Another Bible is featured today, containing the wonderful calligraphic signature of Ann Lightfoot. This edition was printed by the shop of Robert Barker, who issued the so-called ‘Wicked Bible’ in 1631 in which the word “not” was omitted from the Commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Barker and his co-printer Martin Lucas were subsequently each fined the then enormous sum of £300 for the sacrilege and Barker died in a debtors’ prison four years later .
In this copy, the recto of the leaf before the title page is boldly signed “Ann Lightfoot. 1769” in elaborate calligraphic script.
Though Ann’s signature brims with personality, it is not possible to definitively identify her, absent any additional information. A candidate may be Ann Lightfoot (1745–1807), who is buried in Berks County, Pennsylvania. An inscription on the first flyleaf verso opposite her signature, “T.H. Judson”, is dated 1882. Judson’s bookplate is also affixed to the front pastedown. Cursory research shows that T.H. Judson was Physical Science Postmaster at Merton College, Oxford, elected in 1875.
The paneled binding may provide some clues to Ann’s status, as it appears to be contemporary and is carefully tooled, suggesting that some money was expended in its commission.
Source: Book offered for sale by Journobooks in April 2022. Images used with permission.
Today’s book is a 1653 edition of minister Joseph Caryl’s exposition on chapters of the book of Job and contains several inscriptions of colonial American owners from the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century.
Caryl was a Puritan minister later removed from his post by the Church of England during the Restoration. Before his ejection, he had several sermons published in the 1640s. His work on the Book of Job began in 1643. The multi-decade “exposition with practical observations” on the Old Testament book eventually came to encompass all forty-two of its chapters. This particular copy concentrates on the fifteenth through the seventeenth chapters.
Job is a prosperous, pious Biblical figure whose wealth, children, servants, and health are obliterated after Satan suggests to God that he would not be so devout in the face of extreme adversity. At first Job accepts his suffering and continues to praise God, but as he continues to suffer with no change in circumstance, he becomes angry and questions him. Eventually, he acknowledges that God is all-powerful and all-knowing and declares his repentance, whereupon his prosperity is restored.
The front flyleaf contains four inscriptions. The one that first draws the eye is Joseph Emerson’s acquisition note in the center of the page: “bought by J. Emerson of the Rev.d Mr. Chandler of Rowley Octo. 2. 1747.” The bookseller identifies Emerson (1724-1775) as a minister in the town of Groton, Massachusetts, later renamed Pepperell. He married Abigail Hay and had six children with her, and was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s great-uncle. The Community Church of Pepperell asserts that he “delivered the prayer on Cambridge Common before the combined militias marched to Breed’s Hill, now called Bunker Hill, in Charlestown” . He contracted dysentery at the onset of the Revolutionary War and died in late October of 1775. His signature, dated 1747, also appears on the upper part of the flyleaf as well as the title page.
Reverend James Chandler (1706-1789), from whom Emerson purchased the book, was the minister of the first church in Georgetown, Massachusetts . One wonders whether Chandler could have been a mentor to the young Emerson, in his early twenties when he purchased the book from Chandler. Additionally, there are two expunged inscriptions on the page. The uppermost one appears to read “Tho.s E. Christian & Jo[…?].” The one beneath Emerson’s signature is too obliterated to read. The inscriptions are circled with three numeral 5s and an apparent monogram on the lower portion of the page.
Less knowable is how the book found its way to the colonies, whether Abigail Emerson and Mary Hale Chandler (who did not sign the book) used it alongside their husbands, and what significance the story of a Job—a man suffering for his faith—would have had in the lives of the Chandlers, Emersons, and Chases.
Source: Book offered for sale by eBay seller mantosilver in April 2022. Images used with permission.
 “Commemorating 100 Years: Historical Moment: Our First Pastor.” Community Church of Pepperell (April 14, 2019). https://tinyurl.com/2p9xt4na
In 1638 the French Jesuit Paul de Barry (1587–1661) published his third book, entitled La Solitude de Philagie ou l’adresse pour s’occuper avec profit aux Exercices spirituels une fois tous les ans durant huict ou dix jour. It was printed in Lyon in the printing house of Claude I Rigaud (1583–1628), which at that time was operated by his widow and his son-in-law Philippe Borde (d. 1669). De Barry, who was rector of the Jesuit colleges of Aix and Nîmes and later provincial of Lyon, was an esteemed preacher, but first and foremost a prolific author. Carlos Sommervogel, who composed the Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, attributes no fewer than twenty-five works to him. La Solitude de Philagie, which was first printed in 1638, must have been quite popular as it was reprinted no fewer than fourteen times until 1692 and new editions appeared half-way through the nineteenth century (in 1854 and 1859).
Eight years after its publication, the text was translated into Dutch by Guilliam van Aelst, who, as is mentioned on the title page, was “gheboortigh van Antwerpen” (“born in Antwerp”). Van Aelst, who passed away before 1646, was an active translator with a strong connection to the Jesuits. Before he translated De Barry’s La Solitude de Philagie into De eensaemheydt van Philagia, Dienende tot Gheestelijcke Oeffeninghe in eensaemheydt. Van acht ofte thien gheduerighe daghen ’s Iaers, Van Aelst published De Thien eerste Boecken Der Nederlandtsche Oorloge in 1645, which was a translation of De bello Belgico decades duae, 1555–1590 (Antwerp, 1635) by the Roman Jesuit Faminio Strada (1572–1649). In 1651 he translated the Traité de l’Amour de Dieu (De Liefde Godts), which was colloquially known as Theotimus (Lyon, 1616), by St Francis de Sales (1567–1622), who was educated by the Jesuits, later bishop of Geneva and a renowned mystic and reformer, as well as an inspiration for many members of the Society of Jesus, including De Barry.
Like its French counterpart, De eensaemheydt van Philagia was quite successful. After the first edition was published in 1646 by Jacob van Ghelen, whose printing house was located at the Eiermarkt in Antwerp, three more editions (in four versions) were printed. The second edition (“Den II Druck”) was printed again by Van Ghelen in 1649. In 1655 his colleague Arnout I van Brakel (1606–75) reissued this print, in identical form—even Van Ghelen’s 1649 colophon is present—but with a modified title page. That is to say, the printer’s name was altered and the date of publication was changed to 1655. In 1664, Van Brakel, whose shop was located at the other end of the Antwerp cathedral at the Wijngaardbrug, produced the third edition in a new lay-out. In 1711, the text was reprinted once more by Joannes Paulus Robyns, again in Antwerp.
Solitude as the Road to Holiness and Spiritual Perfection
With his Solitude de Philagie De Barry wanted to provide a tool for people who strive to make progress towards spiritual perfection and serve God, both within monasteries and in the world. In order to help these lovers of holiness—hence the word Philagia, a combination of φίλη (philè) and ἅγία (hagia) in, in the title—go through the three stages of the contemplative process (the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways), the Jesuit wrote spiritual exercises that should be done in eight or ten days. During this period the readers should act as if they were living in a large desert and personify solitude to talk to only with God and their own soul. In this way, they can overcome their evil inclinations and arrive at great purity of conscience and peace of mind.
After a short introduction containing the intentions of the author, a long list of general notes to be read in preparation for the eight- or ten-day exercises follows. Before starting, one must, for example, complete or suspend all one’s work, provide oneself with appropriate literature (apart from Thomas a Kempis’s Imitatio Christi, De Barry recommends works by fellow Jesuits), and contemplate on past sins in preparation for confession. Once these eight pages of instructions are mastered, the devotee can start the eight or ten days of meditations, the maintaining (‘onderhoudinghe’) of inner attitudes and devotional acts (e.g. the intimacy of the heart, the preparation for the yearly confession and the examination of conscience in preparation), and investigations (of the virtues for example).
On the first day, one should contemplate the reason why one is created. The second day is dedicated to repentance for the sins of the previous life. On the third day, faint-heartedness and sluggishness in the service of God take center stage. Next, one must consider what happens to one at the end of life. On day five to seven one should imitate Christ in the three stages of his life: in his youth, during his apostolate, and during his passion and death. The last three days of the process revolve around love owed to God, the unity with God, and the love for the Holy Sacrament. Once that whole process has been completed and readers have worked their way through nearly seven hundred pages of text, they are prepared for the New Year.
