Book of Common Prayer (1694), The Holy Bible Containing the Old Testament and the New (1695)

Women’s ownership inscriptions are plentiful in Bibles and Books of Common Prayer. This little 6″ leather-bound volume contains evidence of at least six generations of women owners.

We begin with Jane Neame, who signs the book four times using three different styles and dates her earliest inscription “1702.” On the front flyleaf verso, she has written “A Prayer to be used at our coming in to publick.” Beneath the prayer are the 1731 inscriptions of Jane Baker. The uppercase J is formed identically to the J in the inscription on the upper edge of the facing recto page and we can infer that Jane Baker was Jane Neame’s married name.

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Next we have Elizabeth Youngman. She writes, “This Book was given to me … by my Aunt Elizabeth Baker and Cousin Sarah Baker August the 22. 1776.” Elizabeth Baker was presumably a relative of Jane Neame Baker, perhaps a sister or a daughter.

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We then jump ahead forty years, when Ann Williams of Dover records that the book is given to her by her father on “November th 8[?] 1816.” Beneath the gift inscription, she adds a book curse, warning that when the thief dies, “the lord will say where is that book you stol a way.”

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Book-cursing Ann Williams appears to have passed the book to her daughter. The next dated inscription reads, “Mary Ann Keigwin this book was given to me by my dear Mother on the 1st May 1861.” The final inscription was made by Mary Ann’s daughter, Florence Keigwin MacCartney “after the death of her dear Mother Mary Ann Keigwin who died on this 28th day of January 1895.”

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Finally, the book contains undated inscriptions from John and Elizabeth Broadbent.

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Source: Book offered for sale by eBay seller atlantavintagebooks1, 4/10/19. Images used with permission.

Simon Patrick, The Parable of a Pilgrim (1667)

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This devotional work was written by Simon Patrick, a theologian and author of many works of biblical commentary. He eventually became Bishop of Ely. A woman named Sarah Barnes (?) wrote her name on the title page of the work, as we often see with names on title pages splitting up the inscription into two, so it is spread out. Though it is hard to make out, there seems to be a year ending in 63 at the end of the inscription, perhaps 1763. If that is the case, this book would have been close to a hundred years old when she owned it.

Source: Book offered for sale on eBay, 6/18/2019 by bookseller Neil Summersgill. Images reproduced with permission.

Book of Common Prayer (1679)


The Book of Common Prayer has been featured multiple times on our website (see here and here). It is the type of religious work that was handled, read, and reread a great deal but also treated with care and preserved well. This copy has evidence of potential female ownership, while it provides us with additional information on the owner(s), as bibles, psalm books, and prayer books often do. Here, we see  a common use to which bibles and books of common prayer were put as repositories of family history. Trusting that these books were handed down from generation to generation, book owners used them as a safe place in which to keep their genealogies. Inscriptions such as these give evidence of what Femke Molekamp calls  “religious reading cultures” (9).

Marginalia in this copy have been slightly cropped but show a series of names beginning with “Elizabeth Walker” at the top and below three male names (Langcaster, James, and John), all of whom appear again at the end of the book. A page at the back of the book details the family history of William and Elizabeth Walker, giving names and birth dates for 9 children, among whom are three women, Elizabeth, Ann, and Elinor; Elinor died aged six. A tenth name, William Gravely, and Ann’s death date, at age 24, are recorded in a different hand. The following page lists Dinah Harrison, born in 1733, and shows an owner’s inscription: “Rob[e]rt Cook his book 1750.” The hand of Robert Cook is different from the hand listing the names on the previous pages, suggesting that we are seeing the marks of multiple owners. We cannot tell for sure who recorded the four names on the cropped page and the longer list of names, but given the spacing of the marginal names, it could be Elizabeth Walker (either the mother or the daughter).

Unfortunately, no place name is recorded, which would help us trace this family further.

