Louis de Lesclache, Les avantages que les femmes peuvent recevoir de la philosophie (1667)

This is an unusual work for our blog, first because it is French (we’d love to feature more instances of French female book ownership) and second because it is a work of philosophy. Louis de Lesclache (c. 1620?-1671) was known for writing instructional works. He authored a range of books of grammar, but also books that explained philosophy to ordinary readers. For instance, one of his earliest works is explains philosophy in tables, creating a clear picture of a discipline that might be otherwise closed off to the less educated. This particular book is less an explanation of philosophy and instead an argument that philosophy is useful to women. Lesclache not only makes the case that women are capable of studying philosophy, but also that doing so is necessary, enables them to understand the world and control their passions, and thus renders them perfect.

This copy of the first edition of Lesclache’s book contains two female names, Marie Jacobé de Soulange and Madelen de Soulange, both in the same handwriting. A different person, F. Merant, has put an inscription on the title page, and since “de merant” is also included among the female names, this seems to be another family member. The pen trials and handwriting on this page pictured here might suggest a younger reader.

Source: Book offered for sale by Olson Rare Books, 4/2020; since sold. Images reproduced with permission.

Hugo Grotius, The Truth of Christian Religion (1680)

This blog has featured many religious works, and like those texts, this particular example suggests that ownership inscription can reveal one’s affiliation and religio-political position. This copy of Simon Patrick’s 1680 translation of De veritate religionis Christianae (1627) by Hugo Grotius gives us little information about its female owner. The inscription reads, “J. Patrick’s gift to AP. f[ro]m her to SP.” We do not know who AP is and can rely only on the pronoun “her” for the gender of the owner. It is possible that P stands for Patrick and that these three persons were all related to each other. It is tempting to imagine that these are all related to Simon Patrick, the translator himself, but I cannot find evidence of this, and the name Patrick is a common one.

Simon Patrick, then Dean of Peterborough and later Bishop of Ely, was a defender of the Anglican church. He was an Armenianist, making the choice for Hugo Grotius, also an Armenianist, an obvious one. A gift of this book suggests the reader has an investment in Arminianism, and the passing on of the gift has the potential to strengthen a small network of like-minded believers.

What makes this unusual as a work owned (at least temporarily), received as a gift, and then passed on, by a woman is the ambitious theological nature of this book by the famous humanist, theologian, and jurist Grotius. Many religious books owned by women concentrate on practical devotion or advice such as the one other book by Simon Patrick we have featured before, which, as Mark Empey explains, was a book with advice for those who have lost a friend, consisting largely of sermons and prayers. This translation shows evidence of a different, more intellectual type of reading practice.

Source: Book offered for sale by Louis Caron, 12/1/2020. Images reproduced with permission.

Thomas Fuller, The Church-History of Britain (1655)

This first edition of The Church History of Britain (1655), bound with The History of the University of Cambridge and a short history of Waltham Abbey, is one of many history books for which we have found evidence of female ownership in the early modern period. Thomas Fuller, whose work has featured on this website before, was a clergyman and a moderate royalist, who lived during the turbulent times of the Civil Wars and their aftermath, which had a deep impact on his career. He was known for his support for peace, preaching sermons that urged King and Parliament to reconcile during the war and attempting unsuccessfully to aid in negotiations between the two. As W. B. Patterson notes in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “Fuller’s career was shattered by the defeat of the royalist cause,” though he managed to convert this defeat into a professional opportunity as a historian, producing important works of history.

The Church History contains no fewer than 166 dedications, a sign of the troubled state of Fuller’s professional life in the 1650s, but also, Patterson explains, of wider support: “Each of its eleven books and each of the appended works is dedicated to a member of a noble family. There are also dedications of sections of the book to merchants and lawyers in London and gentry in the counties around London. These patrons evidently helped to support his research and the publication of the work. They comprise an extensive network of persons apparently supportive not only of Fuller’s work but of the monarchy and the established church of the pre-war period.”