The Dedication by Catharina van Aelst
De Barry dedicated his original French La Solitude de Philagie “au glorieux S. Joseph, le plus aimable et le plus ayme de tous les Saincts, apres Jesus, & Marie’ (“to the glorious St Joseph, the most lovable and most loving of all the Saints, after Jesus and Mary”). The German translation by Martinus Sibenius also dedicated the text to Joseph, “der Mutter GOTtes allerwürdigstem Bräutigam, und allerweisesten Regierer des Worts, das Fleisch worden ist” (“the Mother of GOD’s most worthy Bridegroom, and most wise Ruler of the Word that became flesh”). With a general dedication like this, the book was aimed at all readers, men and women alike. In the Dutch version, however, the original dedication was replaced by a text by Catharina van Aelst, the daughter of the translator. Her father had passed away at the time that she wrote the dedication, “op den Voor-avont van’t Jaer 1646” (“on the Eve of the Year 1646”; fol. a6v):
Desen soo kostelijcken Lust-hof, van mijnen goeden Vader saeligher tot alghemeyn gherief van ons Nederlandt uyt de Fransche sprake overgeset, ende met meer andere sijne Boecken aen my als erfenisse ter handt ghekomen zijnde, alsoo hy aen een eighelijck van ons even nutbaer ende dienelijck is. (fol. A5v)
(This so precious Garden of Delight has been translated from French by my good late Father for the general benefit of our Netherlands, and has come to me as an inheritance, together with more of his other Books, so that it is as useful as it is serviceable to all of us).
In her signature to the dedication, Catharina added the letters G.D. to her name. They can also be found after her initials on the title page of the 1646 edition: “[De eensaemheydt van Philagia] Wordt aen alle Gheestelijcke Dochters voor een Gheluck-saeligh Nieuw Jaer ghegunt Door C.V.A.G.D.” (“[The eensaemheydt of Philagia] is presented in kindness to all Spiritual Daughters for a Happy New Year by C.V.A.G.D.”). The abbreviation means that Catharina identified herself as a “Geestelijke Dochter” (“Spiritual Daughter”) or filia devota. She was one of the many single, Catholic women in the early modern Low Countries—often called “kloppen” or “kwezels”—who chose a chaste life dedicated to God outside monasteries and in secular contexts, often under the spiritual guidance of and in obedience to secular priests or, as in this case, Jesuits.
Catharina dedicated her father’s translation of De Eensaemheydt of Philagia to “alle gheesteliicke dochters. Beminde mede-Susters” (“all spiritual daughters, Beloved fellow Sisters”; fol. a2r). She encourages them to follow the example of Solomon in the Song of Songs 4. 16, who took his bride to the garden of delight. This can be done, she states referring to the eensaemheydt of De Barry’s title, by seeking the pleasure garden of solitude. It is there “dat onsen aldersoetsten Bruydegom Jesus noch alle daghen onse Zielen trouwt” (“that our most sweet Groom Jesus marries our Souls every day”; fol. A2v), in order to pull them “uyt de slavernije des duyvels, te weten, uyt het wereldts leven” (“out of the slavery of the devil, namely, of worldly life”). Subsequently, she explains that the “aldermeest gheachten Lust-hof van onsen Hemelschen Bruydegom, inden welcken hy sijnen aldermeesten lust heeft” (“most esteemed Pleasure-ground of our Heavenly Bridegroom in which he takes the most pleasure”; fol. a3v) is the bonus hortus virginitatis (delightful garden of virginity). In order to see to what exalted holiness and spiritual perfection of the soul solitude could lead, Catharina encourages people to look especially at
de heylighe en Lofweerdighe Societeyt Jesu, de welcke inden selven Lust-hof uyt Godt ontfanghen ende voort-gebraght, met het selve sogh onderhouden ende op-ghevoedt zijnde, tot alsulcke overvloedighe Heyligheydt ende volmaecktheydt ghekomen is, dat sy de heele wijde wereldt, ende onder andere oock ons haere Gheestelijcke Kinderen soo rijckelijck, als wy tot ons groot voordeel ende gheluck daghelijcks bevinden, vande selve is mededeelende. (fol. A5r–v)
(the holy and Praiseworthy Society of Jesus, which, received and brought forth from God in the same Garden of Delight, being nurtured and educated with the same milk, has come to such abundant Holiness and perfection, that it lets the whole wide world and also, among others, us its Spiritual Children, share the same so richly, as we experience to our great benefit and happiness every day).
Catharina’s dedication, which encourages the mystical wedding and the virginal matrimony of the soul with Christ, is written as a New Year’s wish. The fact that it is composed by a spiritual daughter of the Jesuit order and addressed to other spiritual daughters shifts the intended audience of De Barry’s devotional treatise. Rather than at a general audience, the text is now aimed at female addressees, and more specifically, female religious addressees. But which readers did the text actually reach?
For the Love of Holiness: The Readers of De eensaemheydt van Philagia
Not all the extant copies I have seen contain ownership inscriptions. A good number of the ones that do, however, indeed belonged to women. In many cases the ownership inscriptions point out that the books were owned by individuals, albeit all members of religious communities. One copy of the 1646 edition, for example, was owned by Marijken de Raedt, who was a zwartzuster (Alexian sister) in the community in Aalst in East Flanders, which had been founded there in 1475 in order to take care of the sick (especially the plague victims) and continued to exist until 2020, when the remaining sisters moved to a neighbouring residential care center (Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 13; see Figure 1). A second copy (Kontich: Museum voor Heem- en Oudheidkunde, no shelfmark) made its way to Maria Theresia Peeters, who was a “beggijntien op het vermaert beggijn hof tot Lier” (“beguine in the renowned beguinage of Lier”), located some twenty kilometers southeast of Antwerp. When Marijken and Maria Theresia lived is not clear.
When Sister Josephine Vanherberghen, who was a hospital sister in the Sint-Janshospitaal in the Brabantine city of Tienen (near Louvain), lived is not clear either. She owned a copy of the 1649 edition and left the mark of her ownership on the flyleaf of her book (Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 14 bis): “Gasthuis Thienen Suster Josephine Vanherberghen.” Another copy of the same, second edition, however, was owned in the nineteenth century by a grey sister (grauwzuster), likely of the Third Order of St Francis. On the flyleaf at the front she wrote that she owned the book during the time of Sister Ida: “Van zuster MariAnna Spillebijkx grouw zuster geproffest den 7 october 1834 als zuster Ida overste was ende die is gestorven den 13 Mert 1839” (“Of Sister MariAnna Spillebijkx grey sister professed on 7 Oct 1834 as sister Ida was superior, who died on 13 March 1839”; Museum Plantin-Moretus, A 3446). Unfortunately, the book does not mention in which community the women lived. Interestingly, at another (later?) point in time the book was owned by a man. In the lower margin of the title page, a certain Frederic Verachter wrote his name.
A copy of the 1655 edition (i.e. the second edition as it was published by Arnout I van Brakel) also switched hands, but this time from woman to woman (Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 15). Judging from the location of the ownership inscription on the flyleaf as well as the handwriting, which is considerably older than the other signature, the book was initially owned by Maria Barbara Melijn and later transferred to Maria Bal who owned it in 1796. Both women indicate that they kept the book with the permission of their superior (“met orlof van haer oversten”). This indicates of course that these women were also members of a religious community. Possibly they lived in the female Dominican convent of Antwerp. The State Archives in that city own a donation deed that states that after the death of Peter Melijn (a building contractor who supervised fortification works in and around Antwerp between 1660 and 1680) six hundred gulden should be transferred to the Dominican convent where his daughter Maria Barbara Melijn was professed in 1670.
