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First Impressions: Pre-1750 women writers represented in UCL’s special collections

Erika Delbecque31 August 2021

This guest blog post was written by Isobel Goodman, who spent six months volunteering at UCL Special Collections as part of the Liberating the Collections project.

Tasked with researching pre-1750 women writers, as part of UCL’s Liberating the Collections project, I was struck by the varied ways in which women engaged with print culture in this period. Unsurprisingly, recognised names such as Margaret Cavendish, Mary Wortley Montagu and Aphra Behn occur frequently in the catalogues, but the research also revealed several other women writers whose non-aristocratic status and lesser-known writings provided a fascinating insight into the processes at work.

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Mrs James’s Vindication of the Church of England in an answer to a pamphlet entituled A New test of the Church of England’s loyalty. (London, 1687) [UCL Special Collections Huguenot Library JB 17 HAL]

The political writings of author-printer Elinor James (1644-1719) were regularly published even before she inherited her husband’s printing business in 1710. Renowned for her petitions to the king and parliament, James’ work benefitted from ready access to a printing press: not only could her concerns be published promptly in response to new debates (hence avoiding any appearance of pre-meditated attack on the petitionee), but also in large quantities for maximum impact. Extant documents indicate that she penned at least 90 pamphlets and broadsides during her career, although the ephemeral nature of these items could disguise a much greater number. UCL holds a copy of Mrs James’ Vindication of the Church of England (1687), in which she defends James II’s ‘Declaration of Indulgence’ against criticism in another pamphlet published anonymously weeks earlier. Robustly countering the anti-Catholic stance of the earlier publication, James concludes “GOD Save the KING”!

Portrait of Elinor James, c.1700 ©Wikimedia Commons

The fast, cheap, ephemeral nature of pamphlet production suggests that James sought neither literary renown nor fortune from her writing. However, the conspicuous inclusion of her name in her publications, often in the title itself, demands recognition as both author and printer. Indeed, a portrait she gifted to Sion College in 1711, notably depicts James holding a lavishly bound book whilst a copy of her Vindication of the Church of England rests nearby.

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Poems upon several occasions. By the late Mrs Leapor, of Brackley in Northamptonshire. The second and last volume. (London, 1751) [UCL Special Collections Strong Room E 221 L2]

In the absence of owning a press, less-wealthy eighteenth century authors could fund the third-party publication of their writing through subscription i.e. half of the book price paid in advance by readers and the other half on receipt, in return for their names being listed in the publication itself. Kitchen maid, Mary Leapor (1722-46), was an unlikely candidate for a published poet, yet she successfully funded printing in this way – no doubt aided by subscribers’ curiosity of her situation. Rector’s daughter, Bridget Freemantle, and Leapor’s employers and their relations (the Jennens and Blencowes) also provided useful connections.

Rear flyleaf of Poems upon several occasions. By the late Mrs Leapor, of Brackley in Northamptonshire. The second and last volume. (London, 1751) [UCL Special Collections Strong Room E 221 L2]

Following Leapor’s premature death, two years before her book appeared in print to positive reviews, novelist Samuel Richardson published a posthumous second volume of Leapor’s manuscripts (1751), of which UCL holds a copy. While less successful in attracting subscribers, the text’s woodcuts still suggest a reasonable budget. Leapor was certainly well-known during this period: an anthology ‘by eminent ladies’, published in 1755, devoted more pages to her than any other writer. Indeed, UCL’s text previously belonged to Jeremy Bentham and includes his annotations of ‘Mrs Grey’s memories of Mary Leapor’, indicating a prestigious readership of both sexes. Bentham reports that Mrs Grey introduced Leapor to Bridget Freemantle, who subsequently provided her “with pens, ink & paper & a bureau, book case & likewise books, before which she had scarcely an opportunity of coming at any books, or the means of procuring them”.

