The many published medical texts owned by women provide evidence of their literacy and of their engagement with medical practices. Examples from the Folger collection represent just a few of the early ownership inscriptions found in medical texts of various purposes and for different audiences. Along with the books printed or otherwise produced mainly for a female audience, women also owned volumes intended for male authorities. While it does not necessarily follow that owning such books meant medical practice, it did mean a level of investment in medical knowledge.
Part herbal, part gardening manual, part picture-book, the Folger’s copy of Paradisus Terrestris [Earthly Paradise] -- pictured above -- provides an interesting example of the place of herbal knowledge in a young woman’s education. An inscription tells us that Lady Elizabeth Franklin, wife of a Parliament member and mother of seventeen children, gave the book to her yet unmarried sister, Anne Purefoy. The page seen above on “the Kitchen Garden” includes the medicinal aspects of many herbs, such as rue, which because of its “many good properties” was known as “Herb of Grace.”
Leonhart Fuchs. De historia stirpium commentarii impensis et vigiliis elaborati. Basel, 1542
Girolamo Ruscelli. Secreti. Part 1. English. London, 1568
Thomas Lodge. The poor man's talent. Manuscript, ca. 1623?
Katherine Packer. A book of very good medicines for several diseases wound and sores both new and old. Manuscript, 1639
Countess and Caretaker