A second copy of the same 1655 edition also contains two ownership inscriptions (Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience, F 88500, flyleaf at the front). Initially, the book was owned by someone who noted down two little verses: “Het is een vremdt gemoedt / Dat noch mint, noch minnen doet” (“It is a strange disposition / That neither loves nor enables to love”) and “En houdt voor geenen vriendt / Die verandert als den windt” (“And regard as no friend / Who alters like the wind”). In between likely the same person added an emblem with the initials A.M.V. and the date 1730. Subsequently Sister Coleta Bouckaert added her name under the verse lines. Again, she is difficult to identify. A beguine with this name passed away in the Groot Begijnhof in Ghent on 27 or 28 February 1832 at the age of sixty-two. However, around the same date a Sister Coleta Bouckaert was prioress of the convent of St Trudo in Odegem near Bruges (canonesses regular of the order of St Augustine). This makes it impossible at this stage to establish whether the book was located in Ghent or in Bruges in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The last edition that was published by Van Brakel in 1664 also found its way into women’s hands. The copy that is currently kept in the Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience in Antwerp (shelfmark F 126879) belonged, according to a note on the front flyleaf, to Sister Francoise Schrijnmaeckers in 1704. Whether she owned it earlier or later than Sister Tresa Boon, who left her ownership inscription at the back of the title page, is impossible to say. In any case Tresa was very concerned about her soul’s post-mortem well-being. She explicitly asked the readers of her inscription to pray for her after her death: “Tot behoef van suster Tresa Boon. Bidt voor mijn siel naer mijn doot op dat ick sondaers mach bevrijdt woorden van de eeuieghe doot” (“For the sake of Sister Tresa Boon. Pray for my soul after my death that I, sinner, may be freed from the eternal death”).
All the aforementioned copies of the Eensaemheydt of Philagia were owned by individual women who were members of religious communities. Two other books also circulated in women’s convents but were destined for common use. The 1655 edition that is nowadays at the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp (A 2221) explicitly mentions on the front flyleaf that the book is meant “Voor het gemeyn van Blyenberch” (“for common use of Bleyenberg”), a community of Victorines in Mechelen. The Norbertine sisters in Antwerp kept their copy (of the first edition of 1646) according to a note on the title page in their church: “Ecclesia Norbertinarum Antw[erpiensis]” (Museum Plantin-Moretus, A 3443). The third book (1649 edition) did not belong to a female community, but rather to the professed house of the Jesuits in Antwerp: “Dom[us] Prof[essa] Soc[ietatis] Jesu Antverpiae” (Ruusbroecgenootschap, 3060 E 14, 1e ex).
The last three books with ownership inscriptions I have found thus far probably belonged to lay people. On the flyleaf at the front of a copy held by the Museum Plantin-Moretus (A 3437), we read that “Dezen boek hoert toe aan Jozephina Lammens” (“This book belongs to Jozephina Lammens”). As Jozephina did not add “Sr” to indicate a religious profession to her name, we may assume that she was a lay woman or perhaps a spiritual daughter like Catharina van Aelst. The book with shelfmark BIB.ACC.012562 in the Universiteitsbibliotheek in Ghent (a copy of the 1649 edition) seems to have belonged to a couple: a note on the cover page expresses the hope that “Jehan en Marie wordt den besten trost” (“to Jehan and Marie the best consolation will come”), presumably in the hereafter. The 1664 version that is now in the Universiteitsbibliotheek at Ghent (BIB.158T008) has an ownership inscription on the front flyleaf that shows it belonged to a man: “Hic liber pertenet ad me Carolum Tileman anno 1762” (“This book belongs to me, Carolus Tileman, anno 1762”). He can be tentatively identified as the student who was mentioned in the Album studiosorum of the University of Leiden in 1756 and was born in The Hague in 1736. If this identification is correct, this specimen is an outlier in many respects. It is not only the sole book thus far that has only been owned by a man and a student, but it is also the only copy that made its way to the Protestant north of the Low Countries.
Although De Barry does not seem to have had a distinct readership in mind, the dedication that Catherine added to her father’s Dutch translation clearly steered the reception of De eensaemheydt of Philagia. The majority of the books that have been studied thus far found their way to women who lived their lives as the Brides of Christ Catharina envisaged. Interestingly, however, most of the women who owned a copy lived such a life within (enclosed) convents of various orders, and not as the filiae devotae Catharina and the publisher seem to have had in mind when they addressed the book to “alle Gheestelijcke Dochters” (“All Spiritual Daughters”). Whether or not it was intended to, the book evidently reached a wide female audience and thereby played an important role in spreading Jesuit spirituality and mysticism to women’s religious communities in the Southern Low Countries.
Album studiosorum academiae Lugduno Batavae xdlxxv–mdccclxxv: accedunt nomina curatorum et professorum per eadem secula. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1875.
“Barry, Paul de.” In Carlos Sommervogel and others, Bibliothèque de la compagnie de Jésus, 12 vols. Brussels: Schepens, 1890–1932. I (1890), cols 945–57.
“Barry, Paul de.” In Dictionnaire de spiritualité, ascétique et mystique, doctrine et histoire, ed. by Marcel Viller and others, 16 vols. Paris: Gabriel Beauchesne et ses fils, 1937–94. I (1937), cols 1252–55.
De Vlieger-De Wilde, Koen, ed. Adresboek van zeventiende-eeuwse drukkers, uitgevers en boekverkopers in Vlaanderen / Directory of Seventeenth-Century Printers, Publishers and Booksellers in Flanders. Antwerp: Vereniging van Antwerpse Bibliofielen, 2004.
De Vroede, Maurits. “Kwezels” en “Zusters”: De geestelijke dochters in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden, 17de en 18de eeuw. Brussels: Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België, 1994.
Monteiro, Marit Edin. Geestelijke maagden: Leven tussen klooster en wereld in Noord-Nederland gedurende de zeventiende eeuw. Hilversum: Verloren, 1996.
Olthoff, Frans. De boekdrukkers, boekverkoopers en uitgevers in Antwerpen sedert de uitvinding der boekdrukkunst tot op onze dagen. Antwerp: J.-B. Buschmann, 1891.
“Sibenius, Martin.” In Carlos Sommervogel and others, Bibliothèque de la compagnie de Jésus, 12 vols. Brussels: Schepens, 1890–1932. VII (1896), cols 1181–84.
Stracke, D.A. “Guilliam van Aelst en Guillaume van Aelst S.J.” De Gulden Passer 6 (1928), 239–49
Van Honacker, K. Het archief van de families de Lannoy, Melijn, de Heuvel en Meyers met inbegrip van het archief van de heren van Zwijndrecht. Antwerp: Het Rijksarchief in België, 2002. Identification number BE–A0511/Y1/010)
Verheggen, Evelyne M.F. Beelden voor passie en hartstocht: Bid- en devotieprenten in de Noordelijke Nederlanden, 17de en 18de eeuw. Zutphen: Walburg, 2006.
 This blog was inspired by the module ‘Vrouwen en literatuur in de vroegmoderne tijd’ of the undergraduate course Neerlandistiek in de praktijk (University of Antwerp, academic year 2021–22). My gratitude goes to my students Robin Van Gestel and Mie Verschooten for their enthusiastic exploration of the copy of De Barry’s De eensaemheydt van Philagia in the Museum voor Heem- en Oudheidkunde in Kontich.
 It is not very clear who Guilliam van Aelst was, nor how many translations can be attributed to him. For an extensive discussion on both questions, see D.A. Stracke, “Guilliam van Aelst en Guillaume van Aelst S.J.,” in De Gulden Passer 6 (1928), 239–49.
 In the same year Paul De Barry’s text was also translated into German by Martinus Sibenius SJ (1604–68): Einöde Philagiae, Das ist Weiß unnd Manier, die Geistliche Exercitia einmal im Jahr, acht oder zehen Tag lang nützlich zu verrichten (Köln: Michael Dehmen [the Elder], 1646). This German translation was also reprinted eight times before 1738.
 The dedication of Van Aelst’s translation of De Sales’ De Liefde Godts (1651) is also written by Catharina van Aelst. This time the book is dedicated to Joanna van Lathem, abbess of the Cistercian abbey of Roosendael near Mechelen between 1639 and 1662, with whom she had a family connection. In the dedication, Catharina mentions “andere boecken” (“other books”) written by her “Vader saliger” (“late father”), as well as a female sibling and cousins, who seem to be nuns in the abbey of Roosendael.
