Review: Early Modern Female Book Ownership. Edited by Mark Empey, Sarah Lindenbaum, Tara Lyons, Erin McCarthy, Micheline White, Georgianna Ziegler, and Martine van Elk. Reviewed by Valerie Schutte

Early Modern Female Book Ownership is a website dedicated to individual books that can be traced to female owners from 1500 to 1750. On the home page, immediately under the blog title, is the hashtag #HerBook, which the editors want site visitors to use when discussing or mentioning the blog. They often refer blog users to their Twitter page for up-to-date information about their project or to reach out with suggestions.

The main menu for the website has four tabs: Home, About this Blog, Resources, and Finding Aid. The home page is where all of the blog posts appear, one after the next, making the home page incredibly long, as the earliest blog post dates to 3 December 2018. According to this first blog post, which serves as a welcome to the website, the project is designed to showcase short posts of books owned by early modern women featuring an inscription by that woman. The blog features mostly English entries, but would like to include others. Blog posts are typically short, no more than 1,000 words, and are accompanied by pictures of the title page of the book owned by a woman and of her inscription or signature. The pictures appear to have been taken by those writing the blog post, not stock images from the internet or Creative Commons.

On the right side of the home page is both a search tool and a list of categories. In selecting a category, only the books tied to that category are shown on the home page, such as sixteenth century, seventeenth century, Dutch, and drama. There are 24 categories to choose from. However, even when you select a category, the blog posts still appear in the order in which they were posted to the blog and one right after the next on the home page. There is no way for further filtering, unless you only use the search function to look for a specific book or female book owner.

Under the About this Blog tab, the blog editors explain the purpose of the blog and welcome guest posts from scholars, collectors, and students. They hope to contribute to the study of female book ownership by offering examples of female owned books and how women showcased their ownership.

Under the Resources tab, there is a brief bibliography of books, articles, websites, and other blogs that are about women book owners and readers, which is incredibly helpful for further research on the subject. This list is far from inclusive and many of the books and articles mentioned are those by the blog editors.

Under the Finding Aid tab, they offer a list of the books and female book owners for which they have blog posts. They suggest researchers scan this list for patterns and to find specific blog posts quickly, as within the list all of the book titles are hyperlinked to the relevant blog post. This page should perhaps be the home page, in that it is much easier to scan for a specific female book owner or book, while the home page is overwhelming with information and pictures.

Overall, the blog is very useful and offers researchers and people interested in early modern books with short posts of information that they can follow up on for themselves. Most useful are the photos of the inscriptions, which are often not included in book and journal essays on the subject and allow for inscription comparison over time, and as the blog develops, across borders.

Valerie Schutte

Independent Scholar

Valerie Schutte is author or editor of several books on Tudor monarchs and their books, Shakespeare, and Queen Mary I. She is currently writing the first academic biography of Anne of Cleves.

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Early Modern Female Book Ownership. Edited by Mark Empey, Sarah Lindenbaum, Tara Lyons, Erin McCarthy, Micheline White, Georgianna Ziegler, and Martine van Elk. https://earlymodernfemalebookownership.wordpress.com/. Accessed 15 July 2020.

Upcoming Publication: Princesses Mary and Elizabeth Tudor and the Gift Book Exchange

This fall my second monograph, Princesses Mary and Elizabeth Tudor and the Gift Book Exchange, will be published with ARC Humanities Press in the “Gender and Power in the Premodern World” series. The monograph was meant to be published this summer, but due to the current pandemic, it is at the press awaiting copy-editing. The press plans to re-open in August. I actually presented portions of the first chapter at the Women’s Studies Group meeting on 30 January 2016.

This primary focus of this monograph are the four manuscript dedications that Princess Elizabeth wrote to Henry VIII, Katherine Parr, and her brother Edward, that accompanied her four pre-accession gift translations. It is clear that to fully understand these dedications, Elizabeth’s work cannot be separated out from that of her sister Mary. The dedications must be examined by themselves, as well as alongside the New Year’s gift-giving tradition in which she gave them both her and Mary’s youthful translations, and how her dedications and translations came to be represented after she completed them. Comparing dedications, then, is another way to compare their pre-accession experiences of Mary and Elizabeth, a time period for both women which is largely ignored for their later years as queen.

Importantly, rather than treating the pre-accession translations of Elizabeth and Mary as separate and not equal, this study examines them together, as Mary and Elizabeth undertook some of their translation at the exact same time. I show that Mary’s translations need to be considered as important as Elizabeth’s translations, and how in fact, Elizabeth’s translations were of little importance at the time she created them.

This study re-evaluates important literary achievements made by both princesses before they became queens. The first chapter is an analysis of the book dedications that were given to Princesses Elizabeth and Mary to show how Elizabeth’s dedications were part of a genre that used supplication and modesty to make a personal connection with the recipient of the dedication. The second chapter concentrates on Mary’s translations. Unlike those by Elizabeth, neither had an accompanying dedication and she did not give either as New Year’s gifts. The third chapter is the crux of my interpretation of Elizabeth, offering an examination of her four dedications alongside an explanation of the texts that they accompany. I suggest that Elizabeth had to give Henry, Edward, and Katherine Parr translated texts with dedications to prove her loyalty and show her desire not to be demoted from the royal family again. To greater emphasize the singularity and importance of Elizabeth’s dedications, the fourth chapter examines extant New Year’s gift-exchange information for the years in which Elizabeth gave her translated manuscripts to her relatives. The final chapter concentrates on the printed publications of Elizabeth’s translation of Marguerite of Navarre’s Le Miroir de l’áme pécheresse.

Valerie Schutte

Valerie Schutte is author of Mary I and the Art of Book Dedications: Royal Women, Power, and Persuasion (2015). She has edited or co-edited four collections on topics such as Mary I, Shakespeare, and queenship. Her personal website is https://tudorqueenship.com/.