden Passer 6 (1928), 239–49.

[4] In the same year Paul De Barry’s text was also translated into German by Martinus Sibenius SJ (1604–68): Einöde Philagiae, Das ist Weiß unnd Manier, die Geistliche Exercitia einmal im Jahr, acht oder zehen Tag lang nützlich zu verrichten (Köln: Michael Dehmen [the Elder], 1646). This German translation was also reprinted eight times before 1738.

[5] The dedication of Van Aelst’s translation of De Sales’ De Liefde Godts (1651) is also written by Catharina van Aelst. This time the book is dedicated to Joanna van Lathem, abbess of the Cistercian abbey of Roosendael near Mechelen between 1639 and 1662, with whom she had a family connection. In the dedication, Catharina mentions “andere boecken” (“other books”) written by her “Vader saliger” (“late father”), as well as a female sibling and cousins, who seem to be nuns in the abbey of Roosendael.

[6] For this blog I consulted the Heritage Collections in Antwerp (Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience, Museum Plantin-Moretus, and Ruusbroecgenootschap), the Museum voor Heem- en Oudheidkunde in Kontich, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in Brussels, and the digital copies that are available on Google Books.

[7] “Schenkingsakte ten belope van 600 fl., na het overlijden van Peter Melijn te overhandigen aan het klooster van de dominicanessen, waar zijn dochter Maria Barbara Melijn was geprofest. 1670.” See K. Van Honacker, Het archief van de families de Lannoy, Melijn, de Heuvel en Meyers met inbegrip van het archief van de heren van Zwijndrecht (Antwerpen: Het Rijksarchief in België, 2002; identification number: BE–A0511/Y1/010).

[8] Announcement of the deceased by the civil registry in Ghent in Den vaderlander, 26, Thursday 1 March 1832, p. 4.

[9] U. Berlière and others, eds, Monasticon Belge, 8 vols(Maredsous: Abbaye de Maredsous, 1890–1993), vii (1977–89): Province de Flandre Orientale, 1028 and 1061–62.

[10] Album studiosorum academiae Lugduno Batavae xdlxxv–mdccclxxv: accedunt nomina curatorum et professorum per eadem secula (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1875), col. 1055.

The Bible (1589) [Geneva Bible]

The 1589 Geneva Bible featured today is bound in contemporary leather with a 1591 edition of The Whole Booke of Psalms and signed five different times by female reader Jane Horsley. Like many 16th-century books, it contains layers of ownership inscriptions from various eras.

Jane, who has repeated her inscription (“Jane Horsley Booke 168[1 or 4] / Jane Horsley booke 1679”) twice above one of the woodcut ornaments, was the earliest owner to date the book. Absent any earlier inscriptions, it is difficult to say whether she acquired the then 90-year-old Bible as a secondhand purchase or inherited it from a family member.

As with most of the female book owners featured within this blog, her identity is ambiguous. We know she cannot be the Jane Reay of Newcastle who married John Horsley of Milburne Grange in 1699, as our Jane used the surname Horsley as early as 1679.

Subsequent inscriptions can sometimes be a clue to an earlier female owner’s identity, but in Jane’s case the Hansons are almost certainly unrelated. One page covered in genealogical records, some faded and others clear, reads in part:

Grace Hanson Born July 3[d?] day 1724 and babtizd July 3[?]

Samuell Hanson born [M]arch 16 1726 and babtizd M[ar]ch 31

Rachel Hanson Born Febr.y 25 1727/8 and babtizd march 16

Fanny Hanson Born June 21 1731 died 6 Mar.

Jon Hanson Born about midle of February January 1733-4

Joshua Hanson Book Bought on ye year of our Lord 1729

On the verso of the divisional New Testament title page, yet another inscription reads “John Iles and for yor[?]. Beneath it is a line to indicate a separation and the inscription “John Iles Borne June y 25 and Baptized July 2nd 1714.” Further down the page is another inscription by Joshua Hanson, “If any one upon me loke I am Joshua Hanson Book ~ ~ .” It is possible that Jane Horsley could have married an Iles, though probably likelier that the book had left her possession sometime in the roughly thirty-year period between the 1680s and 1714.

