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.

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.

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.

Guðbrandur Þorláksson, Ein ný húspostilla (1597)

By Charlotte Epple

In the Catalogue of Scandinavian Books in the British Library Printed Before 1801, librarian Peter Hogg remarks that, regarding Iceland, “it is noteworthy that a higher proportion of the owners than in any other country were women.”[1] Ownership inscriptions of women are indeed common in early Icelandic prints of any library. You can find many by clicking through digitized books in the repository of the National and University Library of Iceland.

One book I came across there contains a striking full-page painted ownership mark. Colourful interlocking rings containing the initials S. T. D. fill out the verso side of the front flyleaf of a copy of Ein ný húspostilla (“a new house postil”).

This collection of devotional texts was published in 1597 by bishop Guðbrandur Þorláksson, a crucial figure in the history of printing in Iceland. Most books from this period are religious works, usually small octavo editions on poor quality paper, reflecting the scarcity of resources in this fairly remote print shop. This húspostilla is no different. It is stained, creased, and mended at the edges – traces of heavy use over centuries.

The book was given this leather binding in 1773, according to an inscription on the front pastedown: “Þesse goda bök er nu a ny innbunden Anno 1773 19. Jan” (This good book is now newly bound Anno 1773 19 Jan).

The ownership mark contains only initials, but even from those it is immediately clear that this was a woman’s book. Most Icelanders don’t have family names, instead using their fathers’ first names with the suffix –son or –dóttir (‘daughter’). The D. therefore indicates a feminine name. A note on the preceding page, signed and dated 1779 at Reykhólar, gives us her full name, Sigríður Teitsdóttir. She can be identified as the daughter of Margrét Jónsdóttir and Teitur Arason, sýslumaður (a kind of local offical) of Barðastrandarsýsla, an administrative district covering the southernmost part of the Westfjords region of Iceland. The family lived at Reykhólar, a small cluster of farms, where Sigríður was born in the early eighteenth century.[2]

The painted bookplate was likely made for Sigríður by her son-in-law, the painter, bookbinder, and scribe Hjálmar Þorsteinsson. A very similar design featuring the same interlocking rings can be spotted on the title page of the manuscript JS 162 fol, dated 1783.[3]

He probably made the bookplate a few years earlier, since the dedication in Sigríður’s own, rather shaky handwriting tells us that she bequeathed the book to her son Jochum Jónsson in 1779: “Þessa Postillu gjef Jeg underskrifud syne mijnum elskulegum Jochum Jons syne og -óska hann lese hana og […]. Reykholum þann 27. Augusti Anno 1779. Sigridur Teitsdotter” (This postil I, the signatory, give to my beloved son Jochum Jónsson and wish that he may read it and […]. Reykhólar, August 27th 1779. Sigríður Teitsdóttir).[4]

The dedication in Sigríður’s own hand

Another note on the inside of the front cover, made 80 years earlier, indicates that the book had previously belonged to Eggert Snæbjörnsson, Sigríður’s maternal grandfather.

Inscriptions from three different centuries, including a pencil note stating that the book was restored in 1914

Her family was clearly well-off economically, and Sigríður herself went on to marry a vicar. It is therefore likely that there were many books in the family. Incidentally, a number of Icelandic manuscripts can be linked to her male relatives.[5] This húspostilla shows that there wasn’t just a household library, but that she also had her own personal books. Her name also shows up in a copy of the 1766 edition of Meditationes passionales, today in the British Library.[6] There may very well be more of her books out there, dispersed across libraries in Iceland and elsewhere.

Source: Copy Í252Þór digitised by the National and University Library of Iceland, permalink: Images reproduced with permission.

Further Reading

Bogi Benediktsson á Staðarfelli. Sýslumannaæfir 2. Reykjavík: Hið Islenzka bókmentafélag, I prentsmiðju Einars þórðarsonar, 1881.

Hogg, Peter. Catalogue of Scandinavian Books in the British Library Printed Before 1801 3. London: British Library, 2007.

Jón Jónsson. Meditationes Passionales, Edur Pijslar Hugvekjur […]. Hólar í Hjaltadal, 1766 [copy belonging to the British Library, shelfmark: General Reference Collection 866.l.4.].