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In contrast, the corpus of poems, prose, petitions, biography and translations penned by Lucy Hutchinson (1620-81) remained deliberately unpublished during her lifetime. She is perhaps best known for her Memoirs of her husband, John Hutchinson – a signatory of Charles I’s death warrant who died in prison following the Restoration – which she compiled for their children between 1665 and 1671.

Lucy Hutchinson by Samuel Freeman, stipple engraving, circa 1825-1850
NPG D19953 ©National Portrait Gallery

The Memoirs’ posthumous publication in 1806, by Hutchinson’s great-great-grandson, raises questions about the control authors ultimately had over their work. The private account was intended as “a naked undrest narrative, speaking the simple truth of him”, confirmed by careful, personal revisions of the original manuscript. Yet the heavily edited (although well-received) first publication was swiftly followed by two further editions before 1810. UCL special collections hold five four copies, ranging in date from 1808 to 1904. The original editor promoted the text to female readers as having “all the interest of a novel”, and the book’s moralistic account of the civil war impacted both historiography and popular opinion, despite no evident intent by Hutchinson to do either.

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An apology for the conduct of Mrs Teresia Constantia Phillips (London, 1748) [UCL Special Collections OGDEN MUI (1)/1]

The scandalous memoirs published in 1748-9 by Teresia Constantia Phillips (1709-65) were perhaps originally penned more for blackmailing former lovers than for book sales! In a self-promoting sales tactic, the imprint claims, “Such extraordinary care has been taken to intimidate the Booksellers, in order to stifle this Work, that Mrs. Phillips is obliged to publish it herself, and only at her House in Craig’s Court, Charing Cross; and to prevent Imposition, each book will be signed with her own hand”. Yet, in reality, the removal of pre-publication censorship during the 18th century had freed publication of such material in Britain. Trade publishers, such as Mary Cooper, who would assign their own name to an imprint and sell publications anonymously on behalf of the publisher and copyright holder, further enabled publishers to print controversial works without risk to their reputation.

Portrait of Teresia Constantia Philips, in An apology for the conduct of Mrs Teresia Constantia Phillips (London, 1748) [UCL Special Collections OGDEN MUI (1)/1]

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Whether for money, renown, or politics, the women represented in UCL’s special collections employed authorship for their own purpose – albeit with varying control over the resulting publications. Literacy was expanding during the 17th and 18th centuries, as was the print market following the lifting of restrictions on printer numbers in 1695. Combined with women’s evident interest in matters beyond the household (despite being unable to fully participate or vote in them) the processes were in place for them to reach a wider audience than ever before, through the medium of print.

By Isobel Goodman

Bibliography

Primary sources

Hutchinson, Lucy. Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Roes and Orme by T. Bensley, 1810.

James, Elinor. Mrs James’s Vindication of the Church of England, in an Answer to a Pamphlet entituled, A New Test of the Church of England’s Loyalty. London: Printed for me, Elinor James, 1687.

Leapor, Mary. Poems upon Several Occasions. The second and last volume. London: Printed and sold by J. Roberts, 1751.

Muilman, Teresia Constantia. An Apology for the Conduct of Mrs Teresia Constantia Phillips. London: Printed for the Author, and sold at her house in Craig’s-Court, Charing Cross, 1748-1749.

Secondary sources

Brown, Susan, Clements, Patricia, Grundy, Isobel. “Elinor James: Writing,” Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present, last accessed 03/08/2021. http://orlando.cambridge.org.ezp.lib.cam.ac.uk/protected/svPeople?formname=r&people_tab=2&person_id=jameel&crumbtrail=on&dt_end_cal=AD&dt_end_day=27&dt_end_month=06&dt_end_year=2021&dt_start_cal=BC&dt_start_year=0612&dts_historical=0612–+BC%3A2021-07-12&dts_lives=0612–+BC%3A2021-07-12&dts_monarchs=0612–+BC%3A2021-07-12&heading=h&name_entry=Leapor%2C+Mary&subform=1&submit_type=J

Greene, Richard. Mary Leapor: A Study in Eighteenth-Century Women’s Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Hutchinson, Lucy. Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Mayer, Robert. “Lucy Hutchinson: A Life of Writing,” The Seventeenth Century, Vol. 22(2) (2007): 313.