The book remained in the Hanson family early into the 20th century, when it was gifted to the Cheales family. From the bookseller’s description:

The bookplate of Samuel Hanson (1804-1882) bears the family crest and logo, Deo favente et sedulitate (By the favour of God and by assiduity). Samuel passed it onto his son Sir Reginald Hanson (1840-1905) on the 5th of December 1880. Sir Reginald Hanson was a conservative MP and elected Lord Mayor of London in 1886 during which time Queen Victoria celebrated her Jubilee year. Having previously been knighted, in 1887 he entertained Her Majesty and was created a Baronet. The Bible was gifted by Lady Hanson to the Cheales family on July 14, 1905, three months after Sir Reginald passed away. It has remained with the Cheales family until now. 

Samuel, the second child recorded in the family genealogy, therefore inherited the book from his father Joshua and passed it onto his own son Reginald two years before his death.

While it is true that more recent book owners tend to be easier to identity, it also cannot be denied that male book owners are, as a whole, easier to identify than female. Even John Iles can be identified and is linked to the Hanson family. In 1723, the widow Grace Iles (née Mallory) married Joshua Hanson. She was married in 1713 to an Iles; hence the June 25th birth of John Iles in 1714. Remarkably, the Hanson family Bible is mentioned in the first volume of Yorkshire Notes and Queries (1888), page 156. It is likely that Sir Reginald Hanson made it available to the editor of the book.

It is splendid to have so much information about the Iles and Hanson families, but frustrating to be unable to easily find the same basic biographical data for Jane. Despite writing her name on the book’s title page, her identity disappears amid the other ownership markings.

Source: Book offered for sale by Archives Fine Books (Brisbane) in November 2022. Images used with permission.

Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy (1651)

Appearing in eight editions (plus additional issues) between 1621 and 1676, seven of them in folio, Robert Burton’s expansive and erudite Anatomy of Melancholy was a seventeenth-century publishing phenomenon. A copy of the 1651 edition of Burton’s Anatomy, held by the Redwood Library & Athenaeum in Newport, Rhode Island (shelfmark PR 2223.A1 1651), is the first to appear on the EMFBO site.[1] Furthermore, the evidence here of early modern female book ownership is but one of this book’s several interesting features—including the only known manuscript copy of Katherine Philips’ song “Pompey’s Ghost” in a seventeenth-century printed book or made by a seventeenth-century woman.

The Redwood copy is in a modern binding and lacks the frontispiece and title-page, but it retains two original flyleaves and the half-title that precedes the now missing frontispiece.[2] The earliest provenance appears on the recto of the second of the two flyleaves, where Pleasant Rawlins has enthusiastically inscribed her full name four times: “Pleasant Rawlins / Her Book”; “Pleasant Rawlins / Her Book Aprill the 1 day 16**” [second line of inscription obliterated and date trimmed]; “Pleasant Rawlins her book / Aprill ye 1 day 1672” [entire inscription obliterated]; and, at the bottom of the page, “Pleasant Rawlins her book.”

Second flyleaf recto (top)
Second flyleaf recto (middle)

She subsequently re-inscribed her name in an accomplished calligraphic hand on the recto of the first flyleaf, the inscription oriented vertically on the page: “Mrs Pleasant Biker / her booke / Aprill Idus Mensis pridie [the day before the Ides of April, i.e. April 12] Anno Domine 1676.”

First flyleaf recto

The obliterations of the two dated “Rawlins” entries look likely to be by Rawlins herself, possibly prompted by her addition of the re-dated inscription under her married name. The same hand has obliterated two instances of the name “John” on the “Rawlins” inscription page, in the same ink and probably at the same time as the other obliterations. On the top left of the “Biker” page, also oriented vertically, is another inscription, probably not by Rawlins/Biker but still early and possibly missing some text due to paper repairs. Difficult to decipher, it reads like a quotation but remains untraced: “[?Jan*** pa**] / I shall Endeavour for the future / To have \no/ constant indareance between us / by Letter.”

Pleasant Rawlins and Mrs Pleasant Biker are the same person: Pleasant Rawlins, daughter of William and Katherine Rawlins, was baptised in the parish of St Botolph Without Aldgate in London on February 1, 1652. She married Samuel Biker (d.1685) at some point between April 1672 (the date of her “Rawlins” inscription) and 1674, the year her daughter Pleasant Biker (d.1696) was baptised, also in St Botolph Without Aldgate, on August 30. Pleasant (Rawlins) Biker died in early 1685, the same year as her husband, and was buried in St Botolph Without Aldgate on January 12 of that year, at the age of thirty-two.[3]

Pleasant Rawlins was a young woman of twenty when she first inscribed her copy of Burton’s Anatomy. The Latin in her 1676 inscription as well as her practised use of Italic and calligraphic hands, not to mention her ownership of a work like Burton’s Anatomy, suggests a certain level of education. In addition, the thirty-line poem she has copied in the book, beginning on the “Rawlins” inscription page (in the same hand and ink as her signature at the bottom of the page) and continuing onto the facing verso of the preceding flyleaf, suggests a fashionably current literary sensibility. Beginning “From lasting and unclouded Day,” the poem is an extract, often known as “Pompey’s Ghost,” from Katherine Philips’s play Pompey, her translation of Pierre Corneille’s tragedy La mort de Pompeé. “Pompey’s Ghost” is one of the newly written songs Philips innovatively added to the translated play.

