The Holy Bible (1642)

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 [1].

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.


[1] “Robert Barker, Printer to Queen Elizabeth I.” Datchet History. Accessed 30 April 2022.

Margaret Cavendish, The Life of …William Cavendish (1667)

By Mark Empey and Martine van Elk

So far, on this blog we have only featured one example of a female-owned copy of a work by Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673), her Poems and Fancies (1653), which has two female signatures in it. Thus far, we have been unable to identify those two with certainty. Today, we are presenting another example, one that not only offers a fascinating insight into women who read Cavendish but also reveals an intriguing connection between the book owner and the author.

The popularity of Cavendish as an author is well established. The findings of the European Research Council-funded project RECIRC: the Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550-1700 show that of the 1,878 female authors in the database, Cavendish is in the top three most popular women writers. Even more revealing, the project’s research shows that The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince William Cavendish, Duke, Marquess, and Earl of Newcastle received the highest number of receptions (8, see here). By Liza Blake’s count, no fewer than 99 copies of this book survive in libraries and private collections (Digital Cavendish–Locating Margaret Cavendish). All of the receptions traced in RECIRC were, curiously, attributed to male book owners.

This particular copy of the book has an inscription by Henrietta Holles. It is noteworthy not only because it shows evidence of women reading a work by a female author but also because of the family connection between reader and writer.

‘Henrietta Holles her Book 1708’

Henrietta Holles was born on the 11 February 1694. Her parents were John Holles, Duke of Newcastle-on-Tyne (1662-1711), and Lady Margaret Cavendish (1661-1715/16). Her mother was the daughter of Henry Cavendish, second Duke of Newcastle-on-Tyne (1630-1691), who was the son of William Cavendish and his first wife, Elizabeth Howard. In other words, Henrietta was the great-granddaughter of William Cavendish and related to Margaret Cavendish the author through marriage.

Thus, her interest in The Life of William Cavendish at the age of fourteen may have had as much to do with a desire to learn about her family’s legacy as with the popularity of one of seventeenth-century England’s greatest female writers.

By the time Holles signed the book, Margaret Cavendish had been dead for 35 years; it seems likely the book was passed down to her by her mother, who was herself only twelve when Margaret Cavendish died.

We know that Holles was a keen reader. At the age of twelve, her mother gave her The Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety by Richard Allestree. Two years later–the same year she read The Life of William Cavendish–she was given Richard Parr’s The Life of the Most Reverend Father in God, James Usher (Goulding). 

As multiple posts on our blog show, Allestree was popular among women readers. However, Parr’s work is more striking in this particular context. An interest in the Irish archbishop’s distinguished career cannot be discounted. Yet it could also be suggested that Parr’s account was used as a manual to learn classical languages. Included in the book was correspondence to and from Ussher in English, Latin and Greek. In other words, Lady Cavendish seems to have used books to supervise and satisfy her daughter’s religious, linguistic and familial curiosities.

The personal relationship between the book and its book owner is not the only aspect of interest in this copy. As James Fitzmaurice has noted, in virtually all extant copies of the book corrections have been made, mostly in the form of inked out passages. In his essay on the hand-corrections Cavendish had carried out before giving away or selling her books, he notes that The Life of William features two main passages that are most frequently inked out. He found this to be true in 43 out of 44 volumes he consulted (the exception is in the Nottingham Central Public Library, 304). In highlighting both the Duke’s strategic capabilities and obedience to the Crown, Cavendish had originally included the observation that the king ordered her husband to command the royal troop “by none but himself.” To this she added “they remain’d upon duty without receiving any pay or allowance from His Majesty until His Majesty had reduced his Rebellious Subjects” (9). However, after having the book printed, Cavendish had the phrase “without receiving any pay or allowance from His Majesty” inked out.

Crossed out on the page: “without receiving any pay or allowance from His Majesty”

A second passage, on p. 26, accuses Lord Goring and Sir Francis Mackworth of “invigilancy and carelessness,” an accusation that is also usually inked out. Fitzmaurice speculates that on the one hand, the deletion may serve the purpose of fulfilling the promise Cavendish made to her husband, according to a prefatory letter, not to “disgrace” any particular person but also notes on the other that these deletions in fact draw more attention to what is underneath; in some copies he has seen, “the inked out words are supplied in contemporary hands” (302). This is not the case in this particular copy. Cavendish’s precise motive for these deletions will remain a matter of speculation.

