John Weever, Ancient Funerall Monuments (1631)

While it is fairly common to find women’s ownership inscriptions in Bibles, Psalters, and other religious and devotional works, it is less common to find them in works of history, which is one of the reasons that Elizabeth Hamby’s copy of John Weever’s Ancient Funerall Monuments is so interesting.


She inscribed the book along the top edge of the title page: “Elizabeth Hamby her booke i660.” Hamby is one of the many women who, to use Paul Morgan’s words, “resist[s] identification,” but her more distinctive surname may yet guide us to a definitive answer. One possibility is that she was the elder Elizabeth Hamby of Lamberhurst, Kent mentioned in a March 13, 1678 entry for Allegations for Marriage Licenses . . . Issued by the Vicar-General of the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1660 to 1679 [1].


Given that the inscription in the Weever is dated 1660 and that another text places the younger Hamby’s age at marriage around seventeen, we can safely assume that the mother and not the daughter was the signer of the book [2].



As for John Weever, he is perhaps best remembered as the author of the 1599 Epigrammes in the Oldest Cut, and Newest Fashion. The book contains, among others, an epigram upon Shakespeare in Shakespearean sonnet form, which some scholars believe suggests that Weever read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets when they still circulated only in manuscript form. Ancient Funerall Monuments is the result of Weever’s extensive travels across England, Scotland, Italy, and Frances over a period of around thirty years to collect information on funerary monuments. Weever was most interested in the actual inscriptions on the monuments and less with their heraldic or architectural features, though there are a small number of illustrations within the book.



Hamby’s copy of the text appears to retain its original calf binding (albeit rebacked), and other evidence within the book (“three neat early ink ownership names to first three leaves”) might provide further clues about where Hamby obtained it and how it may have left her possession.

Source: Book offered for sale by Lyppard Books, 3/7/20. Images used with permission.

Further Reading

[1] Armytage, George J., ed. Allegations for Marriage Licenses Issued by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, 1558 to 1669; Also, for Those Issued by the Vicar-General of the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1660 to 1679. (London: The Harleian Society, 1886), 276.

[2] Foster, Joseph, ed. London Marriage Licenses, 15211869 (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1887), 26364.

Simon Patrick, Advice to a Friend (1673)

There have been already a number of posts relating to examples of dual book ownership, or at least the discovery of multiple inscriptions that contain one female reader. Among them are spousal inscriptions such as Thomas and Isabella Hervey, as well as a discussion alluding to a possible mother or sibling ownership (see the post on Ann and Elizabeth Webb here). This blog looks at books serving as important family heirlooms that exchanged multiple hands but with a clear female role.

Simon Patrick’s devotional work, Advice to a Friend, which was published in 1673, bears the names of two family members: ‘Hellena Rawdon’ and ‘ERawdon’. It forms part of the enormous Conway book collection housed at Armagh Robinson Library. The Conways were a well connected family in seventeenth-century Ireland with keen literary interests. In the early 1640s, for example, Edward 2nd Viscount Conway owned around 8,000 volumes at his residence in Lisburn, County Antrim. A year before his death in 1655, his daughter Dorothy (c. 1630-75) married Sir George Rawdon, 1st Baronet Rawdon, and between the two families they kept this impressive book tradition alive.

The book ownership timeline of Patrick’s Advice to a Friend is difficult to ascertain but it would appear to have been first in the possession of Edward Rawdon, the eldest son of Sir George and Dorothy. Little is known about him. He was born possibly in the late 1650s but didn’t survive to inherit the family estate when Sir George died in 1684. Yet his name on the book indicates a well educated and enthusiastic book owner with a strong commitment to Protestantism.

The same can be certainly said of Hellena (or Helen) Rawdon, née Graham (1663-1710). She was the wife of Arthur Rawdon (1662-95), the third but eldest surviving son of Sir George and Dorothy. She displayed a love for books and reading. According to Brenda Collins, “her upbringing was one of scholarship; she was the granddaughter of Archbishop John Bramhall [of Armagh] and she was well read and very intelligent.”[1] Indeed, two other works in the Armagh collection have her name inscribed: Fasti Danici (1633) by the Danish philosopher, Ole Worm, and a manuscript work by ancient writer Polybius concerning the rise of the Roman Republic, which was translated into English (Collins). Clearly, Helen’s reading interests were broad.

That passion for books was undoubtedly passed on to her children. Following her husband’s death in 1695, she maintained a “strong influence” on her young son, [Sir] John Rawdon, later third Baronet Rawdon. No less than twenty-three books in the Armagh Robinson Library with the Conway crest have Sir John’s inscription on the title page (Collins). While his name is absent on Patrick’s work we should not discount the possibility of his mother giving it to him for private reading. This strong family relationship with books, moreover, suggests that Helen’s possession of Patrick’s Advice to a Friend was a gift from her brother-in-law, Edward. And her youthful but prominent inscription indicates she valued it greatly. Crucially, it enables us to glean a little more about her fascinating character and personality.

Advice to a Friend was published when Patrick was rector of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. (He was subsequently appointed bishop of Chichester 1689, before translating to the see of Ely in 1691.) Offering a form of spiritual healing, Patrick provided both advice and consolation to his Christian readers in situations where they encountered personal loss or faced a religious crisis. His work contained sixteen chapters of advice in the guise of previous sermons and prayers that he delivered, some of which were directed at his future wife, Penelope Jephson, whom he married in 1675.

Indeed, Patrick had a particularly popular female audience. Helen was not the only female reader who consulted his work. The prolific English writer of children’s books in the late 18th century, Mary Ann Kilner, had it with her on her deathbed in 1831, and she in turn obtained Patrick’s Advice to a Friend from a “Mrs Worst” in 1813 as can be seen from the auction catalogue (click here). Moreover, Cornelia Wilde has documented the close friendship he enjoyed with Elizabeth Gauden, whose correspondence with him centered on theological issues and matters of devotional practice [2]. Thus, Helen Rawdon joins a long list of women who were inspired by Patrick’s work, displaying a strong connection with her faith as well as her love of books.

The beautiful eighteenth-century Armagh Robinson Library in Northern Ireland is home to an estimated 42,000 printed books, ranging from the early modern period to the present day. Thanks to the kind permission of the governors and guardians of the library, over the coming months we will be able to post no less than seven books with examples of female book inscriptions.

My thanks to the Very Revd Gregory Dunstan, keeper of Armagh Robinson Library, who kindly provided assistance relating to queries on the Rawdons.

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

[1] Brenda Collins, “Family Networks and Social Connections in the Survival of a Seventeenth-Century Library Collection,” Library & Information History 33.2, 2017 pp 123-142.

[2] Cornelia Wilde, ‘Seraphic Companions: The Friendship between Elizabeth Gauden and Simon Patrick’, Early Modern Literary Studies, 22, 2014.