The version copied by Rawlins reads:[4]

[second flyleaf recto]

From lasting and unclouded Day,
From joys refin’d above allay
And from a Spring without decay.
I come by Cynthia’s borrow’d bems
To visit my Cornelia’s Drems,
And give them yet sublimer Thems.

Second flyleaf recto

[first flyleaf verso, oriented vertically]

Behold the Man thou love’dst before
Pure streams have wash’d away his Gore
And Pompey now shall bleed no more.
By Death my Glory I resume,
For ’twould have been a harsher doom
T’ outlive the Liberty of Rome.
By me her doubtfull fortune try’d
Falling, bequeaths my Fame this Pride
I for it lived and with it Dy’d.
Nor shall my Vengeance bee withstood
Nor unattempted, with a Flood
off Roman and Egitptian blood.
Cesar himselfe it shall pursue
his days shall troubled bee & few
And hee shall dye by treason too.
hee by severity Divine
shallbee an offring att my shrine
As I was his hee must bee mine
Thy stormy life Ile regrett noe more
For Fate shall waft the soone ashore
[And to thy Pompey the restore]
There none a Guilty Crowne shall weare
nor Cesar bee Dictator there
nor shall Cornelia shed one teare

First flyleaf verso

Rawlins has omitted from Philips’ original the penultimate three-line stanza, probably for reasons of space: working around some pen trials already on the page, she changed hands halfway through the first line of the sixth stanza from her elegant italic to a more cramped secretary, squeezing stanzas six and seven onto the lower half of the left side, then squeezing stanzas eight and nine onto the lower half of the right side (in stanza nine, the final line has been trimmed in rebinding and the final words of the first two lines are covered by a paper repair), then adding the final stanza in an empty space above, breaking up lines to make it fit. The omitted stanza reads, in Philips’ original, “Where past the fears of sad removes / We’l entertain our spotless Loves, / In beauteous, and Immortal Groves.” Rawlins has bracketed stanzas eight and nine, adding an unfortunately illegible (and possibly trimmed) word in the margin (?*eib*).

Pleasant (Rawlins) Biker and her husband Samuel both died in 1685, in London: Samuel was buried in St Botolph Without Aldgate on February 21, about six weeks after his wife. At some point that same year, the next owner of this copy of Burton’s Anatomy bought it in a location a world away: an inscription across the top of the book’s half-title reads, “Benjamin Newberry Ejus Liber Bought att / Port Royall In Jamaica 1685.” This is probably Benjamin Newberry (c.1653-1711), of Newport, Rhode Island.

Half-title

The Newberrys were a prominent merchant family in Newport and would likely have had trade dealings in Jamaica; the Newport connection could also explain the current presence of the book in the Redwood Library & Athenaeum. The same page features one additional later signature, the (untraced) “Robert Morton / 1828.” If this copy of Burton remained in the possession of the Rawlins/Biker family until the deaths of Pleasant and then Samuel in early 1685, it soon made its way into the hands of somebody with an entrepreneurial sense of the potential transatlantic market for used books. While other copies of Burton’s Anatomy are documented in America in the seventeenth century, including at least one owned by a woman,[8] this book may represent the earliest text by Katherine Philips to make its way across the Atlantic.

Source: Redwood Library & Athenaeum, call number PR 2223.A1 1651. Photos reproduced with permission.


[1] I would like to thank Michelle Farias, Archivist & Special Collections Librarian at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, for drawing this book to my attention during a visit there in January 2022, and Victoria Burke and Elizabeth Hageman for their comments on early versions of this note.

[2] Because the title-page is missing, the holding library has catalogued the copy on the basis of its colophon, dated 1651 (sig. 4A4r). The same colophon appears in the 1652 re-issue, which differs only in its re-dated title-page: the copy may therefore represent the 1652 re-issue (Wing B6182) rather than the 1651 edition (Wing B6181).

