William Penn and Friends

To the left is an image of William Penn’s (1644-1718) bookplate, which is pasted into the inside front cover of S631 .D57 1634a copy of a 1652 edition of the typically verbose 17th century title:  Samuel Hartlib his Legacie: or an Englargement of the Discourse of HUSBANDRY used in Brabant & Flaunders: Wehrein are bequeathed to the Common-wealth of England, more Outlandish and Domestick Experiments and Secrets, in reference to Universal Husbandry (Penn Libraries, EC65 H2554 651s 1652).  It is easy to imagine the interest Penn might have had in this book as the man who had founded what was then known as the Province of Pennsylvania (land encompassing areas of both modern Pennsylvania and Delaware) in 1681 as a haven for the Quakers, and who had then spent many decades as the proprietor of Pennsylvania overseeing the development of the land.  Hartlib’s book provides an overview of countless aspects of husbandry as practiced in different parts of Europe, offering a comparative approach to provide English readers with new ideas about how to get the most out of different kinds of land, with an appended treatise on the Husbandry and Natural History of Ireland.  Perusing the subject headings of the main text reveal an assortment of topics including:  “Digging, Setting and Howing,” “Smut and Mildew,” “Fruits,” “Vines,” “Dunging and Manuring Lands,” “Silke-Wormes”, “Waste Lands,” and “The Not Improvement of Our Meadows.”  (That last category discusses the great importance of leaving meadows free for the purpose of grazing livestock on good “clover grasse” and other such herbage, thereby being able to make tastier cheeses).  Of particular interest in light of the fact that the book was in Penn’s hands is the extended section Hartlib dedicates to “The Ignorance of the Husbandry of Other Places” in which he writes about the exciting new things to be learned from an understanding husbandry practices in the recently established New World colonies and the importance of Englishmen both learning the specifics of practices elsewhere and sending report of them home:  “For there is no Countrey where they are such ill Husband-men, but in some particular or other they excel…every Country hath something or other wherein they outstrip their neighbours.”  It is easy to imagine Penn thinking about what he had learned, and had yet to learn about the agricultural practices of his own colony as he read this. S631 .D57 1634

It is unknown when Penn acquired this book, that is we can only speculate whether it may have been a volume he carried about as a reference while in the process of founding his colony.  The bookplate is dated 1703, by which time Penn was living back in England, where he continued to reside until his death in 1718.   The plate depicts the Penn family crest with the title “William Penn Esqr. Proprietor of Pennsylvania: 1703” printed below.   The bookplate also contains an abbreviated version of the family motto “Dum Clavum Rectum Teneam,” or “while I hold the helm steady” originated with Penn’s Admiral father, but was also applicable to the son who guided Pennsylvania’s ship of state.

Just as interesting as the famous provenance associations that Penn’s bookplate lends this copy of Hartlib’s discourse on husbandry, is the context of that bookplate as it is juxtaposed with the several other ownership marks in the book.  While looking at individual provenance marks can yield insights into particular owners, the collection of marks found in some books can be just as suggestive about the collection of owners associated with the book across time.  The image to the right shows the many other marks that have been added to the inside cover along with Penn’s plate.  To the upper right is a label reading “To be Had at Jacob D. Dietrick’s Ironmongery, Paint, Book, & Fancy Store…where is constantly kept, a general assortment of all the above articles, which are sold, Wholesale and Retail, at the Philadelphia prices(see detail image below).  The label evokes a time in the book’s life when it sat as another piece of goods among ironmongery, paint and other “fancies”.  To the left, along the side of the board, is the signature of another owner, JosIMG_0825eph William Mathews, with the date Feb. 24, 1853.  Mathews has also laid claim to the book with another signature and a printed label, both identifying his location as Lewisburg, VA.  Underneath Penn’s bookplate is the first of three signatures by a Michael Woltz, who also wrote a somewhat cryptic inscription on the book’s flyleaf (image to left) beginning “Michael Woltz his hand pen he will…”, which POP contributor, Ian Shoenherr identified as an abbreviated form of a popular 19th century piece of verse (often misattributed to Lincoln), so that the inscription reads “Michael Woltz / his hand [and] pen[,] he will / be good [but] god knows when / Michael Woltz[‘]s / Book,” possibly a little handwriting practice for a young student.    

Together with the various marks that remain a mystery (such as the assortment of letters and numbers written in a different had  above Michael Woltz’s inscription on the flyleaf), and the inscription “Bartram Library/ g: Miss M.B. Hansche” written on the back cover, the many pieces of provenance evidence surrounding Penn’s bookplates suggest a community of people across the centuries who, while they never met, are united by their association with this particular book.   The juxtaposition of all these different marks, packed in closely adjacent to one another, also highlights the many different kinds of provenance clues that can be found attached to any particular book, telling the story of that book’s journey from the hands of the famous to a shop corner amongst pieces of “ironmongery,” to the hands of visitors to the Penn Libraries today.

To see all the provenance marks from this book and more, visit the POP Flickr feed. 

S631 .D57 1634

This entry was posted in Bookplates, Inscriptions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to William Penn and Friends

  1. Brian Murphy says:

    Very nice article on this book owned by the great Quaker, William Penn. Laura – do you encourage private collectors to share their books with ownership marks? If so, I have several and would like to know how to send you photos and information for your digital data base.
    Thank you,
    Brian Murphy
    Santa Fe, NM


    • Hi Brian,
      We are just starting to invite contributions from a small group of partner institutions and private collectors outside Penn. The project is in a development phase, but we should have an online upload form in early 2016 that people can start using to contribute both images and some information about them to POP. I’d be happy to learn more about your collection and talk about how you could contribute images of some of your provenance to the project. You can e-mail me at aydel@upenn.edu


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s