"THYS BOKE IS MYNE"
on exhibit November 13, 2002 through March 1, 2003
Thys Boke is Myne?
can be difficult. Evidence of ownership is often inconclusive, forged,
or wishful thinking. People's habits and handwriting are not easy to read
for the early modern period, so proof of ownership can be elusive. In
many instances we are left to wonder.
Velvet Binding with the
Royal Arms of James I
James I, King of England.
Meditatio in orationem Dominicam
London, Bonham Norton & John Bill, .
Folger catalogers have determined this beautiful book was owned by William
Henry Miller at Britwell Court, and was once in Sir Leicester Harmsworth's
library. But was it ever owned by James I? Possibly. James presented a
similar binding to the Bodleian Library in the 1620's, and though there
is no internal evidence of ownership, the choice of rich crimson velvet
for the cover, the style of gold tooling, the superb Royal Arms, and the
fact that James is the author, suggest it was a presentation copy
from the King.
Catalogue Item 8:7, STC14385 ©
of binding and spine with Eveyln's initials - STC23082 c.1 ©
Edmund Spenser. The Faerie Queene. London, [Richard Field], 1596.
From a young age, Evelyn was fairly manic about his books. He carefully
wrote his name, date, price and place of purchase in each volume. He
nearly always wrote his motto in his books, Omnia Explorate, Meliora
Retinete (Prove all things; retain the best), logged an entry in
his manuscript book list and, finally, added a case number and shelfmark,
leaving a rich trail of markings. And if that wasn't enough to signal
ownership, Evelyn put his initials artfully on his bindings, as seen
here on the cover and spine of The Faerie Queene.
VIII's Coat of Arms
Corpus Juris Civilis. Institutionum imperialium
. Paris, Claude
This London calf binding, contemporary with the book, has two versions of
Henry VIII's arms in a blind ruled panel. But did Henry own this book? Did
he ever see it? There is nothing to suggest he did. There is no evidence
(signature, bookplate, annotations, or other documentation) to prove this
"royal binding" was ever in royal hands.
Sir Walter Raleigh. Autograph letter signed. [1590?]
This leaf shows a beautiful signature we know to be Sir Walter Raleigh's.
The problem is that Raleigh, like a good many others in this time, wrote
in a variety of hands, some formal, elegant with flourishes, others little
better than a scrawl. Sometimes Raleigh just used his initials. So even
signatures can be deceiving. Side by side, examples of a person's handwriting,
or styles of signature, can look like those of two different people.
Sir Walter Raleigh?
Sir Walter Raleigh. The History of the World. London, William Stansby,
We know that Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) emphasized the initials WR
in his signature and alone as a monogram. But is this fanciful version
of WR in Raleigh's hand? One scholar is certain it is (which would make
this a very valuable book). Study the oversized initials in the signatures
to the left and right, known to be in Raleigh's hand. Are you convinced
all three versions are by the same person?
Sir Walter Raleigh. Autograph letter signed to Sir William More. ca. 1585.
This is a good example of Raleigh's habit of emphasizing the initials
in his signature. How does the WR compare to the initials in History
of the World?
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This page updated March 10, 2003