[3] The genealogical data presented here all derives from records found in ancestrylibrary.com. This Pleasant Rawlins is not to be confused with her niece, also Pleasant Rawlins (b.1684), who was the teenaged victim of a notorious 1702 case of heiress abduction and forced marriage regarded as a source for Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa: see Beth Swan, “Clarissa Harlowe, Pleasant Rawlins, and Eighteenth-Century Discourses of Law,” Eighteenth-Century Novel 1 (2001), 71-93.

[4] Long ‘s’ and initial ‘ff’ regularized, abbreviations silently expanded, and a false start on one stanza omitted.

[5] Paul Salzman, Reading Early Modern Women’s Writing (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006), 182.

[6] Salzman, 187-90; Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700 (CELM), PsK 575-77; John Cunningham, “Songs Lost and Found: Katherine Philips’s ‘Pompey’s Ghost’,” Music and Letters, advance article 20 May 2022.

[7] The Folger Union First Line Index of English Verse lists five manuscript copies; CELM adds two, one now lost (PsK 578-80); Cunningham, incorporating ongoing research by Nathan Tinker, adds seven more, all copied in the USA in the eighteenth century (20-23). For a study of manuscript copying of other work by Philips by early modern women, see Victoria E. Burke, “The Couplet and the Poem: Late Seventeenth-Century Women Reading Katherine Philips,” Women’s Writing 24.3 (2017), 280-97.

[8] Charles Heventhal Jr., “Robert Burton’s ‘Anatomy of Melancholy’ in Early America,” PBSA 63.3 (1969), 157-75.  Heventhal notes that a copy of the 1632 edition is described in the 1870 catalogue of the Thomas Prince library as signed “Sarah Standish” (159-60). Prince bequeathed his library to Boston’s Old South Church in 1758, and this could be any one of several Sarah Standishes who lived in the New England settlements between the mid-seventeenth century and the date of Prince’s death. The Prince library is currently held by the Boston Public Library, but this copy of Burton’s Anatomy seems no longer to be present in the collection.

The Holy Bible (1648)

Featured today is a 1648 King James Bible with the initialed binding of seventeenth-century owner Anne Sheather and signed by her on the verso of the divisional New Testament title page.

Many, though not all, Bible owners reserved their best handwriting for the sacred text. Here, Anne Sheather tries out two different styles, a form of blackletter for her uppermost signature and a stylized italic hand for the lower: “Anne sheather / her booke; i674.” The signatures are underlined and accented with calligraphic scrollwork.

What strikes me as even more remarkable is that the contemporary initialed binding suggest that the book was chiefly owned by Anne. The elaborate gilt-tooled boards feature a centerpiece flanked by the initials “AS.” There are holes in the boards where metal clasps once were, further confirming that this was not an inexpensive binding and suggesting that Anne may have been a woman of some financial means.

Her identity, however, is uncertain. An Ann Sheather seems to have been born around 1631 in Sussex to a Henry Sheather, although sources are conflicted about the surname of her mother. Variants of the name (Shether, Sheether) similarly lead to dead ends.

In any case, it is an interesting example of both female book ownership and binding, and sheds just a little more light on how women valued and interacted with their Bibles in the seventeenth century.

Source: Book offered for sale by Humber Books in May 2022. Images used with permission.

Katherine Rous (d. 1659) and the Genevan Forme of Prayers (1561)

As many of the posts on this blog make clear, early modern books passed through generations of readers and accumulated ownership marks and marginalia that can tell us something about individual female owners as well as about the larger families and networks through which the books moved over time.

In an earlier post, Sarah Lindenbaum introduced a signature by Katherine Rous who wrote “Katherine Rouse / Her Booke” in a rare copy of the 1561 Forme of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments used in the English Church at Geneva printed in Geneva by Zacharie Durand (see blog post here ). The volume was based on Calvin’s liturgy and had been prepared by John Knox for the Protestants who went into exile in Geneva during the reign of Mary Tudor. The volume contains reformed liturgical rites, a catechism, and a metrical Psalter. Prepared quickly in a time of crisis, the book continued to be printed after Elizabeth’s accession, and it cast a long shadow in England and Scotland as it shaped liturgical life for generations. For example, following Knox’s return to Scotland, the form was adopted in Scotland in 1562 as the Book of Common Order.