National and University Library of Iceland. “JS 260 Fol.” [digital catalogue entry]

[1] Peter Hogg, Catalogue of Scandinavian Books in the British Library Printed Before 1801 3 (London: British Library, 2007), p. xix.

[2] For an overview of Sigríður’s family tree, see Bogi Benediktsson á Staðarfelli, Sýslumannaæfir 2 (Reykjavík: Hið Islenzka bókmentafélag, I prentsmiðju Einars þórðarsonar, 1881), accessed October 30, 2022,, 122–25.

[3] “JS 260 Fol.” accessed November 1, 2022, [digital catalogue entry]. The manuscript contains bishop’s sagas and the illustration is located at the bottom of the title page.

[4] Author’s transcription and translation, names normalized to Modern Icelandic spelling in the English version.

[5] According to the registry of names associated with manuscripts in the joint online catalogue, the following number of provenances are recorded for members of her family: Eggert Snæbjörnsson: 2, Teitur Arason: 1, Hjálmar Þorsteinsson: 10. There are no manuscripts recorded as belonging to Sigríður herself or female members of her family.

[6] Jón Jónsson, Meditationes Passionales, Edur Pijslar Hugvekjur […] (Hólar í Hjaltadal, 1766 [copy belonging to the British Library, shelfmark: General Reference Collection 866.l.4.]).

The Worckes of Thomas Becon (1564)

by Jake Arthur

In the hunt for women’s marginalia, the libraries of one of the oldest colleges in Oxford is not the likeliest port of call. Unlike more recently established institutions, many of these august libraries acquired their early modern books at the time of their initial publication. If those volumes were thumbed—or, more to the point, annotated—it was by Merton students, dons, and scholars; and as most Oxford and Cambridge colleges did not admit women until the twentieth century, all of these would have been men.

But in the hunt for women’s marginalia, there is also such a thing as hidden gems. As part of the Marginalia and the Early Modern Woman Writer, 1530–1660, led by Professor Rosalind Smith (ANU), we were fortunate enough to consult all the English-language volumes in our research period held at Merton College, Oxford. Among the many volumes annotated by men, there are several annotated by women which must have passed through hands outside the college environment before making their way to Merton.

One of these gems is The worckes of Thomas Becon (1564), a Protestant reformer. At first glance this appears to be exactly the kind of volume that would not have women’s marginalia; it is a large, expensive folio very much in keeping with the kind of acquisitions Merton and its fellows made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Its initial annotations are in a strong secretary hand with tendencies suggestive of a male reader, such as a strong command of Latin. Nonetheless, under an imposing portrait of Becon, we find the repeated signatures of one ‘Elizabeth Groom’.

sig. AAAAiv, t.p. verso of ‘The thyrd parte of the Bookes’

Alongside her five signatures and some of her initials, we also find what looks to be a set of hastily written musical notation, using the lines of the decorated plinth illustrated on the recto side as a kind of makeshift stave. Additionally, we get under another of Elizabeth’s signatures, her same hand writing the name of the volume’s author in majuscules almost as imposing as the portrait above it: THOMAS BECON.

All this is compelling enough, but the hand of these italic signatures seem likely to match a piece of marginalia earlier in the volume, one that like the stave notation also suggest a musical inclination.

On fol. cclxvii (verso) of The Sickemans salve, containing religious and moral instruction to sinners, we find what appears to be Elizabeth Groom (the only italic hand in the volume) extracting lines of verse.

fol. cclxvii (verso) of The Sickemans Salve

The text is partly crossed out but it reads:

Ioy to the person of my loue though her do me disdaine
Fixt are my thoughts and cannot be remoued but
Still i loue in vaine oh shall i loose the sight
of my ioy and harts delight or shall i sease my
sute oh or shall i sttrive to tuch oh it ware to much
[she is forbid]en frut

These lines read like an amorous complaint poem, with a lovesick male suitor pining for his unavailable beloved. That the verses appear here under a section of Sick Mannes salve about sin and the desire for redemption seems incongruous. After all, Becon instructs the reader on how to rid oneself of sin, not how to pine for it. And yet, the verses explore the kinds of sin that might make one turn to counsel in the first place. Indeed the last line’s reference to ‘forbidden fruit’ introduces an element of religious interdiction that might send one, chastened, to read their Becon.