Jean Dubreuil, La perspective pratique, vol. I (1663)

By Leo Cadogan

This post concerns a now-sad copy, with a board detached, of volume one (of three) of a heavily illustrated manual on practical perspective, intended for painters, engravers and others in the design trades.

It was inscribed in the mid-eighteenth century by an eleven-year-old English girl visiting Paris, who a few years later became a recognized amateur artist and printmaker. Our copy of Jean Dubreuil, La perspective pratique, necessaire à tous peintres, graveurs, architectes, brodeurs, sculpteurs, orfèvres, tapissiers, et autres qui se meslent de desseigner […] première partie, seconde edition (Paris, Jean Dupuis, 1663) has a neatly-written note to front free endpaper “Louisa Augusta Grevile, Paris, 23d. of 1754.”

This was Lady Louisa Augusta Greville (1743–1779).[1] What she was doing in Paris, I have not discovered. She was the daughter of an earl (Earl Brooke, who became also the earl of Warwick). As an artist, we do not know what professional training she might have had or how much she was reliant simply on teaching herself from books such as the present one. She was to produce etchings based on her own drawings and after artists including Nicolaes Berchem, Annibale Carracci, Pietro Francesco Cittadini, Guercino, Matteo Ricci, and Salvator Rosa. She made her first known dated print in 1757 and, as a teenager, was awarded prizes for her drawings by the Society of Arts, in 1758, 1759, and 1760. Holdings of her prints can be found in the British Museum and Calke Abbey, Derbyshire (National Trust). Her last year of production was 1770, which was the year of her marriage, to William Churchill of Henbury, Dorset (d.1808).

Print by Louisa Augusta Greville, 1755-1757? © The Trustees of the British Museum.

On Louisa Augusta’s death, this item from her professional library—which, when she acquired it, presumably had all its volumes—remained with her immediate family, first her husband and then probably their son, William Churchill (d. 1835).[2] The bookplate of husband or son is affixed to front pastedown.

In 1836, one Caroline Greville wrote her name directly below Louisa Augusta’s. This new owner is likely to have been Lady Caroline Greville, who died, unmarried, in 1844.[3] She was Louisa Augusta’s niece, the daughter of Louisa Augusta’s brother George Greville (1746­–1816). Caroline would not have known her aunt, as her parents only married in 1776. However, from where she places her inscription, we can see that she was keen to create an association with her. Possibly contributing to Caroline´s understanding of Louisa Augusta was a shared family background of connoisseurs and collectors.[4]

Caroline’s father, who became the earl, was a renowned art collector; her father’s brother Charles Francis Greville (1749–1809) was a collector of plants and minerals and patron of the painter George Sandby (1730–1809); her grandfather (Louisa Augusta’s father) was a patron of Canaletto; and his brother-in-law (Louisa Augusta’s maternal uncle) was the collector and diplomatist Sir William Hamilton (1731–1803). Social and cultural experiences derived from this family milieu may have helped Louisa Augusta form her ambitions as an artist. It was unusual for a woman to have made a mark in this connoisseurs’ world. It is quite possible that this impressed Caroline. 

The next recorded owner was the painter and civil servant Angelo Collen Hayter (1819–1898).[5] The natural son of the painter Sir George Hayter (1792–1871), he had exhibited portraits at the Royal Academy in the years 1848–1852 but had given up professional artistry by the time he acquired the volume, or volumes, in 1870. He was more successful in his new career, which saw him rise to chief reviewer of wills in the government offices at Somerset House. He would not have obtained the item for immediate professional needs, but he may have been intrigued by the provenance.

As for subsequent ownership, the book carries an old penciled price (10 shillings). It was acquired as part of lot 607 at Mallam’s (Oxford) on 29 January 2020. In the lot there was also an English student’s manuscript, c.1800, on the subject of perspective, and folded loosely into that other item are bibliographical notes from the twentieth century, relating to our volume, which by then certainly appears to have been single. The writer of the notes checked books in Cambridge University Library and may have been connected to the university. Both the present volume and that manuscript have since the sale been acquired from me by the bookseller Susanne Schulz-Falster.

Source: book in private ownership. Photos by Leo Cadogan, reproduced by permission.

[1] On Greville, see: ‘Greville, Louisa Augusta, Lady‘, in Benezit Dictionary of Artists online (henceforth Benezit) (published 31 October 2011; accessed 26 August 2020); also notes by Nicholas Stogdon, on the Sanders of Oxford website (henceforth Stogdon (Sanders)), and on the British Museum website. British Museum holdings of her prints can be seen here and Calke Abbey holdings here.

[2] On William Churchill of Henbury (d.1835), see An inventory of the historical monuments in Dorset, volume 2, south east (London, 1970), Sturminster Marshall (283-290), on the

British History Online website. A note on Greville´s husband is found in Stogdon (Sanders), who mentions Greville and her husband having a son and cites the husband´s contemporary memorial notices. These last indicate that, although he remarried after Greville´s death, he only had that one child. William was therefore Greville´s son.

[3] On Lady Caroline Greville, see Cracroft’s Peerage, ‘Warwick Earl of (GB, 1759)’; also (confirming her non-married status), Sarah Spencer, Lady (afterwards Lady Lyttelton), Correspondence of Sarah Spencer, Lady Lyttelton, 1787-1870, edited by her great-granddaughter, the Hon. Mrs. Hugh Wyndham (London 1912), 118 n.4.

[4] On Caroline’s father, see Matthew Kilburn, ‘Greville, George, second earl of Warwick and second Earl Brooke (1746–1816)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online (henceforth ODNB) (published 25 September 2014); see also Michael P. Cooper, ‘Greville, Charles Francis (1749–1809)’, ODNB online (published 25 September 2014); and Geoffrey V. Morson, ‘Hamilton, Sir William (1731–1803)’, ODNB online (published 25 September 2014). On Caroline’s grandfather (Louisa Augusta’s father), Francis Greville, first earl of Warwick (1719–1773), see Kilburn (above). For more family artistic connections see Stogdon (Sanders).

[5] On Angelo Collen Hayter see ‘Hayter, Angelo Collen’, Benezit Dictionary of Artists (published 31 October 2011); also Barbara Coffey Bryant, ‘Hayter, Sir George (1792–1871)’, ODNB online (published 17 September 2015).

John Dryden, Satires of Juvenal and Persius (1693)

By Sarah Lindenbaum and Tara Lyons

The Illinois State University’s Milner Library in Normal, IL is where the famous early reader Frances Wolfreston’s copy of Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania (1621) came to reside. The book is twice inscribed by Wolfreston “bot at london” and proves that she did buy books in the city, a fact that until recently was not conclusive [1].