 For this blog I consulted the Heritage Collections in Antwerp (Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience, Museum Plantin-Moretus, and Ruusbroecgenootschap), the Museum voor Heem- en Oudheidkunde in Kontich, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in Brussels, and the digital copies that are available on Google Books.
 “Schenkingsakte ten belope van 600 fl., na het overlijden van Peter Melijn te overhandigen aan het klooster van de dominicanessen, waar zijn dochter Maria Barbara Melijn was geprofest. 1670.” See K. Van Honacker, Het archief van de families de Lannoy, Melijn, de Heuvel en Meyers met inbegrip van het archief van de heren van Zwijndrecht (Antwerpen: Het Rijksarchief in België, 2002; identification number: BE–A0511/Y1/010).
 Announcement of the deceased by the civil registry in Ghent in Den vaderlander, 26, Thursday 1 March 1832, p. 4.
 U. Berlière and others, eds, Monasticon Belge, 8 vols(Maredsous: Abbaye de Maredsous, 1890–1993), vii (1977–89): Province de Flandre Orientale, 1028 and 1061–62.
Album studiosorum academiae Lugduno Batavae xdlxxv–mdccclxxv: accedunt nomina curatorum et professorum per eadem secula (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1875), col. 1055.
In the Catalogue of Scandinavian Books in the British Library Printed Before 1801, librarian Peter Hogg remarks that, regarding Iceland, “it is noteworthy that a higher proportion of the owners than in any other country were women.” Ownership inscriptions of women are indeed common in early Icelandic prints of any library. You can find many by clicking through digitized books in the repository of the National and University Library of Iceland.
One book I came across there contains a striking full-page painted ownership mark. Colourful interlocking rings containing the initials S. T. D. fill out the verso side of the front flyleaf of a copy of Ein ný húspostilla (“a new house postil”).
This collection of devotional texts was published in 1597 by bishop Guðbrandur Þorláksson, a crucial figure in the history of printing in Iceland. Most books from this period are religious works, usually small octavo editions on poor quality paper, reflecting the scarcity of resources in this fairly remote print shop. This húspostilla is no different. It is stained, creased, and mended at the edges – traces of heavy use over centuries.
The ownership mark contains only initials, but even from those it is immediately clear that this was a woman’s book. Most Icelanders don’t have family names, instead using their fathers’ first names with the suffix –son or –dóttir (‘daughter’). The D. therefore indicates a feminine name. A note on the preceding page, signed and dated 1779 at Reykhólar, gives us her full name, Sigríður Teitsdóttir. She can be identified as the daughter of Margrét Jónsdóttir and Teitur Arason, sýslumaður (a kind of local offical) of Barðastrandarsýsla, an administrative district covering the southernmost part of the Westfjords region of Iceland. The family lived at Reykhólar, a small cluster of farms, where Sigríður was born in the early eighteenth century.
The painted bookplate was likely made for Sigríður by her son-in-law, the painter, bookbinder, and scribe Hjálmar Þorsteinsson. A very similar design featuring the same interlocking rings can be spotted on the title page of the manuscript JS 162 fol, dated 1783.
He probably made the bookplate a few years earlier, since the dedication in Sigríður’s own, rather shaky handwriting tells us that she bequeathed the book to her son Jochum Jónsson in 1779: “Þessa Postillu gjef Jeg underskrifud syne mijnum elskulegum Jochum Jons syne og -óska hann lese hana og […]. Reykholum þann 27. Augusti Anno 1779. Sigridur Teitsdotter” (This postil I, the signatory, give to my beloved son Jochum Jónsson and wish that he may read it and […]. Reykhólar, August 27th 1779. Sigríður Teitsdóttir).
Another note on the inside of the front cover, made 80 years earlier, indicates that the book had previously belonged to Eggert Snæbjörnsson, Sigríður’s maternal grandfather.
Her family was clearly well-off economically, and Sigríður herself went on to marry a vicar. It is therefore likely that there were many books in the family. Incidentally, a number of Icelandic manuscripts can be linked to her male relatives. This húspostilla shows that there wasn’t just a household library, but that she also had her own personal books. Her name also shows up in a copy of the 1766 edition of Meditationes passionales, today in the British Library. There may very well be more of her books out there, dispersed across libraries in Iceland and elsewhere.
 Peter Hogg, Catalogue of Scandinavian Books in the British Library Printed Before 1801 3 (London: British Library, 2007), p. xix.
 For an overview of Sigríður’s family tree, see Bogi Benediktsson á Staðarfelli, Sýslumannaæfir 2 (Reykjavík: Hið Islenzka bókmentafélag, I prentsmiðju Einars þórðarsonar, 1881), accessed October 30, 2022, https://archive.org/details/sslumannafir00orgoog, 122–25.
 Author’s transcription and translation, names normalized to Modern Icelandic spelling in the English version.
 According to the registry of names associated with manuscripts in the joint online catalogue handrit.is, the following number of provenances are recorded for members of her family: Eggert Snæbjörnsson: 2, Teitur Arason: 1, Hjálmar Þorsteinsson: 10. There are no manuscripts recorded as belonging to Sigríður herself or female members of her family.
 Jón Jónsson, Meditationes Passionales, Edur Pijslar Hugvekjur […] (Hólar í Hjaltadal, 1766 [copy belonging to the British Library, shelfmark: General Reference Collection 866.l.4.]).
First published in 1699, the Principles of the Christian Religion Explained by William Wake (1657-1737), Archbishop of Canterbury from 1716, would become one of the most popular catechistical works of the period. About twenty editions were published through the eighteenth century, including in French translation, and editions continued to appear into the early decades of the nineteenth century. As the title-page inscription on this copy indicates, Catharine Clarke bought this fifth edition (1731) from Daniel Shatford on April 25, 1743, for four shillings and six pence. The evidence of date, price, and source of purchase usefully fills out the scene of acquisition. The primary missing component is place: but other inscriptions in the book suggest that Catharine Clarke and Daniel Shatford both lived in Colonial America and that the likely site for this transaction was New York City.
An inscription on the recto of the first free endpaper reads: “Lemuel Bingham His Book Novm.–11–1819 Bought by me in Boston about four years ago” followed by “4/6” or 4 shillings and six pence: Bingham evidently paid the same price for the book that Clarke had paid more than seventy years earlier. The “Boston” here is Boston, Massachusetts, not Boston, Lincolnshire: Lemuel Bingham (1795-1885) was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A printer by trade, he remained in Massachusetts until 1820, when he moved to North Carolina to work as a newspaper editor; he would remain there until his death, eventually establishing newspapers in several towns in the state.
A dated inscription by a different owner on the opening page of Watt’s dedication (A2r), “EC Edw Carnean’s 1805,” aligns with a Massachusetts provenance: an Edward Carnean was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1775.
Other early inscriptions on the second free endpaper feature names too common to be identifiable: “john burk is Book god giv em grace var in to Lo[ok]” (recto) and “Joseph Johnson His Book” (verso).
But the man from whom Catharine Clarke purchased the book is identifiable: Daniel Shatford was a merchant in New York City who appears in many mid-eighteenth-century records, including a legal case involving a “free Molatto woman” employed by Shatford who lived in the attic of his house and who committed suicide while incarcerated on suspicion of murdering her infant son. Described in sources as a merchant, Shatford seems not to have been involved in the book trade: an account in the Rothschild archive in The National Archives details his receipt of a shipment of quicksilver, indigo, wood and turpentine. Either he handled some books on the side as a component of his mercantile activities, or he sold the book to Catharine Clarke simply as a private owner selling a book to somebody he knew.
Catharine Clarke unfortunately is not yet identifiable: archival records reveal women of that name born in the first quarter of the eighteenth century in Boston and New York, as well as in smaller towns in Massachusetts. But here is always the hope that other books signed by her will show up and help narrow down the possible identifications.
Lemuel Bingham, likely the last in the chain of owners who left inscriptions in this book, turned the leaf after recording his ownership and added an admonition to book borrowers: “The pressent owner of this Book requests all those who may borrow it to read it through and then be carefull to return it Imediatly LB.” After a pause he continued, evidently feeling this request on its own insufficient to convey the strength of his opinions on the subject of unreturned books: “N.B. as the subscriber has lost many books, by lending them and not have them returned leads him to give this admonition hoping it may be attended to strictly Novm–11–1819 Lemuel Bingham.”