Meanwhile, Henrietta Holles would marry Edward Harley, Second Earl of Oxford (1689-1741) a mere five years after she put her inscription in The Life of William.

Portrait of Lady Henrietta Harley, Countess of Oxford and Countess Mortimer by John Wootten, reproduced from Wikimedia Commons.

Edward Harley was an avid collector of manuscripts and a bibliophile, so he may well have had a keen interest in this book. Through his marriage to Henrietta, he also became the owner of Wellbeck Abbey, one of the two main homes in which Margaret and William Cavendish lived upon their return to England after the Civil War.

Like her husband, Henrietta collected books, in many of which she made careful note of when she read them. Richard Goulding provides a list of books given her by her husband, found in the Wellbeck Abbey library, which includes works by Shakespeare, Jonson, Katherine Philips, Spenser, Beaumont and Fletcher, and others. He also notes authors gave books to her. It is possible that many of these books are no longer at Wellbeck, given that portions of its collection were sold in the 1950s, which may well explain how her Life of William has ended up for sale. Henrietta corresponded with Lady Mary Wortley Montague, among others, and letters by her are part of the family papers, now housed at the University of Nottingham.

Henrietta had a bookplate made for her (seen here), which remains helpful in reestablishing her collection; the Folger has a copy show owned of a religious work entitled A Dissuasive from Revenge by Nicolas Stratford (1684), which contains with the inscription ‘Given me by my Lord Decr. 1731’ (Folger Catalog), and a copy of A Good Minister of Jesus Christ: A Funeral Sermon for the Reverend Mr. Richard Steel by George Hamond, with the same bookplate and “with manuscript note attributing the volume as a gift of ‘My Lord Sepr: 1739’ (Folger Catalog). After her husband’s death, Henrietta would sell his manuscript collection to the nation in 1753, creating the foundation of what was to become the British Museum, now known as the Harley Manuscripts.

Henrietta herself died in 1755 at the age of 61, perhaps leaving the book about her famous great grandfather to her daughter Margaret or her son Henry.

Source: Book offered for sale by Wisdompedlars, sold 9/27/2020. Images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

James Fitzmaurice, “Margaret Cavendish on Her Own Writing: Evidence from Revision and Handmade Correction,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 85, no. 3 (1991), pp. 297-308.

Richard W. Goulding, “Henrietta Countess of Oxford,” Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 27 (1923).

Cartwright, Comedies, Tragi-Comedies, with Other Poems (1651)

One of my favorite categories of early modern women’s books is the gift book. Whether the woman is the giver or recipient, a gift inscription reveals relationships in her life and often helps identify her where it may not be possible to do so by name alone. For the 2021 Shakespeare Association of America conference, I presented a paper on gift inscriptions in early modern women’s books. As I noted in the paper, “Gift inscriptions are characterized by phrases like ‘given,’ ‘given by,’ and ‘ex dono’ and frequently include the name of the giver and the date the gift was received.” I go on to note that

According to [Natalie Zemon] Davis, books often serve as “carriers of relationships,” and to this end, gift inscriptions both assert ownership and reflect relationships in book-owners’ lives. Most frequently, the exchange of a book occurs between two individuals, but can occasionally involve multiple givers or recipients (e.g. parents giving a book to a daughter, a grandmother giving a book to more than one grandchild in the same immediate family). Relationships commonly  represented in early women’s gift inscriptions are those of husband and wife, aunt and niece, sister and sister, mother and daughter, and grandmother and granddaughter, but an informal survey reveals that they can be quite diverse.

Today’s gift inscription is located in a copy of William Cartwright’s posthumously published Comedies, Tragi-Comedies, with Other Poems (1651), forthcoming at Swann Galleries, and reads “Mary Kemeys her Booke / given her by her uncle / George Kemeys of Lanvaire / 1670.” Research by Swann’s rare-book specialist Devon Eastland reveals that the Kemeys were landowners near the South Wales village of Llanvair Discoed and that Mary’s father was Sir Charles Kemeys, 2nd Baronet (1614–1658). Mary (1652–1708) never married and was one of her uncle George’s heirs, who had no children of his own. George (1648–1696) was only four years older than Mary and gifted the book of Cartwright’s plays and poems to her when she was around 18 years old and he 22. From this, one gets the sense that their relationship might have been more one of peers than uncle and niece.