McDowell, Paula McDowell. “Introductory note” in Elinor James. The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimile Library of Essential Works, Printed Writings, 1641-1700: Series II, Part Three, Volume 11. Ed. Paula McDowell. London: Routledge, 2017.

Plaskitt, Emma. “Phillips [married name Muilman], Teresia Constantia (1709-1765],” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, September 23, 2004, https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-22170

Treadwell, Michael. “London Trade Publishers 1675-1750.” The Library Series 6, Vol. IV, No. 2 (1982)” 99-134.

Women in the Italian Book Trade: forgotten owners and producers of Italian books

Erika Delbecque23 August 2021

This guest blog post was written by Sara D’Amico, who spent six months volunteering at UCL Special Collections as part of the Liberating the Collections project

We might think that women were not allowed to participate in skilled crafts: for instance, the art of book binding was foreign to them until the nineteenth century. But women have always been involved in the book trade. However, many of them have remained in the shadows and their contribution has not been acknowledged for centuries. The Liberating the Collections project aims to fix this and give the women who are represented in the rare book collections at UCL Special Collections the recognition they deserve. As a volunteer in the LTC project, I have conducted a focused search among the Castiglione and Dante Collections, to allow the women involved in the Italian book trade to come to the fore. What follows is only a brief overview of some of the most interesting people involved in the making and keeping of Italian books.

Luchina Ravani (active ca. 1532-1541)

Luchina Ravani’s edition of “Il libro del cortegiano” (1538) [STRONG ROOM CASTIGLIONE 1538 (1)]

Financial considerations often forced a printer’s widow to take over the business, as the death of a husband plunged many widows into poverty. These women would often work until their sons came of age, but in the case of Luchina Ravani, she apparently continued working even after her son took over. The State Archive in Venice holds two documents stating that Luchina was free to run “a suo conto la stamperia.” This indicates that the widow held an important position in the business and possibily had some kind of agency in deciding what to print, like the beautiful Libro del cortegiano in the Castiglione Collection. However, despite her active role, her name is never explicitly mentioned on any edition. Only her son’s name, Vittore, appears on the titlepages or the colophons, followed by a simple and anonimous “& Co.” The reasons behind this choice remain unknown, but they do raise the question: how many other women’s works are hidden behind a man’s name?

Sofia Giacomelli (1779-1819)

Sofia Giacomelli’s illustrations of the “Divina Commedia” (1813) [DANTE DD 5 K]

Book history has neglected women engravers. Wood engraving was, for almost two centuries, the most common means of illustrating printed work. This art was not usually practised by women until the rise of the Arts and Crafts movement, and yet some of them, because of their incredible talent, managed to excel in this field almost half a century prior. Geneviève Sophie Giacomelli was one of them.

Also known as Sophie Janinet and Madame Chomel, Sofia was a popular singer and an accomplished graphic artist: she even exhibited her work at the Paris Salon in 1799 and in 1800. Art magazines from all over Europe praised her work in illustrating Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divina Commedia. The Journal des arts, des sciences, et de littérature reviewed her Milton collection in 1813: “The collection of the twelve figures of Madame Giacomelli is one of the most agreeable productions that engraving has offered us for a long time. We live in a century when women have won the most distinguished rank in literature: it is enough to look at this work to discover that the field of the arts is not foreign to them either.” But most importantly, Sofia didn’t stop working on her engravings after her marriage in 1802 with musician Joseph Giacomelli, who introduced her in the world of music and singing. She was, first and foremost, an artist.