However, this essay is about a different female Wolferstan book owner—Frances’ granddaughter, Anne Wolferstan—whose inscribed copy of John Dryden’s edition of the Satires of Juvenal and Persius (1693) recently found its home in Milner Library’s Special Collections (PA6447.E5 D7 1693). The Urania entered the library by happenstance, the Satires through the collaboration of Sarah Lindenbaum and Dr. Tara Lyons, co-authors of this essay. When Lindenbaum found the volume for sale and noted its fascinating provenance, Lyons made the case to Milner librarians (Jean MacDonald and Maureen Brunsdale) to purchase it and join the two Wolfreston-owned books on the shelves for researchers and students to explore for years to come. Students in Lyons’ early modern literature and bibliography courses were so taken with the volumes during visits to Special Collections that they invited Lindenbaum to class for an impromptu guest lecture in Fall 2019 wherein Lindenbaum generously shared her knowledge about women’s reading and book collecting in the early modern period. The books have inspired a whole generation of ISU English majors who know the significance of the name “Wolfreston” in the history of book collecting in England.

Though Frances Wolfreston (1607–1677) had at least two sons who seemed to inherit her bibliomania, none of her three daughters—Grace Wolfreston, Anne Arblaster, Elizabeth Bott—appear to have caught her book-collecting bug. In fairness, they probably did read some of her books. In willing her physick and “godly” books to her youngest son Stanford, Wolfreston says he may have the rest of her books conditionally as long as “any of his brothers ore sisters” can read them “any tim[e],” a wording which suggests they must have read books from her library in the past [2]. However, no surviving books, Wolfreston’s or otherwise, contain the ownership inscriptions of her daughters, in contrast to a handful of extant books that do bear the annotations and ownership inscriptions of her sons Stanford and Francis Wolferstan. If her daughters shared her voracity for reading and book-collecting, they did not systematically sign books as their mother so notably did.

Wolfreston’s granddaughter Anne Wolferstan, in contrast, was a reader, owner, and inscriber of books. A 1679 New Testament at the Bodleian Library (Vet. A3 e.2217) bears her 1680 ownership inscription, made when she was only six or seven years old.


And the 1693 edition of Dryden’s translations of the Satires at the Milner Library is hers, inscribed on the front pastedown: “Anne Wolferstan: Statf:ld in Com: Staff: / the Guift of Dr: Fowke / 8:ber 15. 1694.” There is a lot to unpack in this fourteen-word inscription, but first, more about Anne.


She was born on 21 November 1673 when her bibliophile grandmother was sixty-six years old. Frances Wolfreston marked Anne’s birth in an annotated Poor Robin almanac, also held at the Bodleian Library: “my dater wolfreston was brot to bed of a dater the 21 day of the month betwen i and 2 a clock at nit being Friday” [3]. This “dater wolfreston” was Hester Bowyer, first wife of Wolfreston’s eldest son Francis. Hester died less than a month later, likely due to complications of childbirth.

When Wolfreston died in January 1677, Anne was only three years old, so it is unlikely that Anne would have had any memories of her. Nonetheless, among Wolfreston’s numerous grandchildren, Anne may have had a special relationship with her. In her will, Wolfreston left clothing to seven of her granddaughters, but singled out Anne for a different bequest: “itom i geue my godater anne wolfreston 10 £ to be put out to the best aduantig for hor.” As Frances Wolfreston’s godchild, Anne would have received religious instruction from her. Evidence that Wolfreston played a role in her grandchildren’s spiritual upbringing survives in the form of a pamphlet entitled The School of Learning, or, A Guide for Children: Wherein Is Contained Prayers for Every Day in the Week, Both for Morning and Evening (British Library 3456.a.45). The earliest Wolfreston could have obtained the pamphlet is 1668, the year it was published. By then, all of her children were grown, meaning that she must have used it as an educational tool for their children. Whether Wolfreston read to Anne from this specific book cannot be known for certain, but is a possibility.

Anne’s father Francis Wolferstan doubtless had a larger role in influencing her learning and apparent predilection for reading; he was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford and was a barrister of the Inner Temple until Anne was about fifteen. Several books in institutions across the United States and United Kingdom bear his ownership inscriptions, shelf-marks, and annotations, indicating that he had his own library, which his daughter, who lived with him until her marriage at age twenty-nine, would have been able to access. Since Frances Wolfreston willed her physick and religious books to her youngest son Stanford who lived over thirty miles away in Wootton Wawen, it is not known whether Anne and her father utilized any of these books after Wolfreston died. There is, however, evidence of other bibliographic contact between the two families. Stanford Wolferstan signed Anne’s New Testament, writing “A b c d e f g h i” after his signature. Beneath, a child shakily copied the alphabet, as though their uncle was teaching them their letters.


Anne would be her father’s only surviving child. Her three oldest siblings all died between 1669 and 1673 (the last just thirteen days before she was born), and her older brother Francis died of smallpox sometime between 1698 and 1699. Her father’s second wife Eleanor had no live births. Of course, Anne’s sex meant that she could not inherit Statfold Hall when her father died in 1712, although John Burke does call her “heiress to her father’s purchased estates” [4]. On June 14th, 1703, she became the second wife of Sir John Egerton, 3rd Baronet and left Statfold Hall to reside with him at Wrinehill Hall, some fifty miles northwest of her previous home.

Returning to Anne’s copy of the Satires, the book contains a surprising amount of information about Anne’s reading, interests, and possible social circle. Describing the book in October 2018, the bookseller made the following note: “ ‘Dr Fowke’ was pretty certainly Phineas Fowke (1638–1710) of Little Worley Hall, Shropshire [5]. He was not only a physician but also a man of letters; of particular interest, bearing in mind the present volume, is the fact that he contributed to the many-handed translation of Plutarch’s Lives published by Dryden in 1683–6.” Little Worley Hall, also known as Little Wyrley Hall, survives to this day and is located about twenty miles (give or take) from Statfold Hall. Anne’s ownership inscription indicates that Fowke gifted her the Satires on October 15th in 1694. The portion reading “Statf:ld in Com:” is written over a strip of white paper affixed to the pastedown, which either disguises a tear in the paper or a mistake in the portion of the inscription beneath [6].


The pastedown did not remain static once Anne made the gift inscription; several expunged inscriptions and verses adorn it. Anne also appended the original inscription with the following: “Doct.r Fowke departed this Life Sunday morng., Jan: 21. 1710/11.” These markings point to Anne’s multiple interactions with the book throughout her life and perhaps a lasting friendship or acquaintance with the physician.

The expunged inscriptions include what appears to be an earlier, shorter version of the gift inscription; it is located above the extant gift inscription and filtering tools show that it begins with “Anne Wolferstan” and ends with “1694.”