Three other books owned by Mary Kemeys are scattered throughout institutional collections in the United States, a quantity suggestive of the remnants of a private library. A 1664 English translation of Il Pastor Fido now at the Folger Shakespeare Library contains another gift inscription: “Mary Kemeys her Booke / given her by her Brother / Charles 1673.” The same inscription is repeated below in a slightly more florid version of Mary’s hand. [NOTE: EMFBO contributor Georgianna Ziegler has taken images of this inscription and many others of early modern women in books held by The Folger Shakespeare Library, which has made her images available via Luna.]

As an added point of interest, this book was later owned by bibliographer W.W. Greg and is dated by him 1928.

Other books of Mary’s now at the Huntington and Beinecke show that gifts were not the only way she built her presumed collection. Both are dated 1697, which is probably their date of acquisition given the pattern established by her gift inscriptions. The absence of gift inscriptions seems to say they were sought out and purchased for herself.

The Presbyterians Unmask’d (1676) and Of Christian Prudence (1691) were written by non-jurors Samuel Thomas and John Kettlewell respectively, and suggest that Mary Kemeys was among the minority of the people in the United Kingdom at the time who objected taking an oath of loyalty to William of Orange and Mary II following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The fact that both are dated the same year suggests that she was interested in the Nonjuring schism at the time, some eight years after the couple had taken the throne. In contrast to the drama that she clearly enjoyed in her late teens and early twenties, these books, acquired when she was around 45 years old, indicate a keen interest in religion and current events.

A bit of digging uncovers a relationship between Mary and Thomas Ken (1637–1711), Bishop of Bath and Wells and one of the most prominent non-jurors of the time. In an entry for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Robert D. Cornwall writes, “Seven bishops were imprisoned in the Tower of London in June 1688 for declaring that the king’s use of the dispensing power, acting without parliament, was illegitimate and an inappropriate infringement on the rights of the church.” After trial, the Seven Bishops, as they became known, were declared not guilty, though those who lived past 1689 were stripped of their bishoprics.

In the second appendix of his biography of Ken, Edward Hayes Plumptre discusses and “draws inferences” from books from Ken’s library, then scattered among Wells Cathedral and sites at Longleat and Bath. “I wish I could impart to my readers something of the interest which I have felt in taking down volumes of the second group, connecting them, as I did so, with some special crisis in Ken’s life, with his travels, with the part he took in the, religion and politics of his time, with personal friendships, and the like” (v. II, 294). The “personal friendship” part is footnoted with this observation: “I note Goodman’s Penitent Pardoned, a red morocco volume, with ‘Mary Kemeys, her book’ as a singularly touching instance of what I mean. I take it to have been a gift or legacy.”

The volume Plumptre mentions is still housed at Wells Cathedral, and librarian Kevin Spears has generously shared images of the title page inscriptions. The first reads: “Legato Rev: in Xsto Palris[?] Thom: Kenn nuper Epi Bath: et Welles.” This inscription was evidently made by Ken himself, while wedged beneath it in small letters, less insistent than her other inscriptions, are the words “Mary Kemeys her Booke 1703 —.”

The juxtaposition raises the question of whether Plumptre is correct and that the book was a gift from Mary to the bishop. The fact that the book ultimately ended up with the portion of Ken’s collection left to Wells Cathedral after his death would confirm that he was its last owner. If this is indeed the case, neither Mary nor Ken bothered to mark the gift with an inscription, as Mary did with the books of drama her uncle and brother gave to her. Another possibility is that it was a shared book. Mary’s smaller signature, squeezed as it is between the narrow rules of the title page, could have been made after Ken’s larger inscription; it appears almost as if she is afraid to intrude upon it by making her own signature too prominent. However, she did sign Of Christian Prudence between the title-page rules as well, so her signature in The Penitent Pardoned may simply be a continuation of a convention she used in signing books with ruled title pages.

