Although many of the books in the College library have marginalia these are usually scholarly notes relating to the text. Sometimes, however, there are drawings and doodles as well, which are always a welcome surprise! Two examples of marginalia of a more personal nature recently came to light during the cataloguing of the special collections here at Brasenose.

The College library has many bibles in its collections but this one, printed in London in 1595 (the Geneva bible, printed for Christopher Barker) has notes not commonly found in College library copies. It has been a common practice for hundreds of years for families to record birth and death dates of family members in the back of the family bible. This bible was obviously used for this purpose; a previous owner, John Meredith has also written his name several times on the inside of upper board of the binding, and the final leaf contains a list of family members, beginning with “Ann Merydith” born in 1680:

Lath L 4.10 births and deaths from bible Meredith family

This bible (also bound with a copy of the Psalms printed in 1594) came to be here at Brasenose through the bequest of a former Principal, Francis Yarborough, who left a substantial collection in 1770. He may have bought the book at an auction since he has no obvious connection to the Meredith family.

Another volume, recently catalogued, which caught my eye has a curious history of ownership, as can be discovered by the manuscript notes within its pages. Lath K 7.11 contains a doctrinal work on the Sabbath by Francis White, printed in 1635. This book has a complicated provenance history as there are at least three different owners.

The first name which appears on the first endpaper is “John Walpole” though I have not been able to identify him. On the next endpaper there are more intriguing notes: a previous owner has written:

“Ane Weste is my name and if my pene hade beene any better I would have [… illegible]” (written upside down).

In the same hand but at the back of the book there is this inscription:

“Henry Bullocke Henrie Bullocke

Thy birds shall leave theire arie rigion

The fishes in the aire shall flie

all the world shall be of one religion

all livinge things shall sease [sic] to die

all things shall change to shapes most strange

Before that I disloyall love

Or any way my love decay

Although I live not wheare I love

Ane Weste”

Lath K 7.11 Verse from folk song Ane Weste

The words are from a well known 17th century folk song of which there are several variations but the text seems to fit that of “The constant lover” by Peter Lowberry, perhaps sung to the tune of “I live not where I love” printed between 1601 and 1640 (see the English Broadside Ballad Archive

Is Ane dedicating this song to Henry? It’s difficult to make any definitive identifications of Henry or Ane since there are no other biographical details and women are particularly difficult to trace from this sort of period. The final provenance detail shows how the book came to be in Brasenose Library – through a group of graduating students in 1693. An inscription lists their names and these can be found in the Brasenose College Register. This was a fairly common practice at Brasenose and many books bear these kinds of inscriptions, but it is unusual to find quite so many details of previous ownership in one volume.


Sophie Floate

Antiquarian books cataloguer

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