As the photo above shows, the last line of the marginalia has been cut off, probably due to rebinding. The reason we can reconstruct it is that the verses originate from a popular ballad that also came to be collected in later books of song. The ballad is represented multiple times in the excellent English Broadside Ballad Archive, where it is dated between 1609-1632; that website contains a performance of how the ballad would have sounded (link). The ballad was one of many songs collected in the 1662 Cantus, Songs and Fancies compiled by T.D. (likely Thomas Davidson).

Why did Elizabeth Groom use a folio volume of devotional instruction to write down these ballad verses? Did the large print volume simply offer attractively ample margins? Or did she perhaps choose this page because of its counterbalancing moral instruction, or because its printed marginal reference to Psalm 130—an archetypal religious complaint—chimed with the plaintive sentiments of the ballad?

Other tantalizing questions arise, too. Was she writing the ballad down from memory, as perhaps would explain her erratic approach to lineation? Or was she instead copying it down from a broadside or perhaps a book of collected songs?

These verses must have felt valuable enough to Elizabeth to be worth copying, collecting, and preserving in this way. This is itself interesting, especially because the ballad is clearly written from a male persona to a female beloved. Are we, then, to interpret Elizabeth as imagining herself the forbidden fruit desired by a male beloved; or is she perhaps using the ballad to imagine herself in the agential position of the male speaker and desirer, bringing suits and striving to touch? After all, we know from women’s manuscript songbooks that women tended to collect and perform both male- and female-persona lyrics.[1] We can only speculate that part of the appeal of these other-gendered verses was the ludic and perhaps emancipatory possibility of women singing oneself into other minds and circumstances, including male ones.

Marginalia are a window into a person’s mind. Annotations on a page show a mind at the work of reading and responding to reading. Other marginal marks are still more spectral; they can hint at an emotional state, like the boredom of a doodle, or the determination of practicing a signature. The marginalia in this volume are a burst of readerly life in the middle of a grey disquisition against sin: it evokes the enjoyment of music, the heartache of rejection, the imagining of desiring or being desired—no less than ‘joy’ and ‘disdain’ within one line.

There is a trove of interest in Merton College Library, but Elizabeth Groom’s sparky verses are a singularly unexpected find. We are lucky to have found her.

We would like to acknowledge The Warden and Fellows of Merton College Oxford for allowing us access to the archive and for the generous use of these images.

Source: Merton College Oxford, shelfmark 12.E.6. Images by Jake Arthur, reproduced with permission.

[1] Jake Arthur & Sarah C. E. Ross (2022) “‘Presenting a Book to Orinda’: Anne Twice, Katherine Philips, and John Oldham in New York Public Library, Drexel MS 4175,” The Seventeenth Century, 37:4, 565-589, DOI: 10.1080/0268117X.2021.1969999, cf. page 4.

William Watt, The Principles of Christian Religion Explained (1731)

First published in 1699, the Principles of the Christian Religion Explained by William Wake (1657-1737), Archbishop of Canterbury from 1716, would become one of the most popular catechistical works of the period. About twenty editions were published through the eighteenth century, including in French translation, and editions continued to appear into the early decades of the nineteenth century. As the title-page inscription on this copy indicates, Catharine Clarke bought this fifth edition (1731) from Daniel Shatford on April 25, 1743, for four shillings and six pence. The evidence of date, price, and source of purchase usefully fills out the scene of acquisition. The primary missing component is place: but other inscriptions in the book suggest that Catharine Clarke and Daniel Shatford both lived in Colonial America and that the likely site for this transaction was New York City.