What is clear is that there was a relationship between the presumed nonjuring gentlewoman and the disgraced bishop. The relationship is alluded to in Joseph Wells’ book Wadham College, in which he quotes a June 1674 letter from Mary Kemeys to her brother George at Wadham:

In an entry on Ken for the Dictionary of National Biography, William Hunt says, “From this date [1691] he lived chiefly at Lord Weymouth’s house, Longleat, Wiltshire, and much at Naish House, near Portishead, Somerset, the residence of two maiden ladies named Kemeys …” (402). Nancy was apparently the nickname of Mary’s sister, Ann. This piece of information, then, would explain the juxtaposition of the signatures in The Penitent Pardoned, as well as Mary’s apparently keen interest in nonjuring. She, Ken, and “Nancy” often lived together.

The relationship shows that her intellectual curiosity was not just welcome, but encouraged in the male-dominated world of religion and politics. Combined with her earlier ownership of dramatic works, her religious books sketch a picture of a well-educated, well-rounded reader, who read as much to keep up on the times and strengthen her own beliefs as she did for leisure.

I welcome any additional information about Mary and her library. Efforts to research her further have been complicated by the fact that her brother Charles wed Mary Wharton (d. 1699) and that they had a daughter named Mary, resulting in two additional seventeenth-century Mary Kemeys. (This gift inscription by Mary Kemeys in a Bible sold by PBA Galleries in May 2019 would appear from context clues to be from Charles and Mary Wharton Kemeys’ daughter.)


Mary Kemeys’ copy of William Cartwright’s Comedies, Tragi-Comedies, with Other Poems is forthcoming in a Swann Galleries auction later this year. Images used with permission.

Other images from this post are courtesy the following institutions and are used only for educational purposes.

John Goodman, The Penitent Pardoned, or, A Discourse of the Nature of Sin, and the Efficacy of Repentance, under the Parable of the Prodigal Son (London: Printed by E. Flesher, for R. Royston, 1679), E 4/46, Wells Cathedral, Wells, England.

Battista Guarani, Il Pastor Fido: The Faithful Shepheard (London: Printed for A. Moseley, 1664), G2176, The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.

John Kettlewell, Of Christian Prudence, or, Religious Wisdom (London: Printed for Jo. Hindmarsh, 1691), 323230, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Samuel Thomas, The Presbyterians Unmask’d, or, Animadversions upon a Nonconformist Book (London: Printed for R. Royston, 1676), Mhc9 T365 P6, The Beinecke Library, New Haven, Connecticut.


Robert D. Cornwall. “Non-juring Bishops (act. 1689–1710).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 1 Apr. 2023, from

William Hunt. “Ken or Kenn, Thomas (1637–1711).” Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Sir Leslie Stephen. Volume 30 (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1892).

E.H. Plumptre, The Life of Thomas Ken, D.D.: Bishop of Bath and Wells (London: William Isbister, 1890). Retrieved 27 Mar. 2023, from

Joseph Wells, Wadham College (London: F. E. Robinson, 1898). Retrieved 1 Apr. 2023, from

John Locke (trans.), [Discourses], manuscript c.1690

In July 2021, Jay Moschella of the Boston Public Library (BPL) posted on Twitter about a seventeenth-century manuscript in their collection: see here for the original post, and here for the manuscript’s BPL catalogue record. Signed “Anne Thistlethwayte” and dated 1690, the manuscript is a copy of three treatises translated by John Locke from Pierre Nicole’s Essais de morale (1671). Locke made the translations during a stay in France in the 1670s and presented a copy to the Countess of Shaftesbury in about 1679; that presentation copy is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library.[1] Locke’s translations were first published in 1712, under the title Discourses on the being of a God, and the immortality of the soul; of the weakness of man; and concerning the way of preserving peace with men.[2]  In addition to the three translated treatises by Locke, the manuscript copy in the BPL concludes with a five-page list of Anne Thistlethwayte’s books grouped by format (folios and then “quartos,” but this second group includes smaller formats as well) followed by a single-page inventory of Thistlethwayte’s possessions, including some additional “uninventory’d” books not included in the preceding list.