Sofia Giacomelli’s illustrations of the “Divina Commedia” (1813) [DANTE DD 5 K]

Caroline Morris (dead after 1870)

Caroline Morris was not an occasional book owner: together with her husband she formed a library of about 9,000 volumes, making her a book collector on all counts. In the nineteenth century it was not common for a woman to collect that many books and it was even less common for a woman with no titles and significant richness to do so. James Morris, Caroline’s husband, was a Professor of Languages in the Royal College of Mauritius and the UCL Calendar (1870-71) seems to suggest that he was the owner of this extensive and valuable library: apparently, he bequeathed it to his wife for the duration of her lifetime, and after her death to the College. And yet, the illustrated bookplates that can be found in the books clearly say: “Jacobus et Carolina Morris”.

Letter from J. M. Peebles to Caroline Morris. [MS ADD 133]

As is often the case for women book owners, virtually no biographical information about Caroline is available. However, the UCL archives hold some of the Morris’s correspondence. The letters, together with the bookplates, were invaluable in proving that Caroline must have had an active role in the making of the Morris Library. Not only that, the letters from scholars like Francis William Newman and J. M. Peebles prove that she was also a reader and they help shine a light on Caroline’s interests in a great variety of subjects: from botany to music to women’s rights.

There are many women like Luchina, Sofia and Caroline who contributed to the making and preserving of some of the finest rare books in the UCL Special Collections. Their names are often overshadowed by those of their husbands but the LTC Project is finally giving them a new voice. While there is still room for more research, these first results are an indication of how many valuable resources are hidden within the UCL Special Collections and how much they can contribute to the study of the Italian book trade’s history.

References

Michelle Levy, ‘Do Women Have a Book History?’, in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 53, No. 3 (2014), pp. 296-317.
Deborah Parker, ‘Women in the Book Trade in Italy, 1475-1620’, in Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 3 (1996), pp. 509-541.
Patricia Jeffe, Women Engravers, 1990.
Stephen S. Stratton, Woman in Relation to Musical Art, in Proceedings of the Musical Association, 9th Sess. (1882-1883), pp. 115-146.

Exploring Women Owners of UCL’s pre-1750 Rare Books

Erika Delbecque16 August 2021

This guest blog post was written by Dr Steph Carter, who spent six months volunteering at UCL Special Collections as part of the Liberating the Collections project

The initial phase of the ‘Liberating the Collections’ project at UCL Special Collections has begun to highlight under-represented and marginalised voices in the collections. One area of research has been women owners, contributing not only to the existing narrative of pre-1750 books in the UCL Special Collections but also to the growing scholarly interest in early modern women book owners.

Working primarily with the UCL library catalogue, 5000 provenance statements were examined for evidence of women owners and straightaway provided ample data to pursue research on the lives of these former book owners. However, research into women book owners brought to the fore the intensely acute disparity that is so common between men and women when it comes to historical documentation and searching for biographical details. Biographies of identifiable women tend to be tied into the biographies of their fathers, husbands or brothers, typically comprising little more detail than a wedding date and how many children were born. An added complication is the repeated use of the same first name through successive generations of a single family.

[Seder berakho] (Amsterdam, [1687 or 1688]), front endpaper [STRONG ROOM MOCATTA 1687 B2]

A Hebrew text from the 1680s includes the inscription ‘Rebecca Mocatta’ on the front endpaper. This is undoubtedly part of the surviving Mocatta Library, the majority of the collection having been destroyed by bombing in 1940. The Mocatta family were established in London by 1671 with the merchant and diamond broker Moses Mocatta. At his death in 1693, Moses identified a niece called Rebecca; his son Abraham later had a daughter also named Rebecca. Rebecca also continued to be an important female family name in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the book remained in the Mocatta family collection until at least the early 19th century as there are manuscript notes on the front flyleaves detailing information about births in the family between 1797 and 1809.

John Harington, Orlando furioso in English heroical verse (London, 1591), title-page [STRONG ROOM OGDEN B 2]

Of course, even with a family name it is not always possible to identify the correct lineage. The Countess of Warwick, Mary Rich (1624-1678), is a known author and book owner. She was addicted to plays and romances in her youth, so it is not ridiculous to assume that she is the author of the inscription ‘Mary Rich’ on the title-page of Sir John Harington’s 1591 translation of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso – the Italian poem that is a source for Much Ado About Nothing.