This would seem to suggest that Fowke’s acquaintance and his gift were of distinct importance to her; the extant inscription is written in what appears to be her best hand, her initials “A” and “W” drawn with bold flourishes, and the fact that she may have erased an earlier version of the inscription signifies concern with its content and appearance. The expunged inscriptions beneath the note about Dr. Fowke’s death include a four-line verse in Anne’s hand as well as two inscriptions reading “Anne Egerton,” her married name. If Anne was the one who effaced these markings, her reasons for doing so are not clear.

After Anne married John Egerton, she gave birth to at least three children. Two died in infancy, while daughter Catharine died aged fifteen. With no biological heirs, Anne willed her possessions to Edward Egerton, her husband’s third son. After his death the following year, the book apparently passed to Ralph Egerton, her husband’s fourth son. “Ralph Egerton” is inscribed on the book’s title page, overshadowing its original owners more modest initials (“A W”) which flank the printed Latin motto below.


The title page of John Dryden’s Satires of Juvenal and Persius (1693) is a perfect starting point for understanding the significance of this volume and Anne Wolferstan’s ownership of it. As the edition’s title page reveals, Dryden was responsible for translating Persius’s satires and some of Juvenal’s, but at least half of those by Juvenal were rendered into English by “Several other Eminent Hands.” These other hands were Nahum Tate, William Bowles, George Stepney, Stephen Hervey, William Congreve, Thomas Power, Thomas Creech, Richard Duke, and two of Dryden’s sons, Charles and John. Even before the Satires was published, Dryden’s name guaranteed the quality of the book in its entirety, at least according to Peter Motteux who in the Gentleman’s Journal (February 1692) assured future buyers, “you need not doubt since [Dryden] hath so great a share in the Undertaking, but the rest [of the translations] will be well done” [7]. That Dryden took up editorship of the volume is likely.

The London publisher of the edition, Jacob Tonson, can also be considered a collaborator on the project; indeed, he was probably the impetus. In his note “The Bookseller to the Reader” in Dryden’s third miscellany, Examen Poeticum (1693), Tonson admits his part in “Solliciting the Translation of Juvenal and Persius.” Encouraging the project must have made good financial sense to the publisher. Having also published and vended Dryden’s other classical translation projects, including Ovid’s Epistles (1680), Plutarch’s Lives (1683–86), Micellany Poems (1684), and Sylvae, or, The Second Part of Poetical Miscellanies (1685), Tonson might even be said to have taken on the role of “patron” to the respected writer [8]. That Tonson was distributing Dryden’s dramatic works is likewise evident on the title page of the Satires. At the Judge’s-Head in Chancery Lane, readers could find “Compleat Sets of Mr Dryden’s Works, in Four Volumes in Quarto, the Plays being put in the order they were Written.”

The Satires of Juvenal and Persius was a popular seller, going through six more editions from 1697 to 1754. Anne received her copy just a year after the Satires publication, so Fowke likely presented her with a new first edition. Anne was twenty years old when she received it, and as suggested above, it seems she cared for the book over time. Like many other late-seventeenth century women, Anne may not have been educated in Latin, but this would not have precluded her from studying classical literature and ancient history. The Satires might even have been used as a tool for Latin learning. In fact, the volume shows signs of use by a reader who was comparing passages in the Satires across other editions of Juvenal. This example from Satire VIII shows readerly interest in this sententious phrase typographically marked with inverted commas with a user’s manuscript manicule:


In the outer margin, a reader has set out the corresponding verse numbers in three different editions of Juvenal’s Satires. This hand, however, is distinct from Anne’s inscription in the inner cover. It is most likely that of her father Francis; the handwriting is identical to his, and he habitually made bibliographical references of this sort in books that he read.

In 1866, Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge sold a 1676 edition of “Six Comedies in English and Latine” by Terence translated by Charles Hoole and printed by Elizabeth Flesher. It contained the undated ownership inscription of William Inge and a “168*” [sic] ownership inscription from Charles Gresley. It must have also been signed by one of the Wolferstans, since Sotheby’s identified it as “from the Wolfreston Library” [9]. The Inges and Gresleys were both landed Staffordshire families and closely acquainted with the Wolferstans. Given that the 1676 Terence ultimately ended up in the library of John Morewood Gresley, either Inge or one of the Wolferstans must have given it to Charles Gresley in the 1680s. Anne may have been too young to use the book before it left Statfold Hall, but it is further evidence of the family’s keen interest in English translations of classics. A 1614 edition of Terence in English owned by Stanford Wolferstan is now at the University of Glasgow Libraries (Sp Coll 716), and Frances Wolferstan published a translation of Ovid’s The Art of Love in 1661. He gave Anne’s mother Hester a copy as part of their courtship.

Whether or not Anne had some facility with Latin, Dryden’s Satires were intended for “persons of understanding and good sense who, not having been conversant in the original, or at least not having made Latin verse so much their business as to be critics in it, would be glad to find if the wit of our. . . great authors be answerable to their fame and reputation in the world” (p. lii ).  That Dryden expected women like Anne to read the Satires is also apparent in the preface to Juvenal’s notoriously misogynistic Satire VI. Dryden assures readers that he does not condone the Roman author’s invectives against women, even confessing that he translated this satire out of necessity because no one else would agree to do it. Wishing not to make enemies of his own English female readers, Dryden begs them not to conflate his opinions with Juvenal’s: “Whatever his Roman ladies were, the English are free from all his Imputations” (p. 87).


It would be fascinating to know what Anne thought of Juvenal’s Satire VI and Dryden’s apology, but the majority of annotations presumably in her hand appear before the text proper begins. On the flyleaf (recto and verso) and next half title, Anne has transcribed three lists under the following headings:

“The name of the 40 pagan emperours of Rome with their several mottos”

The names of the 32 Christians Eastearn Greeks & their Mottos”

The names of the 25 Western Franks with their several mottos &. .”


Filling almost 2.5 folio leaves, Anne copied the names of mottos from Mathias Prideaux’s An Easy and Compendious Introduction for Reading All Sorts of Histories (1655 or 1672). Prideaux’s edition functioned as an encyclopedia of historical figures and events, which was “contrived, in a more facile way then heretofore hath been published.” Anne Wolfreston appears to have combed through the volume from page 189 to 244, extracting the names and mottoes of the famous figures, perhaps as a learning exercise in ancient history or as a supplement for reading the works of Juvenal and Persius, who cite some of the rulers from ancient Rome who appeared in Anne’s transcribed lists.