The use of the book is also shown in a marginal note, which partly quotes from one of the prayers in the book, the “collect” spoken at communion: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name, through Christ our Lord, amen” (sig. B5r). The inscription reads: “Self to cleanse my thoughts by the Inspiration of thy holy Spirit to open my Eyes and manifest thyself unto me, and assist me with such a measure of Grace in offering up these my Spiritual sacrifices that they be acceptable to the[e] by Jesus X my Lord amen.” It is impossible to tell who wrote the inscription, but the book as a whole shows the various uses to which religious books, including especially bibles, books of psalms, and the Book of Common Prayer, could be put.

This rare edition, the bookseller explains, includes some special prayers to commemorate the Great Fire of London, the death of Charles I, and the Restoration of the Monarchy.

Source: Book offered for sale on eBay by Schilbantiquarian on 4/26/19.

Further Reading

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

Richard Sibbes, The Soules Conflict (1636)

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The Folger Library houses a particularly interesting copy of Richard Sibbes’s The Soules Conflict (1636) with multiple signs of female ownership. (I have reproduced the EEBO version of the title page of the same book held in the Cambridge University Library, since the Folger website does not include a title page.) This book must have been special to its owner Anne Lake, who had it bound by the masterful binder William Nott, also known as the Queen’s binder. Not only did she have a book label (of full page size) pasted on the front of the book, which  includes her name and the date (1638), but the lovely leather binding also displays her initials. Book labels were frequently used by women, either to denote ownership or to include in a book presented as a gift.


Two other owners left their mark on the pastedown: Sir R. Leicester and Mary Griffiths, whose dating shows she owned the book 90 years after Anne Lake acquired it.

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) was a fairly moderate Puritan theologian and preacher, active in Cambridge and London. Nothing else is known (yet) of Anne Lake or Mary Griffiths.

Source: EEBO Cambridge University copy of STC (2nd ed.) / 22509. Folger Luna, STC 22510. Reproduced with permission by Creative Commons License.

Further Reading

Brian North Lee, Early Printed Boook Labels: A Catalogue of Dated Personal Labels and Gift Labels Printed in Britain to the Year 1760. Pinner: Private Libraries Association and the Bookplate Society, 1976.

James Howell’s Lexicon Tetraglotton (1660)

By Melanie Bigold

In the Folger Library’s copy of James Howell’s Lexicon Tetraglotton (1660), an English-French-Italian-Spanish dictionary, there is a defaced name that can just be made out despite the heavy scoring: ‘Kath. Bridgeman’. There is also an armorial bookplate, identified by the Folger cataloguer as belonging to the Bridgeman family. The simple calf binding looks to be contemporary, though the spine has since been repaired.

When you work on provenance, names start to sound familiar, but a quick glance through my spreadsheet of female owners of libraries revealed why this one jumped out. ‘Kath’ or Katherine Bridgeman has the distinction of being one of the few women whose library is documented in the form of a sale catalogue. The late Robin Alston’s excellent work, Inventory of Sale Catalogues of Named and Attributed Owners of Books Sold By Retail or Auction, 1676-1800 (2010),lists a 1743 auction catalogue for her library: A Catalogue of the Entire Library of Mrs. Katherine Bridgeman, (Of Cavendish Square) Deceased. The catalogue itself lists 752 lots, including numerous manuscripts and prints. Is Howell’s Lexicon among the works listed? Why yes, it is.

A contemporary, annotated copy of the catalogue, marked with the prices realised at the auction, also survives in the Bodleian library collections. This informs us that Howell’s dictionary went for just 3 shillings and 9 pence in 1743 (it is item #52 above). More Bridgeman-associated books are listed on the University of Toronto’s British Armorial Bindings website. Almost all of them are also in the auction catalogue. One now at Cambridge contains an inscription: ‘Bought at Mrs Bridgeman’s Sale Feb 8th 1742’ (

The Toronto website indicates that the Bridgeman binding is associated with Richard Bridgeman. The sale catalogue identifies these books as Katherine’s and her defaced signature suggests that she attempted to mark her ownership. Were Richard and Katherine married? Is this an example of a joint or inherited family library that was finally dispersed at the death of Katherine? If you know of any other Bridgeman examples that might shed light on the library, please let us know.

