Thursday, July 8, 2010

16th and 17th Century English Book Ownership I

The Bible : translated according to the Ebrew and Greeke, and conferred with the best translations in diuers languages : with most profitable annotations upon all the hard places, and other things of great importance, as may appeare in the epistle to the reader : and also a most profitable concordance for the readie finding out of any thing in the same conteyned.
Imprinted at London : By Christopher Barker, printer to the Queenes most excellent Maiestie, 1586.
[2], 434, [4], 441-554 leaves; [164] p. ; 21 cm.
Signatures: 4⁰. [pi]² A-3H⁸ 3I² *⁴ 3K-3Y⁸ 3Z¹⁰; A-K⁸ L².

One of the Center's copies of the Geneva Bible contains ownership inscriptions from several centuries of different owners. The page shown above features one from a Nicholas Kent, written in 1689. Like many such inscriptions, the note asserts personal ownership of the item and even offers a reward (albeit a paltry one) if the book should be lost. The inscription is written in a mixed hand typical of the period.

Whoosoeuer herein doo Looke.
Nicholas Kent of West Ketford:
Oweth this Booke-1689

If I it Lose and you it finde
I pray be so good and kinde
as for to giue it me againe
and you shall haue neaither
more nor less but Just one
peny to put in purse

Considering the one penny reward, if Kent had ever lost this book (doesn't appear he did), I doubt anyone would have bothered returning it to him--unless of course the finder was amused by the owner's amateur poetry.

Josephus, Flavius, The famous and memorable vvorkes of Iosephus, a man of much honour and learning among the Ievves. Faithfully translated out of the Latin, and French, by Tho. Lodge, Doctor in Physicke
[London] Printed by Humfrey Lownes, for G. Bishop, S. Waterson, and Tho. Adams. 1609.
6 p.l., 811 (i.e. 815), [28] p. 33 cm.
Signatures: 2⁰; [par.]⁶ A-V⁶ 2A-2V⁶ 3A-3F⁶ 3G⁸ 3H-3V⁶ 4A-4H⁶ 4I-4L⁴.
STC 14810

One of the Center's several books formerly owned by early modern women, this copy of Josephus's historical works (Thomas Lodge's English translation of 1609) belonged to a Susan Burnette in the 17th, possibly the early 18th century. On the title page, a modern stamp adjacent to her signature reads: "This edition of this book is rare and has extraordinary features making it valuable." These "extraordinary features" no doubt allude to a little poem Susan wrote on an endpaper, seen in the image below.

Littelle booke when I am gone
tell thy misteris that here was one,
That in hart could bee content
to Liue at her commaundemente

S [paraph] B

I must admit I'm a bit confused with this poem's syntax. What does "one" refer to? The book or Susan? "Liue at her commaundemente" suggests a duteous obligation of some kind, perhaps indicating that Susan served a "misteris" of higher social standing, presumably the person to whom the book would pass in the event of Burnette's death. Maybe Susan wrote this note late in her life, hoping to perpetuate her memory through the acts of inscription and bequeathal. Or, if "one" refers to the book itself, than perhaps Susan simply anthropomorphizes the book as a dutiful servant when she says it "could bee content / to Liue at her commaundemente." Regardless of the reading, the inscription offers an interesting perspective on female book ownership of the period.


  1. The Jefferson bookplate was engraved in 1895 by Edwin Davis French for Thomas Jefferson McKee.
    Under magnification you will see the initials
    EDF 1895 in the left quadrant.
    Lewis Jaffe

  2. Thanks for the information on the bookplate. I'll definitely be posting many more of them from the collection in the future.