That the book was purchased at an estate auction in Massachusetts suggests, alas, that it may have slipped from Lemuel’s hands before he left (permanently) for North Carolina the year after he acquired it. The copy remains in its original plain coarse-grained leather binding, possibly sheep rather than calf, with old leather repairs to the spine, well used and a testament to the long-running popularity of Watt’s work.
Source: Book in private collection. All photos reproduced with permission.
 Ancestrylibrary.com. The transcription of this record in the Ancestry Library database reads “Carmean” but the original document attached to the record reads “Carnean.” The inscription in this copy of Watt could read more conventionally as “Carman” rather than “Carnean,” but the spacing of the strokes suggests “ne” rather than “m.”
 See Max Speare, “Slavery, Surveillance, and Carceral Culture in Early New York City” (PhD diss. University of California, Irvine, 2022) 148-52. For other records that mention Shatford, including his marriage in 1735, see Ancestrylibrary.com.
There is a tendency to treat books Seriously with a capital S, whether one is a scholar studying book history or is a book owner oneself, carefully inscribing one’s name on the inside cover or making serious notes in the margin. What we often miss is the playfulness that books can inspire. Rosalind Smith’s work has shown that early women’s books often abound with doodles, scribbles, and other marginal ‘trifles.’
This 1605 edition of Joshua Sylvester’s translation of Du Bartas’s Devine Weekes and Works is imperfect, lacking the title page and indeed the entire quire A, and beginning only on leaf B2. As we well know, most owners signed their names toward the front of their books on pastedowns, title pages, and flyleaves, so if this copy was once signed in this way, all of that provenance is long gone.
However, one reader made her lasting mark on page 528 in a circa eighteenth-century hand: “Ann Davis her hand and pen Shee Will bee good but god Knows When and[?].”
This kind of rhyming ownership inscription was not uncommon with eighteenth-century book owners, both male and female. What I love about this variation, which I’ve seen before, is its cheekiness. Like the title of Suzanne Hull’s bibliography of books marketed to women, women in this time period—and well beyond—were expected to be “chaste, silent, and obedient.” Davis’s jocular inscription seems to announce, ‘I’m capable of living up to the expectations for my sex, but you may be waiting awhile!’
Ann made another annotation on page 612: “I love thy pure lily hand / Soft and Smooth.” These are the first two lines of the end stanza to ‘An Ode of the Loue and Beauty of Astraea.’ Did these lines particularly strike her or was she simply echoing them out of boredom or a desire to practice her script?
Due to the commonness of her name, Ann’s identity is a mystery. Something about the irregularity of her hand suggests a young girl to me, perhaps between the ages of eleven and fourteen, still perfecting her handwriting and fashioning an identity for herself. In any case, her rough, playful inscription is the antipode of the meticulous calligraphic ownership inscriptions we have previously featured on the website.
First published within days of the execution of its putative author, King Charles I, and appearing in about sixty editions within a year, Eikon Basilike. The Pourtraicture of His Sacred Majestie in his Solitudes and Sufferings (1649) was a seventeenth-century bestseller. It is also a book with an increasingly well-documented history of ownership by early modern women. All six copies currently listed in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England project database (plre.folger.edu) are associated with women: three copies, including one in French, in the library of Lady Anne (Stanhope) Holles (d.1651), two in the library of Lady Elizabeth (Talbot) Grey, Countess of Kent (d.1651), and one in the library of Lady Dorothy (Percy) Sidney, Countess of Leicester (d.1659). Sarah Lindenbaum noted on this site (July 1, 2019) a copy signed by “Anna Vyvyan” in the early eighteenth century, and Scott Schofield has posted on this site (April 19, 2021) an account of three copies with female ownership held by the library of Western University in London, Ontario: one inscribed “Barbara Whyte” and dated 13 June 1649, another inscribed “Lettice Cuff” and dated 1688, and a third, passed down first “To my daughter Frances Bouchiry [?] 1700” then subsequently gifted “To My Dear Daughter Sarah Amy Hersent [?] 1725.” Laura Lunger Knoppers has addressed the widespread presence of early ownership marks and gift inscriptions in copies of Eikon Basilike, including the “relatively high number of female signatures,” a history of inscription that foregrounds the book’s cultural status as material legacy.
The “Heneretta: Maria Pitches Juń” who inscribed “Her Book” on this copy of Eikon Basilike, currently in a private collection, claimed with her signature not only the book itself but also other forms of legacy. One legacy is familial: born in 1715 in Bildeston, Suffolk, Henrietta Maria Pitches was named after her mother, Henrietta Maria (Capel) Pitches (c.1695-1726): “Juń” is an abbreviation for “Junior.” The use of “Junior” for a daughter bearing the same name as her mother is unusual but not unknown, and that is clearly the reading here. The other legacy is cultural: Henrietta and her mother were both evidently named after Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669). The name announced the family’s political-cultural affiliations, and what book more appropriate for a namesake of the Queen to possess than the book that represented the textual and material legacy of the executed King? The status of the book as material legacy is in addition signalled by its fine binding. This copy is Wing E283 (Madan #21), an octavo edition dated 1648 but published in the second half of March 1649. The gold-tooled “lozenge or diamond”-style binding likely preceded the book’s acquisition by Henrietta Maria Pitches: the British Library holds two copies of Eikon Basilike decorated in a manner similar to this copy by the Restoration binder Thomas Dawson of Cambridge. Henrietta Maria Pitches either acquired this finely decorated copy or was gifted or inherited a copy bound in a manner appropriate to the suggestive association with her royal namesake.
In August 1738, Henrietta Maria Pitches married the “eminent Jeweller” Robert Nelson, bringing with her a substantial dowry of £3000. The wedding announcement notes that she was niece to the Bishop of Ely, the Reverend Robert Butts (1684–1748), who in 1712 had married her aunt, Elizabeth Pitches (1686–1734). Bishop Butts had been a chaplain to George II and before his translation to Ely in 1738 had been Bishop of Norwich, an appointment he won through a patron’s influence with Queen Caroline (ODNB). As befitting her name, Henrietta Maria Pitches enjoyed connections with church and court.
This copy of Eikon Basilike features one additional signature: the name “Charlotte Wentworth” (unidentified) is inscribed on the front pastedown in a hand later than Henrietta Maria Pitches’ but still early: the ink is brown and the signature likely dates from the later eighteenth or earlier nineteenth centuries. This inscription was covered up when new blank pastedowns were glued over the originals and new free endpapers added. These changes themselves probably date from before the twentieth century: the replacement endpapers are handmade and look eighteenth century. Additional evidence of early provenance or reader engagement may have been lost with the disappearance of the original free endpapers.
One additional piece of information helps round out the story of this inscription. A copy of Richard Allestree’s Ladies Calling (1675) sold in a 2005 auction at Christie’s is also signed “Henrietta Maria Pitches”: but this Henrietta Maria is the mother, as the book is also signed, in the same hand, “Heneretta Maria Capoll.” Henrietta Maria (Capel) Pitches was the daughter of William Capel of Stow Hall, Suffolk and Mary Capel (1670-1724); her husband, Richard Pitches (1668-1727), father of Henrietta Maria Pitches “Juń,” served as rector in the parish of Hawstead, Suffolk. The current location of this copy of Allestree is unknown. It had been collected by Lady Hilda Ingram (1891-1968), who concentrated on fine bindings: the Christie’s auction catalogue describes the Allestree as featuring “Contemporary black morocco elaborately tooled in gilt with wide border round sides composed of tulips, roses, fleurons, birds heads with infilled corner pieces surrounding a central diamond shaped decoration composed of the same tools, the whole within a narrow border of pointillé dots, semi-circles, etc., gilt spine and edges.” Mother and daughter evidently shared a taste for quality decorated bindings, and it is possible that Henrietta Maria Pitches “Juń” acquired her Eikon Basilike from her mother, but that her mother’s provenance markings were lost when the endpapers were replaced: the signatures in the Allestree appear on the front free endpaper, the original of which is no longer present on this copy of Eikon Basilike.
