Sir Philip Sidney, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1638)

Though Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia was popular among readers of all sexes, the surviving copies often contain women’s ownership inscriptions. This 1638 edition was owned by Joseph and Elizabeth Campbell. Elizabeth has signed the verso of one page “Elizabeth Campbell with my hand.”


Source: Book offered for sale by G.W. Stuart, Jr., 6/10/19. Image used with permission.

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.

Giovanni Boccaccio, The Novels and Tales of the Renowned John Boccacio (1684)


Elizabeth Hawksmoor signed this late seventeenth-century edition of Boccaccio’s works. Though it is difficult to ascertain the precise date of the hand, it is worth noting that the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor had a daughter named Elizabeth. She is one candidate for the identity of the book’s owner, though the attribution is by no means definitive.

An Elizabeth Hawksmoor also inscribed the title page of a 1661 edition of Silius Italicus’s epic poem Punius, now held Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library. The book includes the inscription, dated 11 October, 1683, of another female owner “R. Remee.”


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

Roger Boyle, Parthenissa, That Most Fam’d Romance (1676)

In a 1676 edition of Roger Boyle’s Parthenissa, That Most Fam’d Romance, currently offered for sale by The Brick Row Book Shop, is the early armorial bookplate of a woman reader, Cary Coke, née Newton. The bookplate features the impaled arms of Coke (1680–1707) and her husband, Edward, and reads “Cary Coke Wife of Edward Coke of Norfolk 1701.”


Her accompanying inscription on the front paste-down reads “C Coke /168/.” An inscription above that, apparently in the same hand, says “K s Y.”

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The Cokes resided at the manor of Hill Hall in Holkham, which was later supplanted by Holkham Hall, built by the their son Thomas. Hill Hall contained a substantial ancestral library, and Cary Coke appears to have singled out at least some of its books for her own. A 1922 essay, “Some Notes Upon the Manuscript Library at Holkham,” published in The Library by C.W. James, Holkham Hall’s librarian, describes Coke as a “pretty young wife” whose bookplate in several of the library’s illuminated manuscripts attests to her “pleasure” in them. In her 1908 book Coke of Norfolk and His Friends: The Life of Thomas William Coke, First Earl of Leicester of Holkham, A.M.W. Stirling, a descendant of the Cokes, remarks upon Coke’s “dainty volumes” and the “little labels” she placed in therein. The distinctly feminine characterization of Coke’s book ownership by James and Stirling is curious.

Both Parthenissa‘s late 17th-century publication date and Cary’s inscription, with its possible shelf-mark, indicate that the book was probably acquired by Coke herself rather than gleaned from the ancestral Coke library. Books now at the Bodleian Library further suggest that Coke formed her own library within Hill Hall. One is a volume of 12 plays commencing with the 1693 George Etherege comedy, The Man of Mode, or, Sr Fopling Flutter. Coke has inscribed another volume, The Historie of the Life and Death of Mary Stuart Queene of Scotland (1636), “C.Coke /15/.” Her books at the Bodleian include a 1700 edition of Don Quixote and a 1689 edition of King Lear. All of the volumes are affixed with Coke’s bookplate. A further book, her copy of a 1690 English translation of Scudery’s Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus, now untraced, was offered for sale by the bookseller E. Jeans of Norwich in 1860.

We can infer from Parthenissa and these volumes that Coke, like Frances Wolfreston, was a lover of drama, romances, and literature. Unfortunately, her book-collecting was cut premature by her death at the age of only twenty-seven.

Source: Book offered for sale by The Brick Row Book Shop, 1/21/19. Images used with permission.