This cross-referencing is something she had in common with her father and her grandmother. As noted above, Francis Wolferstan made copious bibliographical references in his own books, a few of his mother’s, and even in his daughter’s New Testament (see image above), while Frances herself drew connections among texts she had read. In her copy of Thomas Heywood’s The Iron Age (1632), she wrote “this and the forst part of the destrucktions of troy tragides both uery prity ons and good ons for the storay, and i think trower then the old history bouk,” and she copied a portion of the preface to Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy in her 1613 edition of Timothie Bright’s A Treatise of Melancholy (Bodleian, Vet A2. f.152) [10]. By “the forst part of the destrucktions of troy tragides,” she probably meant Raoul Lefèvre’s Recueil des Histoires de Troyes, which was translated by William Caxton in the fifteenth century and holds the distinction of being the first book ever to be printed in English. Versions of Caxton’s translation were published in numerous editions throughout the seventeenth century under variations of the title The Destruction of Troy.

Identifying early female readers through ownership marks is often a difficult task. More often than not, we have only the name of a book owner and, rarely, the date of her inscription. Even when we are able to extrapolate the identity of a reader from historical and genealogical records, it is near impossible to learn whether book collecting ran in the family or whether that woman’s grandmother was an avid reader. Anne Wolferstan’s copy of the Satires is the exception to the rule, but perhaps it will not continue to function in this way. The genealogical pairing of the Anne Wolferstan and Frances Wolfreston volumes in Milner Library collections did not happen just by chance. The bibliographical labors of Sarah Lindenbaum in tracing the vast collection of Frances Wolfreston led her to search for books owned by someone with that surname. That Anne’s books began cropping up in her searches demonstrates to us just how rich and deep the field of female book ownership is when we know the identities of those we research. For educational institutions like Illinois State University with a modest budget for rare and fine books, it takes this kind of specialized knowledge, provenance expertise, advocacy for teaching resources, and enthusiastic, fast-acting bidding on the part of librarians to build collections that not only reveal the communities of women who owned books in the early modern period but also encourage future research on them.

Source: Milner Library’s Special Collections (PA6447.E5 D7 1693). Photographs by Sarah Lindenbaum.

[1]  Lindenbaum, “Hiding in Plain Sight: How Electronic Records Can Lead Us to Early Modern Women Readers,” in Women’s Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation, ed. Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Sauer (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018), 200.

[2] Frances Wolfreston will, 4 July, 1676, GB124.E4/26/7, Egerton Family, Earls of Wilton, of Heaton Hall, Greater Manchester County Record Office.

[3]  William Winstanley, Poor Robin, 1673: An Almanack after a New Fashion (London: Printed for the Company of Stationers, [1673]), Bodleian Library, MS. Don. e. 246.

[4]  John Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1836–38), p. 188.

[5]  Little Worley Hall is actually situated in Staffordshire, not Shropshire.

[6]  There is a nineteenth-century binder’s ticket on the pastedown that reads “Proudfoot. Binder 73 George St. Euston Sqr.” which is contemporaneous to the binding. Therefore, it is not clear whether the now pastedown on which Anne’s inscription appears was always a pastedown or if it was once a loose leaf.

[7]  John Dryden, The Works of John Dryden, Volume IV: Poems, 1693-1696, ed. Edward Niles Hooker, Hugh Thomas Swedenberg, and Vinton A. Dearing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1956), p. 513.

[8] Stuart Gillespie, “The Early Years of the Dryden-Tonson Partnership: The Background to Their Composite Translations and Miscellanies of the 1680s,” Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700. 12.1 (1988), p. 11.

[9] Catalogue of the Very Valuable Topographical & Antiquarian Library of the Late Rev. John Morewood Gresley ([London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 1866]).

[10] Johan Gerritsen, “Venus Preserved: Some Notes on Frances Wolfreston,” English Studies 45:1–6 (1964), p. 273.

Nicholas Culpeper, The English Physitian Enlarged (1662)


One of the most popular works of medicine in seventeenth-century England was physician and botanist Nicholas Culpeper’s The English Physitian, first published in 1652. The book was reissued in new editions well into the eighteenth century and beyond. It is perhaps best-known today for its herbal—”Three Hundred Sixty and Nine Medicines, made of English Herbs,” per the 1662 title page.

This particular copy contains the seventeenth-century ownership inscription of a woman owner on the front paste-down: “Elizabeth Armytage.” It is difficult to make out the faded letters that precede Elizabeth, but they appear to read “Madam.” There are a few candidates for Elizabeth’s identity, as various branches of the Armitage family were settled in Yorkshire in Barnsley, Kirkburton, and Kirklees during this time period. An Elizabeth Armitage died in March 1685/86 and another, of Keresforth Hill, died in 1694 [1].  Another Elizabeth Armitage of Kirkburton was buried in December 1715 [2]. If the word in front of Elizabeth in the inscription is madam, it implies that this Elizabeth Armitage was of an elevated social status.


The book was later owned by a John Phillips and John Faulkner (ownership inscription not pictured).


Source: Book offered for sale by Modern First Editions in July 2020. Images used with permission.

[1] Joseph Jackson Howard, ed. Miscellanea Genealogica Et Heraldica, Vol. 1: New Series (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1874), 439, 441.

[2] Frances Anne Collins, ed. The Parish Registers of Kirkburton, Co. York, with Appendix of Family Histories. Vol. II. (Exeter: William Pollard, 1902), cxxvi.

Memorialls of Margaret de Valoys, trans. Robert Codrington (1664)

140- 712q tp

The Folger Library’s copy of The Memorialls of Margaret of Valois is a late edition of this popular book. First printed in 1641 in a translation by Robert Codrington, an Oxford scholar, the book was published thirteen times until 1664, sometimes under different titles which highlighted “the civill war” in France and the St. Bartholomew massacre. Marguerite was the daughter of one French king, the sister of three, and the wife of yet another, Henri de Navarre who became Henri IV. She wrote her Memoires in the 1590s but they were “not printed until 1628 after her death” (Bauschatz 29).

The Folger’s copy (shelfmark 140- 172q) was owned by Ann Rediatt, who wrote her name and the date 1706 in large calligraphic flourishes on the front flyleaf.

140- 712q

Ann appears to have read her book with pen in hand, witnessed by what appears to be a large inkblot on the front cover and a few extensive notes in the text.

140- 712q binding

In the first of the notes, Ann takes issue with Marguerite de Valois’ reference to a story from “the Infancy of Themistocles, and Alexander” in which Themistocles is alleged to have lain down “in the middle of a Street” daring a carter’s horses to ride over him.  Ann corrects her: “The Queen thus committed an oversight, it was not Themistocles but Alcibiades who threw himself upon the Street in Athens where he and some of his companions were playing at Dice. . . ” (5).

140- 712q

Ann continues her long note on the following page, saying “the other boys broke away but Alcibiades threw himself directly upon his face before the Wagon, and stretching himself out, bad the fellow drive on if he pleased.”

140- 712q

Ann gives her source as Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades, which she may have read in Latin as she gives the reference as “Vide Plutarch in Vit. Alcib.”