Lindenbaum hypothesized that Katherine might be from the Rous family from the West Country. I agree, and I propose here that she was likely the Katherine Rous (d. 28 November, 1659) who was the granddaughter of Anthony Rous (d. 1620) and Elizabeth Southcott of Halton, Cornwall; the daughter of Ambrose Rous (d. 1620) and Magdalena Osborne; and the wife (as of 30 December 1617) of Francis Wills of Wivelscombe, Cornwall. Katherine and Francis appear to have lived in the Wivelscombe manor, only 8 miles from her family’s seat at Halton, and they had at least thirteen children (nine sons and four daughters) all baptized at St. Stephens just outside Saltash.[1] A map by John Nordon from 1604 shows both St. Stephens and Halton, the home of “Ant Rowse.” A sermon preached at Anthony Rous’s funeral celebrated the fact that he was a “great grand-father by his eldest” child, a likely reference to Katherine’s children.[2]  It is impossible to determine whether Katherine signed the book before or after her marriage, although it was probably before.

Detail from John Nordon’s Speculum Britanniae. Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge MS 0.4.19, fol. 179r. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Katherine’s ownership mark in the Forme of Prayers is intriguing for several reasons. First, it appears to shed light on her own religious experiences. Katherine signed the book in the volume’s Catechism, in the margins of a page in which the parent (or minister) instructs the child about the function of baptism. Mothers were frequently exhorted to catechize their children and servants in early modern Europe, and they often organized baptisms. Katherine may have chosen to write her name on this page because this was a section of the volume that her mother or grandmother used when catechizing her or because she thought that she would one day use (or was already using) this part of the book in teaching her own children.

Forme of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments used in the English Church at Geneva (Geneva: Zacharie Durand, 1561; not in the STC). Image re-used from Lindenbaum’s post. Privately owned.

The fact that Katherine Rous signed her name in such an old book, however, raises questions. Why would a young woman in the 1610s care about a fifty-year-old liturgical book designed for a community of exiles that no longer existed? And how did she acquire the book in the first place?

The short answer is that the Rouses were part of a community of Puritan non-conformists who complained loudly about the Book of Common Prayer and who envied and used more “reformed” liturgies from other countries. In other words, Katherine Rous was from precisely the kind of family that would own, use, treasure, and pass on a book like Forme of Prayers. In this regard, she might be aligned with earlier Puritan women, like Dorcas Martin (d. 1599), who specifically turned to the Genevan catechism because they were unhappy with the one in the Book of Common Prayer.

The fact that Katherine acquired, signed, and safeguarded this old, un-authorized English liturgical book not only tells us something about her, but it enriches our understanding of the activities of two other generations of Rouses. Katherine’s grandfather, Anthony Rous, and his first wife, Elizabeth, were active Puritans: they attended radical “exercises,” and they sponsored Puritan preachers who criticized the Book of Common Prayer, used the Genevan liturgy, and preached illegally in private houses.[3] They harbored ministers from Scotland, Ireland, and the Netherlands, and between 1583 and 1585, they employed John Cowper, a Presbyterian preacher who had been banished from Scotland, as a chaplain. He “edified” the family by preaching and instructing them “in the points of … salvation.”[4] It is quite possible that the Rous family acquired their book through John Cowper or one of the other non-conformist ministers they sponsored.

Although little is known about Katherine’s parents (Ambrose and Magdalena), her uncle, Francis Rous (1580–1649), was a high-profile Puritan, speaker of the Barebones parliament, provost of Eton College, and a producer of liturgical texts. He too was highly critical of the Book of Common Prayer, claiming in 1621 that he “never yet saw such a common prayer book as was fit to subscribe to.”[5] He was a member of the Westminster Assembly, a group that produced the Westminster Directory for Public Worship (1644), which was, in part, inspired by the Scottish Book of Common Order and the Anglo-Genevan Forme of Prayers signed by Katherine. Francis Rous also produced a Book of Psalms in English Meter in 1638 (STC 2737) which was adopted for general use by parliament in 1643 (B2396) and was subsequently adopted in Scotland in 1650.  

Anthony Rous and his nephew, Francis, left many traces of their lives in print and in the archives. The fortuitous survival of Katherine Rous’s signature and book reminds us that women also read and valued books, and the trace she left makes a small, but valuable, contribution to our understanding of English Puritanism.  

Source: Book sold by Rainford & Parris Books in April 2020 and now in private ownership.


[1] J. L. Vivian, ed., The Visitations of the County of Cornwall, Comprising the Herald’s Visitation of 1530, 1573, and 1620 with Additions (Exeter, 1887), 413, 560.