However, another ascription, ‘Margarit Riche’, is also present on the title-page and an inscription on p. [186] of the main text refers to a note on the marriage of Robert and Elizabeth Riche in 1616.

John Harington, Orlando furioso in English heroical verse (London, 1591), title-page [STRONG ROOM OGDEN B 2  

These details do not match with the genealogy of the Earls of Warwick, suggesting that this book may have been owned by a completely separate family and passed down through female members of that family.

Despite the limitations of researching and identifying women book owners, the Mocatta and Rich examples contribute to a growing narrative of what the editors of Women’s Bookscapes in Early Modern England describe as ‘the myriad ways in which women bought, borrowed, accessed, wrote in, made, recorded, cited, and circulated books’ (p. 4). Such research on women book owners will also contribute to a broader engagement with the UCL Special Collections.

Dr Steph Carter, Associate Researcher, Newcastle University

References

Orbell, J. (2004) ‘Mocatta family (per.1671-1957), bullion dealers and brokers’, Dictionary of National Biography Online. Available at: oxforddnb.com [Accessed on 27 July 2021].
Cambers, A. Godly Reading: Print, Manuscript and Puritanism in England, 1580-1720 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 48-50.
Knight, L. and White, M. ‘The Bookscape’ in: Knight, L., White, M. and Sauer, E. (eds.) Women’s Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018, pp. 1-18.

Announcing the winners of the 2021 Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize

Erika Delbecque28 June 2021

French translations of Beatrix Potter, English testimonies to the Holocaust and women of the South Asian Diaspora – these were just some of the collecting themes amongst the applications for this year’s Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize, which is open to all students at London-based universities. The prize, which is generously funded by Anthony Davis, aims to encourage collectors who are at an early stage of collecting books, printed materials or manuscripts.

Because the standard of applications was particularly high this year, the panel made the exceptional decision to award two prizes.

The winners

Books from Daniel Haynes’ winning collection

This year’s winner is Daniel Haynes for his collection ‘The money earned by herself’: women artists of the Roycroft Press. This printing house was founded by Elbert Hubbart in New York State in 1895. It became the most influential Arts and Crafts press in America and a commercial success. Following the trend to revive 15th-century printing techniques and skills started by William Morris’ Kelmscott Press, the Roycroft Press produced books that were hand-printed and illuminated. Daniel’s collection focuses on books that contain evidence of women illuminators, highlighting the contributions made by artists whose role has often been overlooked. Daniel, who is a studying for an MA in Library & Information Studies at UCL, will receive a cash prize and the opportunity to work with a member of staff to select a new item for UCL Special Collections. He will also be entered into the national book collecting competition that is organised by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association.

The runner-up winner is Erick Jackaman with their collection Read My Genders: A Trans for Trans Collection. They collect a wide range of contemporary material that is published by trans people for trans people, including self-published novels, zines and leaflets. Erick is currently studying for an MSc in Digital Humanities at UCL.

Pink spines on a book shelf

The pink spines in Erick’s collection

“The whole experience of applying for the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize has been such a joy for me”, they said. “When I started writing my application back in March, it didn’t occur to me how valuable the application process itself would be or how much I would learn throughout. Speaking [to the panel] filled me with a sense of wonder for the potential of my collection.” Erick will also receive a cash prize and the opportunity to select a new item for UCL Special Collections.

The other finalists were:

  • Humphrey Price for his collection of works by Clare Leighton
  • Howard Kordansky for his collection of books and pamphlets on the role of the German Jewry in the First World War
  • Jemma Stewart for her collection of floriography or the language of flowers

See the finalists present their collections online

Join us for special sessions of the 2021 UCL Rare Books Club Online to hear some of the finalists speak about their collections and show some of the items. These lunchtime sessions are free to attend and open to all.