What makes this copy of the book particularly important is its female owner’s inscription. The book contains the signature of Arundell Penruddock, born Freke (c. 1616–1666), wife of the royalist John Penruddock (1619–1655).

John Penruddock was a member of the landed gentry in Wiltshire and a well-known royalist conspirator, who attempted to restore the Stuarts to the throne in the uprisings associated with the secret organization the Sealed Knot. When he was tried for treason and condemned to death, Arundell made a number of failed petitions for clemency on his behalf, most importantly to Oliver Cromwell himself. But her efforts proved in vain, and Penruddock was beheaded in 1655. Sarah-Jayne Ainsworth gives a full account of these and later petitions in this blog post, showing that Arundell continued to attempt to restore her husband’s property to her family on behalf of her seven children and to restore her husband’s reputation after the Restoration, with some degree of success.

Fuller’s book came out in the year of Penruddock’s execution, and since Arundell signed it in 1657, we can only wonder about her feelings upon reading it so soon after her husband’s death. As Patterson writes, “Fuller’s book … provided an explanation for the tumultuous religious and political events of his own time, and it included the first detailed account of the decades immediately prior to the civil wars to be published.” Thus, to Arundell, Fuller’s work may have offered important historical perspective on the events that affected her family so personally. Although it is not pictured here, the bookseller notes that this copy also contains a 19th century Penruddock bookplate.

Source: Book offered for sale by Colin Page Books, 12/1/20, and since sold. Images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Ainsworth, Sarah-Jayne. “The Penruddock Petitions: The Aftermath of a Royalist Revolt, 1655-1660.” The Power of Petitioning in Seventeenth-Century England. 12 May 2020. https://petitioning.history.ac.uk/blog/2020/05/the-penruddock-petitions-the-aftermath-of-a-royalist-revolt-1655-1660/.

Durston, Christopher. “Penruddock, John (1619–1655), royalist conspirator.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  21 May 2009. https://doi-org.access.authkb.kb.nl/10.1093/ref:odnb/21893.

Patterson, W. B. “Fuller, Thomas (1607/8–1661), Church of England clergyman.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 3 January 2008. https://doi-org.access.authkb.kb.nl/10.1093/ref:odnb/10236.  

Missel Romain (1692)

The lovely binding on this Roman Missal looks to be original, dating from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. The decorative tooling and raised bands on the spine are heightened with gold, but the book shows signs of use, as we can see from the dark stains on the front cover. This is not surprising as it would have been frequently taken to mass by its owners. A missal is a book setting out the form of the mass as well as other prayers and liturgy used by the Catholic Church.

In late seventeenth-century France, various missals appeared under the influence of religious reform groups, especially the Gallicanists, headed by Bossuet, the renowned Bishop of Meaux. Except for the offices of Holy Week, missals were generally published in Latin. This one, however, says that it is “translated into French” and is based on the official missal following (c.1570) from the Council of Trent. Mary Maire, owner of the book, may not have known Latin and would have found this translation easier to use. (According to ESTC, the first English version was not available until 1737-38; probably also an unofficial publication, as the place “London” is questionable.)

That Mary was English is indicated by her signature “Marie Maire Her Book” on the engraved title page. The Maires were a Catholic family in the north of England, most likely from France originally, as the name suggests (“maire” means “mayor”). A prominent branch of the family lived at Lartington Hall in County Durham. Thomas Maire of Lartington married Mary Fermor (1673-1729), so the missal might have been hers. The book itself would have been imported from the continent, but the imprint “Cologne: Chez Jean de La Pierre” is probably false. According to the Bibliothèque Nationale, that imprint was a pseudonym for printing prohibited religious books, which would have included the missal in French, and also books written by Quietists, members of a heretical Catholic sect. The books were probably disseminated from Amsterdam. Interestingly, one of the other titles carrying this imprint is Poésies et Cantiques Spirituels [Poems and Spiritual Songs] 1722, by Madame Guyon (Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon), a French mystic, who had earlier run into trouble with the Catholic authorities because of her beliefs.