An inscription on the recto of the first free endpaper reads: “Lemuel Bingham His Book Novm.–11–1819 Bought by me in Boston about four years ago” followed by “4/6” or 4 shillings and six pence: Bingham evidently paid the same price for the book that Clarke had paid more than seventy years earlier. The “Boston” here is Boston, Massachusetts, not Boston, Lincolnshire: Lemuel Bingham (1795-1885) was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A printer by trade, he remained in Massachusetts until 1820, when he moved to North Carolina to work as a newspaper editor; he would remain there until his death, eventually establishing newspapers in several towns in the state.[1]

A dated inscription by a different owner on the opening page of Watt’s dedication (A2r), “EC Edw Carnean’s 1805,” aligns with a Massachusetts provenance: an Edward Carnean was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1775.[2]

Other early inscriptions on the second free endpaper feature names too common to be identifiable: “john burk is Book god giv em grace var in to Lo[ok]” (recto) and “Joseph Johnson His Book” (verso).

But the man from whom Catharine Clarke purchased the book is identifiable: Daniel Shatford was a merchant in New York City who appears in many mid-eighteenth-century records, including a legal case involving a “free Molatto woman” employed by Shatford who lived in the attic of his house and who committed suicide while incarcerated on suspicion of murdering her infant son.[3] Described in sources as a merchant, Shatford seems not to have been involved in the book trade: an account in the Rothschild archive in The National Archives details his receipt of a shipment of quicksilver, indigo, wood and turpentine.[4] Either he handled some books on the side as a component of his mercantile activities, or he sold the book to Catharine Clarke simply as a private owner selling a book to somebody he knew.

Catharine Clarke unfortunately is not yet identifiable: archival records reveal women of that name born in the first quarter of the eighteenth century in Boston and New York, as well as in smaller towns in Massachusetts. But here is always the hope that other books signed by her will show up and help narrow down the possible identifications.

Lemuel Bingham, likely the last in the chain of owners who left inscriptions in this book, turned the leaf after recording his ownership and added an admonition to book borrowers: “The pressent owner of this Book requests all those who may borrow it to read it through and then be carefull to return it Imediatly LB.” After a pause he continued, evidently feeling this request on its own insufficient to convey the strength of his opinions on the subject of unreturned books: “N.B. as the subscriber has lost many books, by lending them and not have them returned leads him to give this admonition hoping it may be attended to strictly Novm–11–1819 Lemuel Bingham.”

That the book was purchased at an estate auction in Massachusetts suggests, alas, that it may have slipped from Lemuel’s hands before he left (permanently) for North Carolina the year after he acquired it. The copy remains in its original plain coarse-grained leather binding, possibly sheep rather than calf, with old leather repairs to the spine, well used and a testament to the long-running popularity of Watt’s work.

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

[1] Dictionary of North Carolina online:

[2] The transcription of this record in the Ancestry Library database reads “Carmean” but the original document attached to the record reads “Carnean.” The inscription in this copy of Watt could read more conventionally as “Carman” rather than “Carnean,” but the spacing of the strokes suggests “ne” rather than “m.”

[3] See Max Speare, “Slavery, Surveillance, and Carceral Culture in Early New York City” (PhD diss. University of California, Irvine, 2022) 148-52. For other records that mention Shatford, including his marriage in 1735, see

[4] The National Archives (TNA):

The Holy Bible (1648)

Featured today is a 1648 King James Bible with the initialed binding of seventeenth-century owner Anne Sheather and signed by her on the verso of the divisional New Testament title page.

Many, though not all, Bible owners reserved their best handwriting for the sacred text. Here, Anne Sheather tries out two different styles, a form of blackletter for her uppermost signature and a stylized italic hand for the lower: “Anne sheather / her booke; i674.” The signatures are underlined and accented with calligraphic scrollwork.

What strikes me as even more remarkable is that the contemporary initialed binding suggest that the book was chiefly owned by Anne. The elaborate gilt-tooled boards feature a centerpiece flanked by the initials “AS.” There are holes in the boards where metal clasps once were, further confirming that this was not an inexpensive binding and suggesting that Anne may have been a woman of some financial means.

Her identity, however, is uncertain. An Ann Sheather seems to have been born around 1631 in Sussex to a Henry Sheather, although sources are conflicted about the surname of her mother. Variants of the name (Shether, Sheether) similarly lead to dead ends.

In any case, it is an interesting example of both female book ownership and binding, and sheds just a little more light on how women valued and interacted with their Bibles in the seventeenth century.

Source: Book offered for sale by Humber Books in May 2022. Images used with permission.