Source: Book in private ownership. Images posted with permission.
 The standard bibliography remains Francis F. Madan, A New Bibliography of the Eikon Basilike of King Charles the First (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1950). Madan offers an authoritative discussion of the book’s authorship, concluding that it was written by John Gauden but probably includes some authentic writings by Charles (126-63).
 Laura Lunger Knoppers, Politicizing Domesticity from Henrietta Maria to Milton’s Eve (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011), 86-93 (88).
 See shelfmarks Davis75 and c118d50 in the British Library “Database of Bookbindings”: https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/. Davis75 is strikingly similar, though the binding tools employed are not identifiably identical with those on with this copy. For overviews of the decorative characteristics of fine bindings in the second half of the seventeenth century, see Howard M. Nixon, English Restoration Bookbindings: Samuel Mearne and His Contemporaries (London: British Library, 1974), and David Pearson, English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800: A Handbook (2005; rpt. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2014), 68-73, 133-38.
Gentleman’s Magazine: and Historical Chronicle, vol. 8 (London, 1738), 435.
 Christie’s, Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, 2 November 2005, lot 1.
 Sir John Cullum, The History and Antiquities of Hawsted, in the County of Suffolk (London, 1734), 37. Stow Hall is probably West Stow Hall, a still-surviving Tudor manor that features Elizabethan wall-paintings depicting the “Four Ages of Man”: https://weststowhall.com.
Alexander Monro was a Presbyter of the Church of Scotland and Principal of the College of Edinburgh who published a number of polemical religious works between 1691 and 1696. The title page of this particular publication tells us that most of the aforesaid sermons were preached at St. Giles Church in Edinburgh before an audience of judges and magistrates.
The copy here is signed “Anne Cornwall” on the imprimatur page in a contemporary hand. She is one of the many female book owners whose too-common name complicates her identification, but the binding may lend some clues.
The gilt stamp on the binding is that of Sir George Steuart, 5th Baronet of Grandtully and Murthly in Perthshire, Scotland (1750–1827) . The stamp features a helmet with three plumed feathers at the top, two bees within the circle beneath, and an apparent saltire in the base. The book, then, was owned by a Scotsman, which makes a certain amount of sense since the author too was Scottish. We might guess that Anne, whose signature appears to predate the binding, was also Scottish.
She does not appear to have an obvious familial connection to Sir Steuart; his mother was Clementina and his sisters were Clementina and Grizell. It may simply be that Steuart obtained the book as a secondhand purchase and has no link whatever Anne.
The Folger Shakespeare Library holds a copy of Antoinette Bourignon’s The Confusion of the Builders of Babel (1708), which is bound with Parts I through III of the author’s The Academy of Learned Divines and signed Anne Cornwall. It would be interesting to note if the hand is the same and, if so, whether the Folger volume has any further clues to Anne’s identity.
Update June 7, 2022: While updating the website’s finding aid, Martine Van Elk noticed that we had previously featured a Lady Anne Cornwall in April 2020. The hand in the 1618 Bible is not dissimilar, but Lady Anne Cornwall died in 1657, so naturally she could not have been the owner of the 1693 Monro sermons. However, she did have a daughter of the same name and it is quite likely that one or more of her sons would have also named their daughters Anne Cornwall. At this time, a relation between the two Annes cannot be proven, but Lady Anne’s Bible hints at a possible identity of the later Anne Cornwall.
“Steuart, George, Sir, 5th Baronet (1750 – 1827) (Stamp 1).” British Armorial Bindings, University of Toronto Libraries. Accessed 25 April, 2022.
Source: Book offered for sale by robinrarebooks in April 2022. Images used with permission.
In my work cataloguing the rare books of several Oxford College libraries, I come across many interesting clues as to the provenance of the books. Though some books were bought directly from the booksellers by the colleges, others came from alumni, who in turn acquired their books from a variety of sources. I was cataloguing a copy of Cyrano de Bergerac’s A Comical History of the States and Empires of the Worlds of the Moon and Sun, printed in London in 1687, in the library of Hertford College, Oxford, when I noticed a distinctive signature on one of the endpapers.
Feeling sure I had seen this signature before, I searched these pages and found Sarah Lindenbaum’s blog post of March 30, 2020. The inscription in our book matches the others found by Sarah, this time with the date 1706 and the price 3s 6d. We can’t be sure how this book ended up in Hertford College Library, though it has certainly been here since the 19th century, as it has an ownership note of “Magdalen Hall Library” on the title page.
Magdalen Hall later became the second iteration of Hertford College (the first Hertford College was founded in 1740 but dissolved in 1805) when it was refounded in 1874–you can read more about its history here: https://archive-cat.hertford.ox.ac.uk/researchGuides/briefGuide. However, there is an earlier, as yet unidentified, provenance inscription on the first free endpaper, which pre-dates Katherine’s.
This edition of Cyrano de Bergerac’s work, first published posthumously in France in 1657, also has a correction, possibly by Katherine, on a torn page (leaf ²B8).
It is an interesting work to add to the others found by Sarah, continuing to show the breadth of Katherine’s interests. This early work of science fiction inspired the work of later writers such as Jonathan Swift and Voltaire and touches on philosophy, religion, and politics.
Hertford Library collection is open to researchers (https://www.hertford.ox.ac.uk/and-more/rarebooks-archives/rare-books) and partly catalogued on the university catalogue SOLO. There is still much to be discovered within the collections at Hertford College, and the ongoing cataloguing project will hopefully provide more interesting examples of early female owners.
We often find extensive evidence of use in early modern Protestant bibles, including transcribed sermons, commonplaced passages from other religious books, forms of cross-referencing, annotation, and self-accounting, alongside pen trials, signatures, doodles, ownership marks, recipes, financial accounts, and (perhaps especially) family histories. As other entries in this blog will attest, it is not unusual to find extensive lists of births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths recorded on the pastedowns and endleaves of early modern protestant bibles, books objects that could remain in active use long after their production, serving as participatory sites of material accumulation and readerly intervention for a broad socio-economic cross-section of users, and usually over very long periods of time.
Bangor University’s copy of the third edition of ‘THE BYBLE | CRANMER VERSION’ (1540), otherwise known as the Great Bible, nicely illustrates this point (Fig. 1). As I have written elsewhere, Bangor’s Great Bible is replete with a range of readerly interventions, including handwritten signatures, ownership marks, pen trials, and forms of commonplacing, which are variously dated from the mid-sixteenth century through to the early decades of the twentieth century. These inscriptions were made by up to ten separate individuals, although only three of them, all male, can be identified as former owners. These include a man called Benjamin Rogers, who identifies himself as a “yomon” residing in “Rowin[g]ton” in Warwickshire, and who is active in its margins between 1710 and 1743; one “Rev J[ohn] T[heodosius] Jones” (c. 1786–1851), a “Vicar of Saintbury” in Gloucestershire, and a former Master of the Grammar School of King Edward VI, Stratford-upon-Avon; and finally Richard Hughes (1837–1930), an Anglesey-based farm labourer who donated this Great Bible to Bangor University in 1930.
Benjamin Rogers is by far the most active book user in Bangor’s Great Bible. His name appears over 200 times throughout, and it is usually accompanied by the formulaic phrase “His Booke” or by his favoured passage adapted from Proverbs, “Give me neither poverty nor Riches but food.” Benjamin’s presence is also experienced in generic aphorisms—”Benjamin Rogers is my name and with my pen I writ[e] the | Same and if my pen it had been better I should have mended | Every Letter”—or, continuing the theme of mending, in the numerous examples of patchwork repair undertaken within the book, which see Benjamin reaching in to dress wounded pages with hand-written supplements (Figs. 2-3).