Source: Book offered for sale by Patrick Olson Rare Books, December 2019. Images reproduced with permission.

Book of Common Prayer (1699)

The Book of Common Prayer used by the Church of England was first drafted by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and published in 1549, marking the break with the older Latin Catholic rite. According to the Act of Uniformity passed that year, it was to be used in all church services throughout the kingdom. Cranmer produced a more distinctly Protestant version in 1552 during the reign of Edward VI, but subsequent revisions in 1559 and 1662 gave it again a more Catholic turn.

This copy, printed in 1699 (and including the Psalms, 1700), was owned by Mary Knapp, who wrote her name boldly at the top of the title page. The book is only 7.5 inches high, making it easy to hold, and we might imagine that Mary received it as a special gift and carried it with her to church services, where she could have enjoyed looking at the illustrations during long hours in the pew.

The book is now in a modern binding, but it contains 44 engravings that were hand-colored and gilded in the period. The pages are further lined with red ink.

The engravings themselves, depicting biblical scenes, coupled with their bright decoration, indicate a high-church or Laudian influence on this particular edition of the BCP. Such decoration is also more representative of the reigns of Charles II and James II than of the more staunchly-Protestant William, who with Queen Mary succeeded Catholic James at the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. In fact, Bill and Newcomb began printing the BCP around 1678, and one of the editions they produced in that year added illustrative plates and included a portrait of Charles II. In 1691 they produced a copy with engravings by Van de Gucht but these are not the same as the ones used here. By the time Bill brings out this edition of 1699, he is still using engravings but has placed King William’s portrait as the frontispiece. That and the designation “Printers to the Kings Most Excellent Majesty” declare the official ties between church and state; the monarch as “Defender of the Faith.”

Source: Book offered for sale by Andrew Cox Books, 2/28/2020; since sold. Images reproduced with permission.

Coustumier et directoire pour les soeurs religieuses (1637)

The Sisters of the Visitation of Mary were an order of nuns founded in seventeenth-century France by Jeanne Françoise de Chantal. Born in 1572 to the Frémyot family of Dijon, at the age of twenty she married Christophe du Rabutin, Baron de Chantal. After bearing six children, she was widowed before the age of thirty and dedicated herself to a religious life under the tutelage of her friend, François de Sales, Bishop of Geneva (living in Annecy). Together they founded the Visitation order in 1611. It was dedicated to caring for the elderly, the sick and the poor. The order proved popular and expanded to eighty-six houses by the time de Chantal died in 1641. This copy of the rules of the order was owned by the chapter on the Rue St Jacques, Paris, founded in 1623; they kept it in their library, as the inscription says.

The book also has the signature of Sister Marie Xavier Pilles, which you can just see in the upper left of the flyleaf verso, across from the title page.

De Chantal was influenced by the writings of St Augustin, as well as Introduction to a Devout Life by her spiritual mentor, François de Sales, and writings of Teresa of Àvila and Catherine of Siena. Among the rules listed is one saying that at the beginning of the year, the nuns will receive copies of either The Imitation of Christ (by Thomas à Kempis) or The Spiritual Combat (by Fr. Lawrence Scupoli). The rules also give instructions for locating the chair of the Reader who would read to the nuns during meals. It should be in the center of the refectory near a window and with a chandelier close by and a bookshelf on the wall; very practical specifications.

Source: Book offered for sale by Olson Rare Books, 4/2020; since sold. Images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

“Jeanne-Françoise de Frémyot, Baronne de Chantal,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://iep.utm.edu/chantal/

Lewis Sharpe, The Noble Stranger (1640)

In early January 2021, rare-book librarian Jane Siegel discovered a previously untraced play owned by early woman reader Frances Wolfreston (1607–1677), Lewis Sharpe’s The Noble Stranger, at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Sharpe’s play was printed only once in 1640 and the ESTC records a little over two dozen surviving copies. The Folger Shakespeare Library’s Digital Anthology of Early Modern Drama indicates that the play was first performed in 1639 by Queen Henrietta Maria’s Men, who put on many of the plays that Frances Wolfreston owned in print: Richard Brome’s The Antipodes, Shackerley Marmion’s The Antiquary, Thomas Nabbes’ Covent Garden, Thomas Heywood’s The English Traveller, and John Ford’s Love’s Sacrifice, among others.