[2] Charles FitzGeffrey, Elisha his Lamentation, A Sermon Preached at the Funeralls of Sir Anthony Rous (London, 1622), 49.

[3] Micheline White, “Women Writers and Religious and Literary Circles in the Elizabethan West Country: Anne Dowriche, Anne Lock Prowse, Anne Lock Moyle, Elizabeth Rous, and Ursula Fulford.”  Modern Philology 103.2 (2005): 187-214; 204. Patrick Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, rpt. 1990), 276.

[4] White, “Women Writers,” 204.


[5] Colin Burrow. “Rous, Francis (1580/81–1659), religious writer and politician.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 5 Aug. 2022.

Charles I, Eikon Basilike (1649)

First published within days of the execution of its putative author, King Charles I, and appearing in about sixty editions within a year, Eikon Basilike. The Pourtraicture of His Sacred Majestie in his Solitudes and Sufferings (1649) was a seventeenth-century bestseller.[1] It is also a book with an increasingly well-documented history of ownership by early modern women. All six copies currently listed in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England project database (plre.folger.edu) are associated with women: three copies, including one in French, in the library of Lady Anne (Stanhope) Holles (d.1651), two in the library of Lady Elizabeth (Talbot) Grey, Countess of Kent (d.1651), and one in the library of Lady Dorothy (Percy) Sidney, Countess of Leicester (d.1659). Sarah Lindenbaum noted on this site (July 1, 2019) a copy signed by “Anna Vyvyan” in the early eighteenth century, and Scott Schofield has posted on this site (April 19, 2021) an account of three copies with female ownership held by the library of Western University in London, Ontario: one inscribed “Barbara Whyte” and dated 13 June 1649, another inscribed “Lettice Cuff” and dated 1688, and a third, passed down first “To my daughter Frances Bouchiry [?] 1700” then subsequently gifted “To My Dear Daughter Sarah Amy Hersent [?] 1725.” Laura Lunger Knoppers has addressed the widespread presence of early ownership marks and gift inscriptions in copies of Eikon Basilike, including the “relatively high number of female signatures,” a history of inscription that foregrounds the book’s cultural status as material legacy.[2]

The “Heneretta: Maria Pitches Juń” who inscribed “Her Book” on this copy of Eikon Basilike, currently in a private collection, claimed with her signature not only the book itself but also other forms of legacy. One legacy is familial: born in 1715 in Bildeston, Suffolk, Henrietta Maria Pitches was named after her mother, Henrietta Maria (Capel) Pitches (c.1695-1726): “Juń” is an abbreviation for “Junior.” The use of “Junior” for a daughter bearing the same name as her mother is unusual but not unknown, and that is clearly the reading here. The other legacy is cultural: Henrietta and her mother were both evidently named after Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669). The name announced the family’s political-cultural affiliations, and what book more appropriate for a namesake of the Queen to possess than the book that represented the textual and material legacy of the executed King? The status of the book as material legacy is in addition signalled by its fine binding. This copy is Wing E283 (Madan #21), an octavo edition dated 1648 but published in the second half of March 1649. The gold-tooled “lozenge or diamond”-style binding likely preceded the book’s acquisition by Henrietta Maria Pitches: the British Library holds two copies of Eikon Basilike decorated in a manner similar to this copy by the Restoration binder Thomas Dawson of Cambridge.[3] Henrietta Maria Pitches either acquired this finely decorated copy or was gifted or inherited a copy bound in a manner appropriate to the suggestive association with her royal namesake.

In August 1738, Henrietta Maria Pitches married the “eminent Jeweller” Robert Nelson, bringing with her a substantial dowry of £3000.[4] The wedding announcement notes that she was niece to the Bishop of Ely, the Reverend Robert Butts (1684–1748), who in 1712 had married her aunt, Elizabeth Pitches (1686–1734). Bishop Butts had been a chaplain to George II and before his translation to Ely in 1738 had been Bishop of Norwich, an appointment he won through a patron’s influence with Queen Caroline (ODNB). As befitting her name, Henrietta Maria Pitches enjoyed connections with church and court.

This copy of Eikon Basilike features one additional signature: the name “Charlotte Wentworth” (unidentified) is inscribed on the front pastedown in a hand later than Henrietta Maria Pitches’ but still early: the ink is brown and the signature likely dates from the later eighteenth or earlier nineteenth centuries. This inscription was covered up when new blank pastedowns were glued over the originals and new free endpapers added. These changes themselves probably date from before the twentieth century: the replacement endpapers are handmade and look eighteenth century. Additional evidence of early provenance or reader engagement may have been lost with the disappearance of the original free endpapers.