At the time of the original post, the BPL had no other information about the Anne Thistlethwayte who had signed the manuscript copy of Locke and included in the manuscript the record of her substantial library. With permission from the BPL, I edited the booklist for inclusion in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England database (the edition is drafted, but at the time of this posting is not yet available on PLRE’s public site). In the course of editing the booklist, I noticed a reference in the concluding inventory of possessions to “Winterslow,” which identified her as Anne Thistlethwayte (1669-1741) of West Winterslow, Wiltshire. Identifying the owner of this manuscript transformed an interesting record of female provenance into a much richer story. First, Anne’s father, Alexander Thistlethwayte (1636-1714), was a Member of Parliament and political ally of the Earl of Shaftesbury, John Locke’s patron: see here for Alexander Thistlethwayte’s biographical listing in the History of Parliament site. Anne Thistlethwayte’s copy of the Locke manuscript consequently appears to derive from her father’s social-political network: additional evidence survives indicating that the Countess of Shaftesbury allowed copies of the manuscript to circulate within her circle.[3]

Anne was 21 in 1690, when the manuscript was copied. Her booklist, however, was compiled later: about 1712, based on identifiable publication dates represented in the list. The personal inventory is dated May 1714, soon after Anne’s father died (History of Parliament says he died in 1716, but the will reproduced on is dated 1712 and underwent probate on February 9, 1714). Around this time of personal transition, Anne Thistlethwayte became a member of another high-profile circle: she is traditionally identified as the “Mrs T[histlethwayte]” who was a friend and correspondent of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762). The discovery of Anne Thistlethwayte’s library confirms the strong plausibility of the identification. Five letters survive from Montagu to Thistlethwayte, plus one summary.[4] Between August 1716 and September 1718, Montagu writes her friend from Ratisbon, Adrianople, Constantinople, Lyons, and Paris, her chatty, detailed, confiding accounts following the long arc of Montagu’s Turkish embassy voyage. Montagu assumes that her friend is curious to hear what camels really look like, and how the design and construction of houses differs from what she has “read in most of our Accounts of Turkey” (Letters, 1:341). Montagu appears to refer specifically to dismissive passages in Sir Paul Rycaut’s Present State of the Ottoman Empire, first published in 1667: Anne Thistlethwayte indeed owned a copy of this book.

The booklist recorded in this manuscript represents a snapshot of Anne Thistlethwayte’s library up to the age of about 40, a collection created in the second half of the Restoration up to the death of Queen Anne. The library encapsulates the interests—philosophical, literary, historical, theological—we might expect of a young woman interested in John Locke who would subsequently join the circle of the witty, daring, curious, educated Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The collection is a substantial one: the list comprises 145 records, but one record lists five bound-together volumes of plays, which could represent dozens of titles. Most of Anne’s books are in English but she did own a half dozen books in French, and the presence of history and poetry suggests her French was more than aspirational. More than a third of the library can be categorized as literature (including classics in translation: Horace, Juvenal, Ovid), with most of the remainder comprising theology, history, philosophy, courtesy, and ethics (including Seneca, Cicero, Epictetus, and Plutarch) and practical books in related fields (geography, education, law, arithmetic, medicine).

Opening pages of the booklist
Pages 3-4 of the booklist
Final page of the booklist with inventory facing (with additional books)

What most stands out is Anne’s interest in the creative and intellectual work of her female contemporaries: she owned books by Mary Astell (Serious Proposal and Six Familiar Essays), Aphra Behn (Histories and Novels and Love-Letters), Katherine Philips (one of the folio Poems), Mary Chudleigh (Poems), Anne Wharton (“The Temple of Death” is probably the 1695 anthology Temple of Death that includes the first publication of Wharton’s poems), Delarivier Manley (Secret Memoirs), Judith Drake (Essay in Defence of the Female Sex, also occasionally attributed to Astell), Madame de La Fayette (Princess of Cleves) and Mary Pix (The Inhumane Cardinal). Thistlethwayte also explored female creativity in the devotional as well as the literary realm, owning a copy of Jeanne Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon’s Short and Easie Method of Prayer, a radically Quietist guide for which Guyon had been imprisoned by Catholic authorities. Early modern booklists seldom contain the books that literary scholars hope to find, but Anne Thistlethwayte had almost eerily prescient tastes: a reading list based on her collection would form the basis today for an excellent seminar on women writers of the period.