There is, to put it another way, a very real sense that Bangor’s Great Bible is “His Booke.” Indeed, Benjamin’s claims to ownership feel almost overwhelming, and he appears to have had a surveillant eye set on the presence of hands that are not his own. As can be seen in Figures 4 and 5, printed manicules situated within the margins of the text incite self-reflexive phrases like “the hand” or, in one instance, “wittnes my hand,” an expression that seems almost to will the typographical hand to point away from the biblical text and back to Benjamin as reader and owner. Elsewhere, an inscription dated 1670—this time a reworked passage from Owen Feltham’s bestselling essay collection, Resolves: Divine, Moral, Political (1620), which is signed by one “George Rogers”—prompts Benjamin, later in 1733, to respond with “hand of that man.” Whether or not George Rogers was a relative of Benjamin Rogers is unclear, but his “hand of that man” phrase, which loiters on the periphery of George’s earlier inscription, seems curiously combative.
From another perspective, however, Benjamin’s focus on hands (his own and those of others) need not be read as a sign of his guarded attitude to book ownership. The book’s emotive/devotional force seems to be located in a sense that Benjamin is not, in fact, alone, that his hands are in communal alignment with others. In one instance, for example, Benjamin’s claims to book ownership will spill over into a broader claim to patriarchal possession in marriage, and in doing so he introduces us to a female figure who can be incorporated into this book’s history of ownership: “Benjamin Rogers His Book 1739 | Susanna Rogers His Wife” (Fig. 6).
Evidence from the marriage register for St Nicholas’ Church, Warwick, suggests that this inscription was made about sixteen years after a “Benjamin Rogers of Rowington” married “Susannah Ward of Claverton” on the 13 January 1723. In that time, Susanna made her presence felt within Bangor’s Great Bible, although, unlike Benjamin, she never deployed the ownership phrase, “Her Book.” Instead, we find her formulating her signature in the margins of the Book of Esau, cautiously repeating the “S” “S” “S” “S” of “Susanna” as she prepares to write out her name in full (Fig. 7); a “Susanna” also appears once in the margins of the Book of Job, six times in the margins of the Book of Numbers, and twice in Deuteronomy; further, the letter “S” appears randomly in several other sections within Bangor’s Great Bible, which together hint at her readerly presence even if that “S” did not form itself into a fuller “Susanna.”
Susanna is/was there, moving through the book’s pages with a pen in her hand, making herself known in ways that are less insistent than that of her husband, but that are still visible to us. The same is true of other women, and other men, who materialise on an interleaved sheet that appears at the back of Bangor’s Great Bible, situated between the main text block and the lower board. There we find the name “Mary Elderidge,” which has been written out at least three times, as well as the signatures of “Thomas Reynolds,” “Joseph Bernard,” and a “Thomas Drury,” which is dated “1740.” On the same sheet we find the ubiquitous “Benjamin Rogers,” who, nestled within this messy, overlapping cluster of hands, has dated his own inscriptions “1739,” “1740,” and “1741” respectively (Fig. 8).
The image above suggests that, whilst this book may be “His,” it is clearly also an object that moved within a larger community, and it got folded into these other lives as it moved. As such, Bangor’s Great Bible serves as evidence not of an isolated reader/book owner, but one whose reading practices were enlivened, and even authorised by, a wider network of men and women within and outside of the Rogers family. Benjamin’s “wittnes my hand” inscription seems to suggest as much, pointing us to the forms of early modern “witnessing” that Jason Scott-Warren has described, in which claims to book ownership were staged before observing, participating audiences. In the case of Bangor’s Great Bible, this audience was made up of women like Mary and Susanna, and, if we can say that, between 1710 and 1743, Bangor’s Great Bible was his book, it’s conceivable that this was made possible by the fact that it passed through their hands as well.
Source: The Byble in Englyshe: that is to saye the conte[n]t of al the holy scrypture, both of yer olde, and new testame[n]t, with a prologe therinto, made by the reuerende father in God, Thomas Archbyshop of Cantorbury. This is the Byble apoynted to the vse of the churches (Bangor University Library, shelf mark X/EC1 1540). Images reproduced with the permission of Bangor University Archives and Special Collections.
We have posted before on The Lady’s New Year’s Gift by George Savile on this blog, suggesting that the book had lasting appeal for women readers. We have recently encountered more evidence of the advice book’s popularity. A copy of the book has appeared at auction recently, bearing multiple traces of female ownership and passing down of the book from one generation to another.
The title page, as shown above, carries the signature “Mary Isham.” But front and end pages in the book show more signatures:
Jane and Mary have helpfully dated their signatures. Jane Isham’s 1706 signature is followed by Mary Brooke’s 1738 signature, which indicates that the book was a gift of her mother. This leaves us with the Mary Isham on the title page, which seems a different hand from Mary Brooke’s and possibly an earlier one.
While Isham is a relatively common name, some investigation has brought up an identification, beginning with a rector in Barby, Northamtonshire, named Thomas Isham (d. 1676), who was married to Mary, who died in 1684. Thomas and Mary had a son named Zacheus Isham (1651-1705), who became a clergyman and had a rather distinguished career at Oxford and beyond, including a position as chaplain to the Bishop of London and a prebendary in St. Paul’s Cathedral. He married Elizabeth Pittis, and they had eight children. Their third daughter was named Jane (c. 1699-1757), who is possibly be the person who signed her name twice in this book; if so, she signed the book when she was only seven years old. Her older sister and second daughter of Zacheus and Elizabeth was Mary Isham (c. 1696-1750), who possibly wrote the signature on the title page and who married Arthur Brooke (c. 1695-1754). Their eldest daughter was Mary Brooke (1723-1782), the likely writer of the note about receiving the book from her mama in 1738, when she would have been fifteen years old. This Mary married Richard Supple (1720-1797), and their son, Richard Brooke Supple (1758-1829) became a Baronet. The Ishams were related to another aristocratic Isham family as Zacheus Isham was a cousin of Sir Thomas Isham, third Baronet of Lamport, in turn a nephew of Elizabeth Isham, now best known for her diaries.
The book appears, then, to have been passed from sister to sister and then mother to daughter, as Mary Brooke’s inscription tells us. If Mary Brooke’s mother signed the title page, then all three women made note of their ownership. Alternatively, it is possible that the “Mary Isham” on the title page is the signature of Mary and Jane’s grandmother, also named Mary Isham, who died six years after the book was published. If that is the case, the object shows evidence of even more generations of female book ownership, as this particular family appears to have cherished the advice of Savile to his daughter.
Source: Book sold at auction February 10, 2022, by Forum Auctions. Images reproduced with permission.
While most of our posts involve single books or evidence of book ownership in the form of marginalia and signatures, another key area of provenance research is in the form of inventories and book lists. The fascinating database and journal series Private Libraries of Renaissance England have showcased a number of key women for whom the content of larger libraries are known. These lists, whether they are based on inventories or wills, help us determine not only what women read, but also, as Edith Snook notes, how they wanted to present themselves. Indeed, in her essay on the private library of Elizabeth Isham, Snook calls the booklist a form of life writing or “ego document,” a source that can tell us something about women’s senses of identity, particularly for noble women whose profile was of necessity at least to some degree public.
In his chapter in the collection Women’s Bookscapes, Joseph Black predicted that “Unpublished early modern booklists will … continue to turn up” (219). A few months ago, I was delighted to receive a message from Tim Couzens, who offered to share with us and our readers two lists of books that he has found in the papers of Lady Dorothy Long housed at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Though he will be editing and publishing these lists more fully soon, we get here an advance look at the contents. The lists were evidently drawn up to facilitate their placement in the household, as they are books to be put on “the high shelf,” some of them grouped among the “little books to be put on the high shelf.” Whether the “high shelf” indicates that they needed to be placed out of reach or were stored where they were not readily accessible is unclear.
Lady Dorothy Long, née Leche (c. 1620-1710) was married in around 1640 to Sir James Long, second Baronet (1617-1692), a politician. The couple lived in their estate at Draycot, Wiltshire. Sir James had fought on the side of the royalists in the Civil Wars, but nonetheless, according to biographer John Aubrey, befriended Oliver Cromwell through his interests in hawking, a lifelong passion. Aubrey lists James Long under “amici” (friends) in his Brief Lives.