One additional piece of information helps round out the story of this inscription. A copy of Richard Allestree’s Ladies Calling (1675) sold in a 2005 auction at Christie’s is also signed “Henrietta Maria Pitches”: but this Henrietta Maria is the mother, as the book is also signed, in the same hand, “Heneretta Maria Capoll.”[5] Henrietta Maria (Capel) Pitches was the daughter of William Capel of Stow Hall, Suffolk and Mary Capel (1670-1724); her husband, Richard Pitches (1668-1727), father of Henrietta Maria Pitches “Juń,” served as rector in the parish of Hawstead, Suffolk.[6] The current location of this copy of Allestree is unknown. It had been collected by Lady Hilda Ingram (1891-1968), who concentrated on fine bindings: the Christie’s auction catalogue describes the Allestree as featuring “Contemporary black morocco elaborately tooled in gilt with wide border round sides composed of tulips, roses, fleurons, birds heads with infilled corner pieces surrounding a central diamond shaped decoration composed of the same tools, the whole within a narrow border of pointillé dots, semi-circles, etc., gilt spine and edges.” Mother and daughter evidently shared a taste for quality decorated bindings, and it is possible that Henrietta Maria Pitches “Juń” acquired her Eikon Basilike from her mother, but that her mother’s provenance markings were lost when the endpapers were replaced: the signatures in the Allestree appear on the front free endpaper, the original of which is no longer present on this copy of  Eikon Basilike.

Source: Book in private ownership. Images posted with permission.


[1] The standard bibliography remains Francis F. Madan, A New Bibliography of the Eikon Basilike of King Charles the First (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1950). Madan offers an authoritative discussion of the book’s authorship, concluding that it was written by John Gauden but probably includes some authentic writings by Charles (126-63).

[2]  Laura Lunger Knoppers, Politicizing Domesticity from Henrietta Maria to Milton’s Eve (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 86-93 (88).

[3] See shelfmarks Davis75 and c118d50 in the British Library “Database of Bookbindings”:  https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/. Davis75 is strikingly similar, though the binding tools employed are not identifiably identical with those on with this copy. For overviews of the decorative characteristics of fine bindings in the second half of the seventeenth century, see Howard M. Nixon, English Restoration Bookbindings: Samuel Mearne and His Contemporaries (London: British Library, 1974), and David Pearson, English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800: A Handbook (2005; rpt. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2014), 68-73, 133-38. 

[4] Gentleman’s Magazine: and Historical Chronicle, vol. 8 (London, 1738), 435.

[5] Christie’s, Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, 2 November 2005, lot 1.

[6] Sir John Cullum, The History and Antiquities of Hawsted, in the County of Suffolk (London, 1734), 37. Stow Hall is probably West Stow Hall, a still-surviving Tudor manor that features Elizabethan wall-paintings depicting the “Four Ages of Man”: https://weststowhall.com.

A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen (1611)

A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen, often attributed to Hugh Plat, was first published in 1608. A women-owned edition of this work in a Sammelband was discussed by Tara Lyons in April 2019. Like the copy previously featured, this second edition is also bound in limp vellum, but in this case it is purely utilitarian with no tooling or decoration.

It is inscribed on the inside front cover in a slightly spidery hand “Mary Squire her booke.” Though we do not have an image of it, the original bookseller’s description documented a second inscription at the foot of page 29: “Mary Squire / Her Booke / 12.” (What could the ’12’ have meant?)

The text was popular, with seventeen editions appearing by 1656. Despite its wide circulation, comparatively few copies survive today, which is certainly due to heavy use by owners. The book provided a variety of recipes for cosmetics, candies, cures for common ailments, and perfumes and was often issued with Plat’s famous Delights for Ladies, although the contemporary binding of this copy suggests it was purchased discretely as well. The book’s strong association with Plat is still belied, however, by the manuscript spine title, which reads Dolightes ad […?].

The bookseller’s description noted that “a number of leaves [were] significantly stained and thumbed” and it seems safe to say that the book saw good use while it was in Mary’s possession. Mary is unidentified, alas, and a search of ESTC does not bring up any hits in spite of her somewhat common name.

Source: Book offered for sale by Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books & Manuscripts in June 2019 and since sold. Images used with permission.

The Whole Book of Psalms (1629)

One publication which reliably contains the early ownership inscriptions of women is The Book of Psalms.