Katherine Philips, Thomas Sprat, “Five volumes of plays”
Lady Chudleigh, John Milton
Mary Astell, Aphra Behn (one of two entries), “French poems”

Unpacking her library further we encounter George Herbert, John Oldham, Thomas Carew, and John Cleveland; Richard Blackmore’s egregious epic Prince Arthur and Milton’s History of Britain (but not his Paradise Lost); Poems on Affairs of State, The Tatler, both parts of Marvell’s Rehearsal Transprosed; and sixteen works of prose fiction. This last cluster reminds us of the later seventeenth century surge in the popularity of novels, many translated from the French. Three novels in Anne’s library do not survive but exist now only in bookseller advertisements: The Illustrious Parisian Maid; The Inchanted Lover; and Memoirs of the Adventures of a French Lady. These entries reveal the role of booklists in confirming the existence of now lost books.

Anne Thistlethwayte also owned an additional title by John Locke (Two Treatises of Government) and the Earl of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks as well as Descartes’ Passions of the Soul, Montaigne’s Essays, Fontenelle’s Plurality of Worlds, Malebranche’s Treatise Concerning the Search after Truth, Sprat’s History of the Royal-Society, current surveys of world history and world religions, and a variety of works by other writers still read and studied today, such as Richard Allestree, Robert Boyle, Gilbert Burnet, Hugo Grotius, Joseph Hall, James Howell,  the Marquis of Halifax, Jeremy Taylor. Browsing this entire booklist, we see in Anne Thistlethwayte a reader who is educated, curious, open; interested in the world, in history, in new ideas; a lover of literature; devout but not prudish, committed to the established church but on the side of toleration against absolutism (hence Marvell); a monarchist (possibly explaining the absence of Paradise Lost) in favor of the Protestant succession (hence Oldham’s satires against the Jesuits). In short, her reading aligns her with John Locke, whose work she encountered as a young woman of 21: Locke and her father’s ally the Earl of Shaftesbury supported constitutional monarchy, Protestant succession, civil liberty, and toleration in religion. To these, Anne adds her interest in the work of her female contemporaries; in current fiction and drama; and a Restoration passion for the wit, satire, and contemporary commentary that would enable her to hold her own in correspondence with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. This list in itself, a snapshot of her bookshelves situated in place, time, class, and cultural environment, tells a rich story. An edited version of the full list is forthcoming on the Private Libraries in Renaissance England (PLRE) website.

Source: Boston Public Library MS q Eng.551. Images reproduced with permission.

[1] For a description of this manuscript and a parallel-text edition of Locke’s translation based on this presentation copy, see Jean S. Yolton, John Locke as Translator: Three of the Essais of Pierre Nicole in French and English (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2000). A new edition of the Discourses is under preparation for the Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke.

[2] Only one copy of this edition is known, now in the Bodleian Library: for a description, see M.R. Ayers, “Locke’s Translations from Nicole’s Essais: The Real First Edition,” The Locke Newsletter 11 (1980), 101-03. I owe this reference to Locke specialist Craig Walmsley, who kindly read a draft of this post and who confirmed the political links between Alexander Thistlethwayte and the Earl of Shaftesbury, the association of Anne Thistlethwayte and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and evidence for the manuscript circulation of Locke’s “Discourses.”

[3] See Ayers, “Locke’s Translations,” 102, and the October 1689 letter from Jane Stringer to Locke, in Correspondence of John Locke, ed. E. S. De Beer, 8 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978), 3:705-07 (letter 1192). I owe the reference to Locke’s Correspondence to Mark Goldie (via Craig Walmsley).

[4] See Robert Halsband, ed., Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965-67), 1:256. For a list of the letters to Thistlethwayte, see Letters, xxvi. The identification was made by W. Moy Thomas in his 1861 edition of the letters. Halsband notes the possibility that “Mrs Thistlethwayte” could be Anne’s sister Catherine (d.1746) or sister-in-law, Mary Pelham Thistlethwayte (c.1660-1720). But the identification with Anne seems generally accepted in scholarship on Montagu. Another sister Halsband mentions, Mary (b.1663), is not named in the father’s 1714 will and was likely deceased by the time Montagu was writing.