 

From matzo balls to Christmas pudding: the Jewish Cookery Book (1895)

Erika Delbecque22 April 2021

Dishes you would expect to find in a book entitled Jewish Cookery Book probably do not include jam roly-poly, shepherd’s pie and Cornish pasties. Yet, these traditional British recipes are all listed in this curious cookery book, which was recently acquired for UCL Special Collections.

A cookery curriculum for Jewish school children in London

A picture of the cover of the book

M.A.S. Tattersall, Jewish Cookery Book, compiled for use in the cookery centres under the school board for London (London: Wertheimer, Leah & Co, 1895)

The Jewish Cookery Book, published in 1895, was written by Miss M.A.S. Tattersall, about whom little is known other than that she worked as the superintendent of cookery for the School Board for London. It was compiled for use in teaching cookery to Jewish pupils in schools across London. Miss Tattersall, who was presumably not Jewish herself, asked a “Jewish lady” to revise her draft to ensure that it met Jewish dietary requirements.

That lady is likely to have been Rachel Adler, who writes in a foreword to the work that she believes that the included recipes are “are in full accordance with the requirements of our dietary code”. She was the wife of rabbi Hermann Adler, chairman of the Jews’ College, which incidentally had links to what was then University College: at the time of Adler’s chairmanship, Jews’ College was located in Tavistock Square near University College, so that students could combine their religious studies with an academic degree course from the University of London (LSJS).

Kosher British cuisine

The Jewish Cookery Book presents a curriculum consisting of two courses, through which the student progressed by learning to cook increasingly complex dishes. Students move on from boiling eggs and making vegetable soup in the very first lesson to stewed veal with forcemeat balls by the end of the second course. The work includes standard British fare that has been adapted to meet the requirement for kosher food (the introductory section includes instructions on “koshering meat, poultry, etc.”), as well a small number of recipes for Passover dishes such as matzo balls and sassafras, a drink made of liquorice and aniseed.

A picture of two pages with recipes

Recipes including jam roly-poly and pea soup

As such, despite its title, the curriculum set out by this book essentially offered Jewish pupils in London an education in English cooking. It was part of a spate of cookery books in the late nineteenth century aimed at the rapidly increasing Jewish immigrant communities in London. The implicit aim of books such as Jewish Cookery Book was to “anglicise and integrate” these communities into British society, which explains the inclusion of, of all things, a recipe for a Christmas pudding in what purports to be a Jewish cookery book (Gerson, p. 303).

Selected by a student book collector

A picture of the section containing Passover recipes

Recipes for Passover dishes

The work joins several other cookery books in our Jewish and Hebrew collections, including a copy of the Jewish Manual, published in 1846, which is regarded as the first Anglo-Jewish cookery book. This new acquisition for our collections was selected by Alexandra Plane, the winner of last year’s Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize. It struck her as an “interesting as an example of assimilation of British and Jewish cultures”.

As well as the opportunity to work together with UCL Special Collection staff to select an item for the collections, the winner of the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize receives £600 and the opportunity to give an online talk on his or her collection as part of the UCL Special Collections events programme. We are accepting submissions for this year’s Prize until 30th April 2021. For further details, please visit our page for applicants.

The Jewish Cookery Book can be consulted in our reading room. If this blog post has inspired you to try some of Miss Tattersall’s recipes, a digitised copy from the University of Leeds Library is available here.

Further reading

David, Keren (2019). Miss Tattersall’s guide for the Jewish cooks of 1895, The Jewish Chronicle, https://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/food/a-%EF%AC%82avour-of-haimish-history-from-an-antique-cookery-book-1.493119 (accessed 22 April 2021)

Gerson, Jane (2010) From Bola d’Amour to the Ultimate Cheesecake: 150 Years of Anglo-Jewish Cookery Writing, Jewish Culture and History, 12:1-2, 297-316, DOI: 10.1080/1462169X.2010.10512156

LSJS (2018) About LSJS: A Brief History, https://www.lsjs.ac.uk/about-lsjs.php (accessed 22 April 2021)