At the very end of the book, Ann delivers her opinion on the moral to be learned from reading about the queen’s rather colorful life: “Valois! This book is better than all the Systems of all the Philosopher’s for the great purpose of undeceiving the most part of Mankind who have foolishly taken it into their heads, ‘That to be great and rich is to be happy!’”

140- 712q [230]

We have not identified Ann Rediatt, but we do have the testimony of her well-known predecessor, Dorothy Osborne. Writing to her longtime fiancee, Sir William Temple, in 1653, Dorothy said: “I have read your Reine Marguerite, and will return it you when you please. If you will have my opinion of her, I think she had a good deal of wit, and a great deal of patience for a woman of so high a spirit. She speaks of too much indifference of her husband’s several amours . . . I think her a better sister than a wife, and believe she might have made a better wife to a better husband” (60).

Source: Folger Library, shelfmark 140- 172q. Photographs of book by Georgianna Ziegler. Reproduced with permission. 

Further Reading

Cathleen M. Bauschatz, “‘Plaisir et Proffict’ in the Reading and Writing of Marguerite de Valois,” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 7.1 (1988): 27–48.

Dorothy Osborne, Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple: 1652–54, ed. Edward Abbott Parry. London, 1903.

Charles Estienne and Jean Liébault, Maison Rustique, or, The Countrey Farme (1616)


Maison Rustique, or, The Countrey Farme is an English translation by Richard Surflet and Gervase Markham of Charles Estienne and Jean Liébault’s Agriculture et Maison Rustique. This third edition was owned by Mary Howard, who signed the book in an italic hand on leaf 2A6v.


Says bookseller Roger Middleton, the text “is a thorough-going treatise on agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, forestry, wines and food, distilling, bee-keeping, gardening and orchards, fishing, all kinds of hunting including falconry, remedies for man and animals etc. In its day it was the most important work on rural economy of the 16th century and was very successful, going into many editions and translated additionally into Italian, Dutch and German.”

A search of ESTC reveals the two books, Madeleine de Scudéry’s romance Ibrahim, or, The Illustrious Bassa (1652) and The Plain Englishman’s Historian, or, A Compendious Chronicle of England (1679), at the Huntington and The Folger Shakespeare Library, respectively, signed by a Mary Howard. While this was no doubt a fairly common name, it would be interesting to follow up and see if the signatures match our Mary Howard.


Source: Book offered for sale by Roger Middleton, 3/22/19. Images used with permission.

Richard Allestree, The Ladies Calling (1678)

By David Pearson

The men of the Dymoke family of Scrivelsby—a small village out in the Lincolnshire wolds—had a distinctive job title; they were King’s Champions. The title, and its responsibilities, were passed down the generations from at least the fourteenth century onwards. Sir John Dymoke (d. 1381) is the first family member with a name and a date, but his ancestors had done the job before him; the key responsibility was to appear in arms on the monarch’s coronation day, offer to fight anyone who challenged their right to the throne, and drink their health when no one came forward. These formalities were dispensed with in the early nineteenth century, but in characteristic English fashion the traditions live on, and to this day the Scrivelsby estate belongs to the Dymokes, and the title continues. The Queen’s Champion today is Francis John Fane Marmion Dymoke, 34th holder of the role, and a chartered accountant.[1]

When not being Champions, the Dymokes could turn to their family library, and we know of at least a couple of them who seem to have owned books in the seventeenth century. An armorial binding stamp of a sword – the heraldic badge of the Dymokes – is attributed to Sir Edward Dymoke (d.1624), and his great-grandson Charles Dymoke (1667-1703) used a bookplate, dated 1702, though we don’t know the extent of his library.[2] But reading was not, of course, reserved to the men of Scrivelsby and this post is about a book which belonged to Charles’s wife Jane.

She was born Jane Snoden, in 1663, the daughter of Robert Snoden of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. We know little about her family and upbringing; the Snodens were a gentry family from those middle shires of England, originally from Norringhamshire, and produced a Bishop of Carlisle earlier in the seventeenth century. It seems safe to assume that she would have had a fairly privileged upbringing, comfortable if cloistered, taught what she would need in order to become mistress of her own household once a suitable match was arranged. Which it was in 1687, when she married Charles Dymoke, he of the bookplate.

Much of the genealogical detail can be found on the Internet, but also in her own hand in a copy of the fifth edition of The Ladies Calling (Oxford, 1678), which she inscribed on the flyleaf “J Dymoke”, before writing beneath a chronology of births, marriages, and deaths, of the kind that is so commonly found in devotional books as well as Bibles. The order of the entries is rather haphazard, but looks to have been written all at the same time, recording key dates in her life; she begins with her marriage, in 1687, then notes Charles’s death in January 1702 (1703, in modern style), aged 36. Her mother’s and father’s deaths follow, and at the end she notes that she herself was born on 8 March 1663 (1664), at 8 o’clock in the morning. Finally, another hand has added “Mrs Dymoke dyed Jany ye 4th 1744.” She did not marry again, and the couple had no children (the title of Champion passed to Charles’s brother Lewis); she was a widow for over 40 years.

The book is certainly an unexceptional one for her to own – it is, rather, exactly the kind of English-language devotional material which regularly filled up ladies’ bookshelves. There were countless copies of this Restoration period bestseller owned by women of the time, only a small proportion of which are still extant today. As an individual copy, it also matches expectations; it is bound in nicely but not extravagantly gilt-tooled black goatskin, particularly attractively decorated on its title-less spine, with gilt leaf edges and marbled paper endleaves. I think it quite probable that it was bought like this off the shelf of a fashionable bookseller, who would stock books like this ready-bound in a range of moderately upmarket styles, knowing that there would be a steady demand for ladies just like Mrs Dymoke. There are no annotations through the book, but the leaves are not pristine; they are a little browned, and regularly stained with little spots and blotches. It seems likely that she read it. Whether she found (as the chapter “Of widows” told her) that “Marriage is so great an adventure”, but that “the conjugal love transplanted into the grave … improves into piety,” we will never know; we can only hope that she found the book a worthwhile read.

Source: book in private ownership. Photos by David Pearson, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

A. J. Musson, “Dymok [Dymmok] family (per. c. 1340–c. 1580),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

[1] There is an article on the medieval Dymoke family in ODNB. A Google search on ‘Dymoke Scrivelsby’ will produce various websites with more information on the family and their historic role.


La Calprenède, Cassandra, the Famed Romance (1652)

This copy of the first translation into English of Gauthier de Costes, seigneur de la Calprenède’s voluminous romance work Cassandra was just the sort of book one might expect women to want to read. Indeed, early moderns often worried about excessive romance reading by women. The book was signed twice by a woman named “Lucie Bourne.”

In each case, she wrote her name on both sides of the title to paratextual material. She may also be responsible for pen marks on another page.