Caryl, An Exposition upon Chapters of the Book of Job (1653)

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” [1]. 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 [2]. 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.

Another flyleaf contains three more inscriptions: “Sam.ll Chase Book . . .”; “Anna Chase Book Chase”; and “Samuel Chase / Boston / 1826.” The bookseller identifies these owners as Samuel Chase, Sr. (1768-1808), his wife Anna Longley Chase (1776-1866), and Samuel Chase, Jr. (1801-1876). The Chases were also from the Pepperell area and presumably acquired the book there.

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.

[1] “Commemorating 100 Years: Historical Moment: Our First Pastor.” Community Church of Pepperell (April 14, 2019).

[2] Anthony Mitchell Sammarco. Georgetown (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2002), 31.

Pierre Doré, Les allumettes du feu Divin / Les voyes de Paradis (1540)

On this blog we have largely featured English examples of female book ownership, but we aim to include examples from many different countries, so we are always grateful when a non-English example comes our way. This sixteenth-century publication combines two works by the French Dominican preacher and author Pierre Doré (c. 1500–1559). This particular copy does not have the original title page, so someone, at some point, wrote the title and some biographical details on a flyleaf, but the entire book, including the original title page of this edition, has been digitized and put online by University of Gent, here.

Someone has also written the title on the spine of the book (which is missing a substantial number of pages), but Isaiah Cox points out that the title mistakenly gives the date as 1586, even though this is the 1540 edition.

Les allumettes du feu divin (The Matchsticks of Divine Fire) and Les voyes de paradis (The Roads to Paradise) are, in Andrew Pettegree’s words, “works of Catholic edification and forceful refutations of heresy” (114) that were published when Calvinist ideas were spreading. Malcolm Walsby notes more generally that Les allumettes “sought to encourage Catholics to use the life of Christ as an example of piety” (32). Placing a signature on a work like this announces one’s religious stance and identity to others in a potentially volatile religious climate.

An early reader named Marianne Godarde has written her name in the book three times, spelling her name in various ways.

Additional notes in the book may also be hers although they are difficult to decipher.

While we have no way of identifying this reader more precisely, it is important to look at practices for marking one’s name in different countries and considering both placement and handwriting as modes women used to present themselves to their immediate family and household but also to larger circles of contemporary and future readers.

It is possible that Godarde wrote her name on the title page and on other missing pages of the book. She may have been practicing writing her name as the decorative “d” and the double name on the two pages in the book next to each other suggest. However, the more deliberate placement of her name next to “La seconde voye de paradis” (the second path to paradise) rather than in the bottom or top margin potentially indicates a special interest in that section of the book. Once the lettering under her name and the annotations on the other pages are looked at more closely, more may become clear about this particular French book user.

Source: book offered for sale by Images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Andrew Pettegree, The French Book and the European Book World (Leiden: Brill, 2007).

Malcolm Walsby, “Promoting the Counter-Reformation in Provincial France: Printing and Bookselling in Sixteenth-Century Verdun.” Books in Motion in Early Modern Europe: Beyond Production, Circulation and Consumption, eds. Daniel Bellingradt, Paul Nelles, and Jeroen Salzman (Cham: Palgrave, 2017), 15–37.

John Donne, Devotions (1624)

John Donne’s Devotions appeared in five editions from 1624 through 1638—the most popular book Donne published in his lifetime. This copy of the second edition (1624) is the first to appear on this site, though the two copies currently recorded in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England (PLRE) project were also both owned by women: the diarist Elizabeth Isham (d. 1654) and Frances (Stanley) Egerton, Countess of Bridgewater (d. 1636).

