A mother and her two daughters unexpectedly greet you when you open the binding of Folger MS V.a.174.
Turn to the back of the volume and there they are again.
Who are these late-nineteenth-century women, and why is their image affixed in perpetuity to the Elizabethan binding of a 1576 manuscript version of the Book of Common Prayer?
For over a decade, their faces have been lodged in my mind as an unusual and haunting addition to a beautifully written 1576 manuscript version of the Book of Common Prayer. The manuscript was made by Robert Heasse (or Heaz, or Hayse, or Hayes), the curate of St. Botolph’s Aldgate from 1564 to 1594, who signs many of the pages with his monogram. We know a lot about Heasse because of the extraordinary parish register, daybooks, and churchwarden accounts which he compiled with his parish clerk, Thomas Harridance, now managed by the London Metropolitan Archives (GL MS 9234 (1-7), MS 9235 (1-2), 9221). Heasse was also the translator (from the French) for the 1566 A chrystian exhortation verye profitable gathered out of the holye scriptures, vnto the great comfort, and vtilitye, of euery faythfull soule, being in agony of death (STC 13017), which now exists in a single imperfect copy at the Bodleian Library. There’s more to say about Heasse, and he will be the subject of another Collation post.
Between the late sixteenth century and the early twentieth century, the provenance of the book is unknown. Mr. and Mrs. Folger purchased the volume at the sale of the stock of the late bookseller Mr. W. J. Leighton (Sotheby’s, lot 623, November 14, 1918). I’m not quite sure how to identify them—any ideas on how to find out who they were, or theories about why they were glued into this manuscript? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.