Little scholarship has been done on this relatively minor and obscure play and its even obscurer author, whom Matteo A. Pangallo calls a “nonaristocratic playwriting playgoer” (23). The Noble Stranger seems to have been Sharpe’s only printed play. The dramatis personae includes the King of Naples, the princess, and Honorio, the eponymous stranger.

In contrast to many of her playbooks, this is one that Wolfreston did not annotate. However, she did sign it in a favored location on the caption title page and in her customary way: “frances wolfreston her bouk.”

The book was first sold in 1856 as lot 361 of the now famous single-day Sotheby’s auction of the Wolferstan* family library. The lot contained two other minor plays, Henry Shirley’s The Martyr’d Souldier (1638), now at the Huntington, and an English translation of an Italian work by Guidubaldo Bonarelli, Filli di Sciro, or, Phillis of Scyros (1655), untraced. In contrast to the Shakespeare plays appearing a few lots before them, which sold for between £1 (two damaged copies of Richard the Third and Richard the Second) and £13 13s (the complete copy of Richard the Second now at the Harry Ransom Center), these three lesser known plays were purchased by bookseller Joseph Lilly for just a single shilling.

Siegel notes that Wolfreston’s copy of The Noble Stranger entered Columbia University’s collections as an anonymous gift some forty years after the Sotheby’s sale in October 1895. She goes on to say:

In the Report of the Librarian [George H. Baker] for the Academic Year ending June 30, 1895, on page 192, “There have been added to the library, through Prof. Geo. E. Woodberry [professor of Comparative Literature], from a sum of money put at his disposal by a gentleman, 1169 volumes. These books bear a bookplate with the words “Ex dono Amici Litterarum.” They are largely works in English drama, and in criticism and literary history.”  [T]he accession register listings of other parts of this gift on the pages around The Noble Stranger include a number of other 17th century plays acquired at the same time.

At least one other signed book from Frances Wolfreston’s library now resides at Columbia University, Robert Mead’s play The Combat of Love and Friendship (1653), which Wolfreston deemed “a uery prity one, all of loue & copells of louers.”

*Wolferstan is the spelling adopted by Wolfreston’s eldest son Francis and used to this day by her descendants.

Source: Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University, B823 Sh25. Images taken by Jane Siegel and reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Matteo A. Pangallo, Playwriting Playgoers in Shakespeare’s Theater. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.

Poems By the Most Deservedly Admired Mrs Katherine Philips (1667)

By V.M. Braganza

The digital search for early modern women’s reading leaves one black and blue: the blue of an unclicked hyperlink, a potential lead that tantalizes with symbolic hope; more often, the black of unclickable plaintext—a definitive, de-legitimizing dead end. As an archival historian in the digital age, I find myself charting these errant paths like a manic cross between a Spenserian knight and one of Pavlov’s dogs. Armor dented but valor intact, salivating over every crumb of evidence that offers a clue to the burning question: Who was she?

I recently emerged, bruised if technically victorious, from another such adventure. The volume is a copy of the 1667 posthumous edition of Katherine Philips’ poetry in the Special Collections at Carnegie Mellon. It bears two competing ownership inscriptions on the opening flyleaf: the first, browned and bleeding with age, proclaims the book “Ex Libris | Henrici: Goughe”; a second, just below, rejoins, in a darker, sharper italic, that it is “Mrs Mary Gough. | Her Book. | 1700.” The binding is unremarkable, unadorned contemporary calf.