This edition of 1629 was once owned by Mary Crosse, who left an inscription on the verso of a rear flyleaf: “Mary Crosse / Mary Crosse / Her Booke / 1678.” Though the Bible and The Book of Psalms fell solidly within the confines of acceptable reading for women in a century where anxieties about the suitability of certain genres (e.g. literature) for the female sex still lingered, scholars like Femke Molekamp have shown that even prominent religious works encouraged women to come to their own interpretations and produce their own texts.

A surname (or possibly a place name) in an apparently later hand appears at the head of the title page. The book is bound in olive morocco and features a gilt medallion on each board, nestled within gilt-tooled borders. If this binding is contemporary to her signature, we might conclude that Mary had some measure of money at her disposal and that it was an important text to her. Otherwise, there are no clues about who Mary was.

Source: Book offered for sale by James Cummins Bookseller in February 2022. Images used with permission.

Further Reading

Femke Molekamp. “Early Modern Women and Affective Devotional Reading,” European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire 17:1 (2010), 53-74. DOI: 10.1080/13507480903511926

Femke Molekamp. Women and the Bible in Early Modern England: Religious Reading and Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Salomon de Caus, La perspective (1612)

This 1612 edition of La perspective avec la raison des ombres et miroirs by Salomon de Caus (1576-1626) is a fascinating book. The work develops a theory of perspective in drawing by the French Huguenot De Caus, a hydraulic engineer, architect, and garden designer who designed gardens, fountains, grottoes, and aviaries for Queen Anna of Denmark, King James’s eldest son Prince Henry, and his sister Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia.

La perspective develops a theory of perspective drawing, ranging in subjects from anamorphosis to shadows and mirrors. It also includes wonderful paper flaps and pop ups. Christies notes that it is “apparently only the second book printed in England to make use of folding or pop-up flaps in illustrations, after John Dee’s Euclid of 1570.”

This particular copy of the book is extremely significant in terms of its provenance since it is bound in vellum bearing the arms of Elizabeth Stuart and her husband Frederick I, King of Bohemia.

Their armorial stamp can also be seen on the binding of the British Library copy of Jean Baptiste Legrain’s Decade contenant la vie et gestes de Henry le Grand Roy de France et de Navarre (1614), shown in the British Library’s database of bookbindings, here.

In her excellent biography of Elizabeth, Nadine Akkerman notes that 1612, when the book came out, was when De Caus “allegedly taught her and her brother Henry art and music … the year after he had designed Anna’s French garden in Greenwich” (110), though she is careful to note that there is no clear source that helps us establish De Caus’s role as tutor (431, n. 11). De Caus dedicated La perspective to Henry, who would die later that year.

Bookseller Detlev Auvermann suggests the book may have been given to Elizabeth by De Caus on the occasion of her marriage in 1613, which certainly appears to be a possibility. It is not included in a list of eighty books sent to Elizabeth in 1622, while she lived in exile in the Netherlands. As Emily Rose’s article on the list shows, Elizabeth’s reading was broad and multilingual–the list itemizes books in four languages. Rose notes that a few books from her collection are extant but does not list La perspective among them.

In any case, Elizabeth was, as Rose explains, “an avid book collector” (156). Akkerman discusses her early representation as reader in a youthful portrait in which she holds her prayer book with an inscription by her mother. In a twist, she covers the last word of the inscription with her thumb, an indication of a type of agency, writes Akkerman, for a “young woman whose legacy was contested from the moment she was born” (45).

Robert Peake the Elder, portrait of Princess Elizabeth, ca. 1606. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Kate T. Davison, in memory of her husband, Henry Pomeroy Davison, 1951 (51.194.1) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/437263

Akkerman recounts how in 1614, two years after La perspective was published, De Caus was made “Master of the Gardens, Fountains and Grottoes of Heidelberg Castle.” Elizabeth would continue to be his patron and employer until 1619, as he worked with her not only as garden designer but also as designer of masques, another art form that requires a keen sense of perspective (see Akkerman, 110-112).

Source: book offered for sale 5/22/2022 by Detlev Auvermann Rare Books; images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Nadine Akkerman, Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Hearts. Oxford University Press, 2021.

David Marsh, “Solomon de Caus in England.” Garden Trust Blog, 2019. https://thegardenstrust.blog/2019/09/21/solomon-de-caus-in-england/

Emily Rose, “Books Owned by a Renaissance Queen: Elizabeth of Bohemia (1622).” De Gulden Passer 98.1 (2020): 151-193.