In their edition of Elizabeth Isham’s autobiographical writings, Elizabeth Clarke and Erica Longfellow mention Lady Long (“Dolly”)’s correspondence with Isham’s brother and contrast her style with that of the more sober Isham: “[Long’s] letters employ the banter of a royalist coterie, complete with nicknames and a (mocking) reference to their ‘Academy’, in a style reminiscent of the more familiar and accomplished works of Margaret Cavendish and Katherine Philips. Lady Long does display an interest in literature, particularly the salacious Ovid, but she mocks the Countess of Dysart’s serious study of Donne.” Long donated to the Ashmolean, and their Book of Benefactors describes her in much different terms, as “the pride and joy of her family and her sex … [She] showed a deep interest in primitive religions and antiquities. Her piety and great good will to this University led her to give a carved ivory crosier [head] which had belonged to Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, to this museum to be placed with the other treasures.”
Given these contrasting descriptions, it is fascinating to think, with Snook, of the two lists of books that belonged to Long as a form of life writing to counter the narratives of royalist eccentricity and piety.
Here is Tim Couzen’s transcription, along with his preliminary identifications of the books in brackets:
Little books to put ith highe Shelf. [15 July 1704, from content]
Narrative oth Fire at London [An Historical narrative of the Great and Terrible Fire of London, Sept 2nd1666. Gideon Harvey. This may be an original of the book published more generally by W. Nicoll in 1769.]
Epitome of Husbandry [The Epitome of the Art of Husbandry: comprising all necessary directions for the Improvement of it. Etc, by J.B. Gent (Joseph Blagrave), 1675.]
Flatmans Poems [Dr. Thomas Flatman (1635–1688) Fellow of the Royal Society, Poet and miniature painter. Probably Poems and Songs (1674).]
Counr Manners Legacy tos Son. [Counsellor Manners, His Last legacy to His Son: etc. Probably the first edition, published in 1673, by Josiah Dare.]
Dr Gouge Domestick dutys [Of Domesticall Duties, eight treatises etc. by William Gouge, 1622.]
Pasquin risen from ye Dead [London, 1674.]
Nat: Culverwel on ye Light of Nature [Nathaniel Culverwell (1619–1651), An elegant and learned discourse of the Light of Nature, 1652.]
The History of Joseph &c: [Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews. Probably the 1700 edition.]
Theopanila Broms Poems [William Sales’s Theophania (London, 1655) and Alexander Brome’s Poems.]
G [Gaius] Velleius Paterculus [Roman Historian (c 19BC – c AD31). There are several early editions.]
Evagoros. [Evagoros. [Two possible identifications: Paul Salzman has suggested this is Evagoras, a Romance by L.L. Gent (London, 1677). A second possibility is the Greek oration by Isocrates on the King of Salamis (Unknown edition). Given the mixture of romances, for Dorothy Long’s own use, and text books from her grandson, James, it is not possible to be certain, but the former seems much more likely.]
Bookes to put into ye High Shelfe ye 15o July 1704.
The Countise Montgomerys Urania [romance by Mary Wroth (1587–1653), dedicated to Countess of Montgomery; the book was first published in 1621.]
Orlando Furiosa: Abraham Cowleys workes [Two separate books. The first is Orlando Furioso, an Italian epic poem of Ludovico Ariosto (1516–1532), presumably in an early, but un-named translation. Abraham Cowley (1618–1667), was an English poet, with 14 printings of his works published between 1668 and 1721.]
Mrs Phillipes’s Verses. orinda. [Katherine Philips (1631/32–1664), known as “The Matchless Orinda,” was an Anglo-Welsh royalist poet, translator, and woman of letters. After her death, in 1667, an authorized edition of her poetry was printed entitled Poems by the Most Deservedly admired Mrs Katherine Philips, the Matchless Orinda, which included her translations of Pompee and Horace.]
Scarrons Comicall Romance [Paul Scarron (1610–1660) was a French dramatist and novelist. The Roman Comique was reworked by a number of English authors.]
The Lusiad. or Portingales His: a Poem [The Lusiads is a Portuguese epic poem written by Luis vaz de Camoes (c1524/5–1580) and first published in 1572. The date and author of the early translation is not stated.]
The warres of Justinian [The history of the warres of the Emperour Justinian in eight books: etc. Written in Greek by Procopius etc. Englished by Sir Henry Holcroft (1586–1650). Published in 1653.]
Micrographia. By Rob: Hooke [Likely to be a first edition (1665) directly from the author. The book is listed in the 1846 Draycot House contents catalogue.]
The Civell warrs of Spain [Joseph Black has identified this as Prudencio de Sandoval, The Civil Wars of Spain (published in multiple editions from 1652 to 1662) This book is also listed in the 1795 Draycot House Inventory.]
Phillipe De Comines. [An early translation from French of the Memoirs of Philippe de Commines. The usual publication date for Volume 2 is 1712.]
Cornelius Tacitus Tacitus Arriana. [The Annales of Cornelius Tacitus: The description of Germanie. Translated by Richard Greenway and Sir Henry Savile (1549–1622). Published London, 1640; Ariana is a romance by Jean Desmarets, Sieur de Saint Sorlin, originally translated in 1636.]
Of Goverment of obeydiense by Jo: Hall. [Of Government and obedience as the stand directed and determined in Scripture and reason, four books by John Hall of Richmond. London, 1654.]
Cass[andra?] Sanders on Memory &c. [The title is obscured by the fold; the first book is Cassandra the fam’d romance: the whole work: in five parts / written originally in French: now elegantly rendred into English by a person of quality. Cassandra is a translation of a romance novel by Gaultier de Coste La Calprenède, translated in 1652. Possible second work is unidentified.]
Pasquil risen from ye Dead to put higher [see above.]
Standly’s 7: wise Men &c. [Thomas Stanley (1625–1678) was an English Author and translator. The History of Philosophy, 3 volumes published in 1655, 1656, and 1660, includes the seven wise men (sages) of Greece.]
A larg print of Cardinall Richeleis House [Probably the Chateau de Richelieu, south of Chinon, Touraine, rather than the Palais Royal in Paris.]
Nero Ceazar. & ye warr of Jugurth &c: [Two separate books. The first title is possibly Nero Caesar, or Monarchy Depraved. An Historical Work, by Edmund Bolton (published 1627). The second is an early English translation of Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus). The Warre of Jugurth is by Thomas Heywood, 1608.]
The collection of books is, as Tim Couzens notes in his email to me, largely associated with her schooling of her grandsons, Sir Giles and Sir James Long (later 5th Baronet), before they went on to tutors and governors and to Oxford. But many women’s collections included works of history and politics, whether or not they used them to educate their children.
Readers of this blog will be particularly interested to see both Mary Wroth’s Urania and Katherine Philips’s Poems in the listing, and, compared with other such inventories, there are surprisingly few devotional books. Though Margaret Cavendish is missing, the presence of Philips certainly shows, much like the romance texts, an affiliation with royalist culture. Links between different books are evident: Thomas Flatman, author of a book of poems listed here, had written a dedicatory poem for Philip’s collection, and as it happens, another copy of Philips’s poems we have featured on this site (housed by the Folger Shakespeare library) was owned by Hannah Flatman, Thomas Flatman’s wife.
Generally, Long’s inventories reveal her political affiliations, her investment in learning (or teaching the boys in her family), and a wide range of interests in romance, history, philosophy, and poetry, with only minor concerns with household management and domestic advice so commonly found in women’s inventories and little in books of devotion that normally dominate such libraries. Perhaps those books were placed on the lower shelves.
We want to thank Tim for providing us with transcriptions and pictures of the two lists of books owned by Lady Dorothy Long and Sara Morrison and Anabel Loyd for permission to reproduce both the transcription and images.
Source: Wiltshire and Swindon History Center 2943B/1/35. Draft letters and notes by Lady Dorothy Long [No description] (1686-1704). 35 documents.
Joseph L. Black, “Women’s Libraries in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England Project.” Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation. Edited by Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Saur. University of Michigan Press, 2018. 214–229.
Edith Snook, “Elizabeth Isham’s ‘own Bookes’: Property, Propriety, and the Self as Library.” Women.’’ Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation. Edited by Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Saur. University of Michigan Press, 2018. 77–93.