Revealing Hidden Histories
As the new Assistant Librarian at Marsh’s I will be working on the records for the Stillingfleet Collection, the first collection of books in Marsh’s Library when it opened in 1707.
Part of my job will be to add notes on the glimpses into their lives that readers from the past have left behind in their books. One of my favourite finds so far is from Anne Stillingfleet, daughter of the collection’s former owner by his second marriage.
Anne has written an inscription in French, fittingly as the book in question is a play by Gallic author Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac, indicating she is its owner: Anne Stillingfleet, son liure [livre], ian vier 8 1688. We don’t just see Anne’s finished version, she has also practiced her handwriting elsewhere in the book, to get it just right.
The study of women readers like Anne was neglected for a long time, but in recent years, research has begun to bring these women’s stories to life.