These squabbling signatures are reconciled by a marital union about which little information survives. While a variety of internet searches for “Mary Gough” prove fruitless on their own, a single search for “Henry Gough” produces a hit immediately. It details not only the arc of Gough’s political career from Staffordshire High Sheriff to a Tory Member of the House of Commons, but that he “married Mary Littleton, the daughter of Sir Edward Littleton, 2nd Bt. [likewise hyperlinked], of Pillaton Hall, Staffordshire in 1668” (Wikipedia). Gough must have bought the book sometime between 1667, when it was published, and 1700, when he either gave it to his wife or she claimed it for her own.

Here, the archival impulse bruises itself by repeatedly bumping up against the digital dead end of Lady Mary Littleton Gough (1651-1722). A renewed search for leads, revised to include the maiden name obtained via her husband’s Wikipedia page, yields nothing but a portrait and an incomplete genealogy.

Lady Mary, like so many early modern women, is unlinked. Meanwhile, her husband, a minor figure in Parliament, and her father, recipient of a title ranked below the peerage, are amply documented. What does this disparity mean? The experience of informational paucity in relation to early modern women in the context of today’s technologies makes a staggering impression upon the historian: it reduces so many women’s lives to unmoored names and biographical dates adrift in a sea of information, sometimes towed along by the reputational freight of a male relative, often a husband or father.

Although the world wide web is neither all-inclusive nor infallible, the slippage of many women’s histories through its titanic net conveys the vestiges and consequences of a social infrastructure which yokes women primarily to domestic roles and men. This infrastructure, of course, prevails across periods. The historic devaluation of women’s lives echoes loudest in the information age—a silence in the midst of a cacophony of data. Men’s lives, including those that are not particularly of note, are often well-documented by contrast—and, more fundamentally, presumed to be worthy of documentation. While we can recover Henry’s Parliamentary career in considerable detail, we know only that Mary bore sixteen children (Mimardière).

A counter-narrative to this digital pattern emanates from the object itself. This book’s unfinished dedication offers the most promising link between Mary Gough’s name and untold history, but it is a broken one. The dangling preposition “To,” evidently in her hand and smudged diagonally downward to the left (perhaps she was left-handed?) invites speculations that she may have stopped in the act of gifting the book to someone else. (One might alternatively entertain the idea that “To” is the first word of an unfinished epigraph or quotation, but the neatness of the entire inscription and the lack of stray marks elsewhere in the book advocate against it being an idle doodle.) The fragmentary inscription is evidently contemporaneous with Mary Gough’s ownership mark above, and the question of why she would mark the book as hers and simultaneously inscribe it to another recipient is answered by the need to identify herself explicitly as the giver, given her husband’s foregoing ownership mark. The lack of an ex dono formulation might be explained by supposing that she was not Latin-literate, consistent with her use of an English ownership inscription in contrast to her husband’s ex libris.

This speculative fantasy of gift-giving is catalyzed by the book itself. Katherine Philips’ poetry focuses heavily on bonds of friendship generally, and female friendship in particular—might the intended recipient have been a woman? Why did Gough leave the inscription incomplete? Was she interrupted, or did she change her mind? This volume is not only evidence of a woman reading a woman writer, but an emblem of women’s links to the wider world: their creation, loss, preservation, and attempted recovery.

It has been over a decade since William H. Sherman optatively coined the term “matriarchive” (53-67). Since then, passionate and innovative projects like the Early Modern Female Book Ownership Blog, the Perdita Project, RECIRC, and, for later periods, the Women in Book History Bibliography and Alison Booth’s tremendous Collective Biographies of Women, have gotten underway the project of uncovering and curating an impressive breadth of material. Also noteworthy is the Twitter hashtag #fembib, which has provided a means to link researchers studying women in the archive. This wave of groundbreaking work puts us in a position to re-evaluate the contours and meanings of such an archive. It circumscribes, as Sherman anticipates, presence and absence. The matriarchive today is a space where empty spaces are eloquent. It is defined by—and encodes—a view of the consequences of social choices regarding women’s lives: that is, how centuries of these choices and attitudes shape not only what we see of the past, but how we see it. This is true of how we imagine not only women, but non-white subjects, in British history.