This copy of Devotions, currently in a private collection, contains a variety of names, sayings, ownership rhymes, and pen trials inscribed in the early hand of one Elizabeth Richardson, who laid claim to the book in four places: “Elizbath Richardson Har Book god gave Har graes therin to look Amen” (second front flyleaf verso); the same inscription repeated on the third front flyleaf verso; “Elizbath Richardson Har Book god made man and man man [error for “made”] mony god made Bees and Bees made hony a man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weedes fare god and keep his Command” (second rear flyleaf recto, top); “Elizbath Richardson Har Book god gave Har Grace ther In to Look not to look bot tak good hed that god may help har In Har ned and when the bell for Har doth tol lord Jesus Chris receved Har sole” (second rear flyleaf recto, bottom). “Elizbath Richardson” without an accompanying inscription also appears twice: among other names on the first rear flyleaf recto, and oriented vertically in the outer margin of N7v alongside the conclusion of Expostulation 12.

Other names scattered across the front and rear flyleaves include John Richardson, Nicholas Richardson, Jane Richardson, William Watson, Thomas Watson, Jane Watson, Mary Watson, Jone [Joan] Watson, and “The older Mary Richardson.” These are not the names of additional owners: all seem to be inscribed in the hand of Elizabeth Richardson and likely represent family and relations.

Second rear flyleaf verso

Unfortunately, the name Elizabeth Richardson is too common to identify, even with the contextualizing help these other names provide. In addition to a profusion of pen trials, the copy features a large decorative calligraphic ‘K’ (third front flyleaf recto), a charming sketch of what looks to be a peacock (second front flyleaf verso), and a passage inscribed on the first rear flyleaf verso, “Now sence our frend Most ly foll deep With in the silent Grave Let us Not Wep bot be content That god Hes [illegible] Will shall Have.”

The verses Elizabeth Richardson inscribes were all circulating in the mid-seventeenth century. One of her ownership rhymes appears in a 1640 edition of Dorothy Leigh’s popular The Mothers Blessing posted on this site on February 11, 2019.  Held by the Folger Shakespeare Library, this copy of Leigh contains two short inscriptions by Elizabeth Bewe that identify the book as her own; the second reads, “Elizabeth Bewe her Booke God Give Grace therin to looke and when the bell for her doth toll Lord Jesus Christ Receve her Soule Amen” (A6r). A manuscript notebook associated with the Jeffreys family of Acton, Denbighshire held by the Folger Shakespeare Library (V.a.489) contains iterations of two of Richardson’s other verses, “God made man and man made money God made bees and bees made honey” (39v) and “A man of words and not of deeds” (68v); both were copied in the mid-seventeenth century. Other versions of both rhymes appear in the Folger Union First Line Index of English Verse.

The book remains in its original binding, which features blind fillets around the perimeter with a gold fillet frame and centerpiece ornament.

A final noteworthy feature of this copy illuminates a condition—and danger—of early modern reading. One leaf (Z2) in the middle of Donne’s Expostulation 21 is missing because it has been burned away; other leaves on either side of the missing leaf are charred. Evidently an early reader, possibly Elizabeth Richardson, was reading Donne by candlelight, got too close to the page, and set the book on fire. The scorched pages provide an apt metaphor for the experience of reading Donne’s passionate extremity: “Thou kindlest thy fires in us,” he writes in Expostulation 13, “and yet doest not alwayes burne up all our drosse.” But they also remind us of the importance of candles to the early modern reading experience.

Source: Book in private collection. All photos reproduced with permission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Since this blog went live, I have received some interesting feedback. Dr. Beatrice Groves, who has published on Biblical marginalia in the early modern period, notes that the M2 and E2 marginalia “mean that the reader is marking up the psalms that were used in the BCP readings – a psalm read at morning prayer on the second day of the month and at evening prayer on the 1st day of the month. So s/he is either using this as a psalter (interesting!) or, if it doesn’t have texts, using it to compare across – also interesting!” Thank you for the great note, Beatrice!

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Letter 18. Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple (1652-1654), edited by Edward Abbott Parry (London: Dutton, 1888),

[2] On these editions see Liza Blake, Textual and Editorial Introduction to Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies: A digital critical edition.

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


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

By Patricia Stoop

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

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

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

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

Solitude as the Road to Holiness and Spiritual Perfection

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

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

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

The Dedication by Catharina van Aelst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible (1589) [Geneva Bible]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fanny Hanson Born June 21 1731 died 6 Mar.

Jon Hanson Born about midle of February January 1733-4

Joshua Hanson Book Bought on ye year of our Lord 1729

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

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

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

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

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

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

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