Although it is impossible to make out what has been crossed out, use of RetroReveal shows just below the crossed out section, another signature by Lucie Bourne, this time accompanied by the phrase “her book.”

The book also contains a signature, judging by the handwriting of a later date. Thomas Pickering is possibly the person featured on this website.

Source: book offered for sale on eBay on 12/17/19 by seller allenpeach. Images reproduced with permission.

Richard Burton (pseud. Nathaniel Crouch), Historical Remarques and Observations (1681)

By Daniel Woolf

Nathaniel Crouch (c. 1640–1725) was a prolific publisher and writer, with a specialty in epitomes and digests taken from other works. He published other writers, including many nonconformists, as the article on him by Jason McElligott (2004) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography indicates. His own epitomes and compendia largely appeared in smaller formats and mainly under the pseudonyms Robert or Richard Burton. (Mayer 1994: 391 asserts the name “Robert Burton” to have been used principally for Crouch-authored books published after Crouch’s own death).

Crouch was familiar with a number of intellectual figures from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries including Anthony Wood, Robert Plot, and John Dunton, who praised him in his own Life and Errors. Dunton wrote of Crouch, “I think I have given you the very Soul of his Character, when I have told you that his Talent lies at Collection. He has melted down the best of our English Histories into Twelve-Penny-Books, which are fill’d with Wonders, rarities and Curiosities.” (Life and Errors, 1.206). Crouch had apprentices, including a woman named Elizabeth Guard.

Crouch carried a significant stock as the advertisements in his books indicate, and as McElligott indicates, the location of his shop in London changed several times during his career.

This particular book is fairly typical of Crouch/Burton’s output. It is in a small format (duodecimo) and collates as follows:
[4], 116; [2], 116, [2] p., [6] leaves of plates : ill. ; 15 cm. (12mo)
Signatures: A-E¹² Aa-Ee¹². This is the same collation as the specimen in the Houghton Library at Harvard University (Wing C7329), but must be a separate issue from that volume in which the author’s name appears only as “R.B.”

While there are no annotations to the text, the front flyleaf has written upon it, twice, the following: “Sarah Duffeild Her Booke.”

The script is a late seventeenth-century or early eighteenth-century italic hand, and the repetition of the ownership inscription suggests that the owner, Sarah Duffeild, may have been a child or young woman, perhaps practicing her writing. There appears to be some further text below the second, finer, inscription of her name but it has been scrawled out.

The book came into my hands in 2015 from the antiquarian book dealer Unsworth’s. The sheepskin binding appears to be original and is in relatively poor shape with boards somewhat loose though the text block is mainly intact. The volume is destined eventually to join the Schulich-Woolf Rare Book collection in the W.D. Jordan Special Collections Library at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Source: Book currently in private ownership. Photos by Daniel Woolf, reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

J. McElligott, “Crouch, Nathaniel [pseud. Robert Burton] (c. 1640–1725?)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

R. Mayer, “Nathaniel Crouch, Bookseller and Historian: Popular Historiography and Cultural Power in Late Seventeenth-Century England,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 27.3 (1994): 391-419.

Survivors from an early 18th-century woman’s library

By David Pearson

I’m always interested to see unusual marks of provenance and I was struck when a bookseller on eBay recently posted an early 18th-century book with an owner’s name, “Jane Deane” tooled onto a label pasted onto the spine, just below the title label.

Label from binding on John Potter, A discourse of church-government, 8vo, London, 1711.

I must buy that, I thought—which I did—and when a week or so later another very similar example was put up by the same dealer, a trend was emerging. On contacting him and finding out that he had three more—after I’d bought the first two—we did a deal and I now have all five together.

It’s clear that this is a little fragment of what was once a uniformly bound and labelled library, that belonged to an early 18th-century lady. The very simple bindings suggest this wasn’t an aristocratic household, but labelling like this indicates some degree of affluence, perhaps a gentry household or one which aspired in that direction. This seems about right when we identify Jane Deane; she may be the lady of that name who died in 1729 or 30, a year or so after marrying Sir John Cullum of Hastede, Suffolk, 5th baronet (d. 1774). She was the daughter of Thomas Deane of Freefolk, Hampshire (1673-ca. 1718), and the granddaughter of another Thomas Deane (1640/1-86), sometime merchant in Boston, who returned to England and bought the manor of Freefolk in the late 1670s. Jane must have been born around 1700. Her mother was also called Jane, and I haven’t traced a date of death for her; she might equally possibly be the book owner. A portrait from St Edmundsbury Museum, purporting to be Jane the daughter, is posted on the web:

Gilbert Burnet’s An exposition of the church catechism, 1710, illustrating the rebinding to make it uniform for Jane’s library.

The books themselves are exactly what I’d expect them to be – mostly devotional, with a sprinkling of history, all in English. Apart from Gilbert Burnet’s Exposition, we have William Cave’s Primitive Christianity (1676), John Potter’s Discourse of church-government (1711), William Sherlock’s Discourse concerning the happiness of good men (1705), and (for light relief) Burnet’s Abridgement of the history of the Reformation (1705).  This kind of book selection—worthy, popular, mainstream theology—is found time and again in the closets of gentry ladies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. I’m reminded, here, of the books which Elizabeth Freke (1641-1714) noted in her diary as being put into the deal box by her fireside in 1711 (Anselment 172–75), and I would guess that if we could find more of Jane’s library, it would fit a similar pattern. There would, probably, have been one or two titles that a 21st-century mind might find more approachable, but most of Jane’s reading would have been books we rarely read today.

Having said which, I’m not sure that Jane read them much either—the freshness of the bindings, and the crisp clean leaves, suggest to me that they may have spent more time on the shelf than in her hands. There are no internal inscriptions or annotations testifying to any interaction she had with them.  What’s really valuable about these books, I think, is their survival as a little group, representative of the kind of bookshelves which must have existed in lots of ladies’ closets in these kinds of households, up and down the country.  Quite how unusual it was to label them like this is a matter for speculation—it seems hard to believe that this group is unique, but I can’t think of having seen another example quite like it.  I suspect that time has swept others away, but the beauty of having this site is that others may know of, and share, more?

Source: books in a private collection. Photos by David Pearson reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

R. A. Anselment, ed., The remembrance of Elizabeth Freke 1671-1714, Camden Society 5th ser vol. 18, Cambridge, 2001.

Books owned by the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre

By Aya Van Renterghem

Frontispiece of A Brief Relation of the Order and Institute of the English Religious Women at Liège (Liège, 1652)

When considering the many shapes and forms in which early modern female book ownership appears, thoughts and discussions usually turn to the various types of books owned by different women or focus on the difference in ownership between social classes of women, for instance. It is, however, possible to broaden this view and also think about gradations of ownership and about the level of agency female book owners had. I mean by this that we could think about questions such as how much control early modern women had over their choice of books or over the type of books they owned. The Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre collection, currently being catalogued at Palace Green Library, Durham University, presents an interesting case study in this regard and is worth exploring here.

The Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre are a Catholic female religious order founded in 1480 by John à Broeck in Kinrooi (present-day Belgium). His sister Mentha and two of her companions would be the first Canonesses to be professed. The order expanded from there and other convents were opened across the Low Countries: four convents, for instance, were founded in the town of Liège. This is where, in 1642 two English girls, Susan Hawley and Frances Cary, originating from the convent in Tongeren, founded an English branch of the order. It is this English branch that donated their rare books and archive to Durham University in 2018 and is the topic of this blog post. The Canonesses’ reason for choosing this location was of course primarily because Catholicism was freely practised in this area (contrary to England), but it is also worth mentioning that in the History of the Community, it is noted that “[i]t was eventually determined that the English foundation should be at Liège, there being there a College of the Society of Jesus, from the Fathers of which the nuns hoped to receive aid and spiritual direction” (History vii). This will be significant for our discussion of the sisters’ book ownership.

The book collection, which contains mostly religious and educational materials as the Canonesses dedicated much of their efforts to teaching girls and young women, is extensive. It comprises over 650 books dated between 1600 and 1900. The collection was clearly also of importance to the Canonesses, as they went to great efforts to preserve it. In 1794, they escaped Liège, which was then in the hands of the French troops, to find safety in England. Liège had been under French control for some time at this point, but the British involvement in the wars against France in 1793 made life no longer safe for the English convent. Before they began this journey, they had 800 wooden boxes specially made in which they could comfortably carry their books and possessions. All but one of these boxes survived the journey.

This book collection therefore gives an overview of female religious book ownership over a period of 300 years and show us the value of books for these women, even (or especially) within the walls of the convent. However, to gain insight into the collection, the questions are not as straightforward as “Why did the sisters choose these specific books?” or “Who do these books belong to?”

Looking at the inscriptions in the Canonesses’ books, it appears that many of them were previously owned. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the majority of these previous owners were male institutions or men of the cloth who were predominantly Jesuit. A large number of the books contain ownership marks showing that they belonged to the English Jesuit College in Liège, indicated by the letters C.A. or the Latin phrase Collegium Anglicum Societatis Jesu Leodii. This college appears to have been the main provider of reading materials for the sisters, especially for the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century books. Furthermore, as CHS 056 shows, a number of the books were also printed at the College.

Though the texts contained in these books can be found elsewhere, some copies were uniquely translated and printed in Liège. Whether this was done with the purpose of giving them to the Canonesses is unclear. Likely also through the Liège College, the Canonesses gained access to books from the wider Jesuit community. CHS 018 for instance, was previously owned by P. Hijacynthus Vander Meer, who was at the Flemish Jesuit college in Tongeren.

Clearly, and not surprisingly given the reason why the Canonesses chose Liège as the location for their convent, the sisters looked at the Jesuit College for guidance and likely this included the provision of reading materials. In her article on the book collections of religious convents in exile, Caroline Bowden mentions a letter written shortly after the convent’s foundation in 1623 by Father Augustine Baker, spiritual advisor at the English Benedictine convent at Cambrai, to his Protestant book-collector friend Robert Cotton requesting books for the nuns (Bowden 343–44). In this letter, he expresses his concern about the availability of spiritual reading materials in English, but further documentation shows that he was equally interested in controlling the selection of texts. For instance, he legislated for the external Visitor to keep a close watch on the contents of the library:

Let the Vicarius have a special care that no books written or printed (even papers of instruction or devotion) that savour not of a religious Monasticall spirit, or that tend not unto it, be kept in the Monasterie: and therefore let the catalogue be examined at everie Visit, and at such time as the Ordinarie shall judge fit.

(Bowden 344)

It is unclear how far this situation was replicated across the English convents on the Continent, but it does further stress the question of how much agency the Canonesses had in purchasing books for themselves. If they did select and buy their own books, did these books have to be approved by their (Jesuit) chaplain? Was the pre-selection by male clerics simply a consequence of practicalities (i.e. it was easier for them to find and purchase books), or was there an element of censorship to this practice?

The questions do not end there: even within the walls of the convent, further inscriptions suggest that book ownership was not a clear-cut matter. Concerning this, Bowden notes that book ownership in convents worked from the principle that all books belonged to the convent and that individual sisters were allowed to keep certain texts in their cells for different lengths of time (353). The Canonesses’ collection largely confirms this, but I think further nuance can be added. CHS 010, for instance, which plainly states “Gertrude Aston my booke 1658” suggests that a number of sisters also had their own books. It is possible that they brought these with them when they joined (which is likely the case for CHS 010) or perhaps they were given them as presents by relatives or friends.

CHS 063 further demonstrates, by using a slightly different phrasing, “Mary Baptist her book with leave,” that this was not necessarily without input from the superiors. CHS 063 is also interesting because the topmost inscription on the flyleaf shows that the book was previously owned by Thomas Hyacinth Brown in 1776 (who was a Catholic Reverend based in Leicestershire). Based on similar inscriptions in other books from the collection, this could mean that the book belonged to the convent and that Mary Baptist had received special leave to keep it in her cell to read. Alternatively, she may have bought it second-hand or was given it by Reverend Brown and received permission to keep it.

Although this seems like a very particular distinction to make, the note “lent to M. Felicitas” in CHS 048 suggest that this was relevant to the community. Mary Baptist’s note is also written in ink, while the lending note was written in pencil. It is also possible that this distinction is time-related: in this case Mary Baptist was allowed to keep the book for a long time (potentially for life), while M. Felicitas was only allowed to borrow it for a short period of time. Looking at the collection as a whole, however, these individual ownership marks are, though not rare by any measure, also not the norm.

Most frequently, books, such as CHS 024 for example, indicate that the books belonged to the Reverend Mother’s room. Further inscriptions show that some books were part of the library or school collection.

Further investigation and cataloguing of this collection will undoubtedly lift the veil even further on early modern female book ownership in the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre’s collection, as well as female religious orders more broadly. Despite the relatively closed-off nature of convents, this information is relevant on a wider scale as the materials read by the sisters and kept in their libraries would also (indirectly) inform the generations of girls and women who were taught by them.

Source: books in Palace Green Library, Durham University. Photos by Dr. Danielle Westerhof, Rare Books Librarian at Palace Green Library, reproduced with permission.

Further reading

Caroline Bowden, “Building Libraries in Exile: The English convents and Their Book Collections in the Seventeenth Century,” British Catholic History 32.3 (2015), pp. 343–382.

Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre, History of the New Hall Community of Canonesses Regular of the Holy Sepulchre (Bruges: St-Trudo Abdij, 1997).

Note: This post was edited on 5/28/20 to correct a historical inaccuracy.