On the one hand, there is enormous scope to “liberate … [many women] from their long period of textual house arrest” (Sherman 67). On the other, British societies from the early modern to the modern periods have colluded in creating an equally formidable graveyard, an elusive space which presides over the metamorphosis of women from participating (albeit second-class) members and potential archival subjects, into evacuated names appended to men’s histories. This haunted space now curates the present’s link with the past.

I owe a debt of gratitude to curator and colleague Samuel Lemley for his generosity in drawing my attention to this volume.

Source: Special Collections, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, PR3619.P4 O637. Images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

A. M. Mimardière. “Gough, Sir Henry (1649-1724), of Perry Hall, Staffs.,” in The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1983); also accessible at http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1660-1690/member/gough-sir-henry-1649-1724.

William H. Sherman, “Reading the Matriarchive,” in Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001), 53-67

John Howe, The Blessedness of the Righteous Opened, and the Vanity of This Mortal Life (1673)


The Blessed of the Righteous Opened (originally published 1668), bound here with The Vanity of This Mortal Life, is a religious tract by the Presbyterian minister and former chaplain to Cromwell, John Howe (1630-1705). He could not agree to the settlement of the church after the Restoration and became an itinerant minister. He was, according to David Field, a “leader of non-conformists,” a moderate Calvinist, and “one of England’s most influential religious figures of the late seventeenth century” (ODNB). This particular edition of one of his most popular works was printed by the female printer Anne Maxwell, now well known as a printer of many of the works of the prolific Margaret Cavendish, an utterly different type of author than John Howe.


The endpaper of this text by Puritan John Howe is inscribed “Ex Dono Sarah Browne.” Beneath Sarah’s signature, John Dale has twice written his inscription and dated the first one “April 28, 1711.” Although Sarah’s inscription is not dated, it appears contemporaneous to John’s. This is one of the examples on our blog of a book that was not owned, but given by a woman. This type of gift positions both giver and recipient of a work like Howe’s in terms of a shared religious affiliation. If John Dale was the recipient of the book, the fact that he signed his name twice and included a date suggests he appreciated the gift.



Source: Book offered for sale by Jeff Weber Rare Books in April 2019. Images used with permission.

Further Reading

David P. Field, “Howe, John (1630-1705).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 2005. https://doi-org.access.authkb.kb.nl/10.1093/ref:odnb/13956.

King James Bible (1630)

Bibles were among the books most frequently owned in early modern households, and they have often featured on our blog. As Femke Molekamp has noted, “The Bible lay at the heart of early modern female reading culture” (1). While the Geneva bible was the most important of the different bible translations to English women in the sixteenth century and continued to be popular in the seventeenth century, the King James Bible became a formidable rival and was, as is true of the Geneva Bible, not only read and used, but also personalized with bindings with clasps, as seen in this 1630 edition.

Early modern readers not only read and annotated bibles but also used them to record their family history. As repositories of genealogy, Molekamp has helped us to think of how bible pages were transformed from devotional subject matter, to be read individually or aloud with family and other members of the household, into historical archives and spaces for recording dates of birth and death. This is also the case in this particular copy of the King James Bible, where family history, interestingly, is not recorded on the front fryleaf or in the back, but right in the middle.

Several female names are present in these annotations: Ann Hawkins is recorded as having died in 1784 (a month is missing). What seems to be the same hand records other family members: Anne Eyer, born in 1709; Thomas, born in 1711; John born in 1714; Elizabeth, born in 1717; and Mary was born in 1721. Probably an earlier attempt at recording these dates is seen on another page, only recording the births of Anne and Thomas.

It is always tricky to identify individuals, even with such detailed information, without being able to visit parish records, but FamilySearch locates some of the individuals listed, whose parents were Thomas and Elizabeth Eyres and all of whom were christened in Portsmouth in the Saint Thomas Church: Anne Eyres was christened on 28 July 1709; her younger brother Thomas, on 12 November 1711, and John on 29 March 1714. I have not found Mary or Elizabeth or further relevant dates.