Email:; Twitter: @womenslibraries


Photos by Melanie Bigold, reproduced with permission.

Folger’s copy of Howell’s Lexicon (shelfmark H3088 Folio):

Bodleian copy of Katherine Bridgeman’s catalogue (shelfmark Mus. Bibl. III 8° 55(1)):

Bridgeman bindings on the British Armorial Bindings website (University of Toronto):

The Book of Common Prayer (1706)

This is another Book of Common Prayer with multiple female inscriptions, but this book is particularly intriguing. This edition, which features an engraving of Queen Anne and a beautiful cover, shows an example of women marking books as theirs through ornamental metal decoration on the outside. Sarah Gwynn, who owned this book, gives her name and date of acquisition, May ye (the) 1st, 1707. In the back of the book, another woman, Susanna Webb, signed and added “her Book” in 1770.

But what makes this book even more interesting is the handwriting that appears on multiple pages.

Found on one of the last page and written upside down, this series of numbers may be pages the owner found especially important.

Although it looks like some secret code, my guess is that this is a form of shorthand, given the appearance of regular words like “prfect.” In the seventeenth century, shorthand was used to record sermons, for instance, as the Folgerpedia explains, which may well be the case here.

Source: Book seen on the bookmarket in Deventer on August 4, 2019, offered for sale by Peter Dullaert, Heilige Handel. Photos by Martine van Elk, taken with permission.

Further Reading

“Technologies of Writing in the Age of Print.” Folgerpedia, November 2016.

Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1674)

By Maria Cunningham, Head of Special Collections and Archives, Reed College

Sidney book

This is the thirteenth edition of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (simply known as the Arcadia) and was first written by Sir Phillip Sidney towards the end of the 16th century. This particular edition was printed at the Golden Ball in Little Britain in 1674. The romantic inscription inside reads:

“Judith Tichborn Her Book Given me [?] by my most renowned and Beloved knight Stephen de La Stanly: 1713.”


Nothing is known about the giver of the book, Stephen de la Stanly. However, some info can be found about the writer of this inscription. Judith Tichborn (or Tichborne) was born about 1685 to Benjamin Tichborne and Elizabeth Gibbs in Tichbourne, Hants, England. On December 16th, 1717, at age 15, she was married to Charles Spencer the 3rd Earl of Sunderland and became Lady Sunderland. Their marriage was mentioned in a letter from Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk to her husband, the Honorable George Berkeley:

Image from Letters to and from Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk, and Her Second Husband, the Hon. George Berkeley. Courtesy of

The phrase “without a groat,” which means “a small sum,” implies that Judith brought a nice sum of money to the marriage. Other sources indicate that she was an Irish heiress. The family of Lord Sunderland also had something to say about the marriage. Sarah Churchill, former mother-in-law to Lord Sunderland, criticized his bride as being too young and has “no experience as to family keeping or accounts.” In any event, the couple were married and had three children, all of whom died young. Charles Spencer died in 1722 and was buried with one of their children who had died around the same time. On December 10th, 1724 Judith married Sir Robert Sutton who was the Director of both the South Sea Company and the Charitable Corporation. Judith eventually died on May 17th, 1749 from a fever, after recovering from smallpox.


Source: Special Collections and Archives, Eric V. Hauser Memorial Library, Reed College. Shelf mark PR2340.A1 1674. Photographs by Maria Cunningham.

Further Reading

Cokayne, George E. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct, or Dormant, edited by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs, St Catherine Press, 1910.

Suffolk, Henrietta Hobart Howard. Letters to and from Henrietta, Countess of Suffolk, and Her Second Husband, the Hon. George Berkeley: From 1712 to 1767, John Murray, 1824.