Even with these identifications, we do not know if a woman (maybe their mother) wrote the names in the bible. We also do not know when the inscriptions were made or who recorded the death of Ann Hawkins in 1784, which is possibly the married name of Anne Eyres. But the use of the Bible, even in what seems like a casual way, to record dates that are important to a particular family shows both that the book was cherished as a repository of information and the expectation that it would be handed down generations. The last annotation seen here was made 154 years after this Bible was produced and published.

Even though we don’t know whether the annotator was female and what the exact relation of Anne, Elizabeth, and Mary was to this particular Bible, the presence of female names lays a kind of claim to the book for the female reader and gives women a permanent place in a material object that was valued highly by its owners. Female marks of ownership, in other words, can include not simply the statement of whose book you are looking at, but in a larger sense, can be the simple act of recording someone’s existence in a book, permanently inscribing that person’s importance to it.

Offered for sale on eBay by Rarebiblesandmore in July 2020; since sold. Images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

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

Thomas Manton, Several Discourses Tending to Promote Peace & Holiness Among Christians (1685)

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This dated inscription, “Elizabeth man her Book 1696/5″, is inscribed on a rear endpaper—”upside down (as though the book was open mistakenly from the rear),” says bookseller Miranda Garno Nesler. Man probably made the inscription, which uses Lady Day dating, in early 1696. “Esq.r” has been inked below the inscription, whether by Elizabeth (who forms her capital E differently in her signature) or someone else, perhaps to emphasize that Man was a higher-ranking member of the gentry.

The book also contains the armorial bookplate of collector Fairfax Rhodes (1845–1928).


Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was a Puritan preacher who was well known for his sermons. He had preached before Parliament in the late 1640s and served as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. In the later 1650s, he was a rector at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, but even though he favored the Restoration of Charles II, he could not subscribe to the sweeping terms of the Church of England after 1660 that asked for loyalty to the Laudian principles of the king. He ended up briefly imprisoned in 1670 and no longer working in clerical office afterwards.

When Elizabeth Man put her signature in the book in 1696, those tumultuous days were over and under the reign of William III Puritan sympathies were much more acceptable.

Source: Book was offered for sale by Whitmore Rare Books on 3/21/19, but has been sold at the time of this posting. Images used with permission.

King James Bible (1699)

This small-sized bible, printed in duodecimo format, would have been easy to transport and carry, and it was clearly a cherished object. The binding is lovely, carrying the initials of what was presumably the first owner, William Ainge, who also signed his name on the flyleaf in 1707.

Bibles like this one were very popular, and many households would have had one. Sometimes they are heavily marked up and show signs of much use, but this one seems to have been kept clean and preserved with care. An inscription, showing it had a female owner, Elizabeth Ainge, reads, “Elizabeth Ainge / Ex Dono Georgij / Ainge Patrii sui / 27 November / 1731” (Elizabeth Ainge / As a gift from George / Ainge her Father).

Bookseller Patrick Olsen suspects that William Ainge is possibly the person baptized in Stratford-on-Avon in 1649. I have found two baptismal records for children named Elizabeth born in Stratford-on-Avon at roughly the right time, both to George (b. about 1696) and Martha Ange. One was born on January 16, 1727 and died in that same year. A second was born on February 21, 1730 and also died young, on March 8, 1731. Since the inscription in the bible was made in November of that year, this seems a dead end. Perhaps the descendants of William Ainge of Stratford moved, the dates in the records are not correct, and we have to look further. Since Ainge is not an unusual name in early modern England, identification for now has to remain a matter of speculation.

Regardless of the precise identification of the owner, this bible shows that bibles were cherished and owned by female readers, and this one indicates a loving transmission from father to daughter of a book that had been passed down through the generations.

Source: Book offered for sale by Patrick Olson Rare Books on 10/6/2020. Images reproduced with permission.