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Kentish Book Culture

Writers, Archives, Libraries and Sociability 1400-1660

Edited By Claire Bartram

This volume explores the writing practices and book collections of a range of individuals in early modern Kent including monks, a mariner and an apothecary as well as members of the gentry and clergy and urban administrators. In a county with ready access to metropolitan, courtly and continental influences, a vibrant provincial book culture flourished, in which literacy was prized and book ownership widespread. Reinforcing the important social role played by the literate and revealing something of their creative potential, the essays gathered here also uncover an appetite for debate, reflected in the books owned, lent, written and published by the Kentish in the period covered. Underpinning all of this is an enduring culture of sociability, centred around the book as an object to be shared.

Interdisciplinary in approach, this collection brings together specialists in the history of the book, literary scholars, social historians and librarians to explore the nature of authorship and the dynamics of the market for print and manuscript books outside London. It demonstrates the rich potential of regional archival study to extend our understanding of medieval and early modern literature.

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5 ‘Quaere who hath Coriats Travels?’ Henry Oxinden’s Book Loans, 1647–1658



Amongst the correspondence and family papers of Henry Oxinden of Barham (1609–70) is a list of books loaned from his personal library between 1648 and 1657. The list names the borrowers who were from Oxinden’s family and network of friends in East Kent. Most of Oxinden’s books still survive within the Elham Parish Library (now in Canterbury Cathedral Library), so a large number of the titles borrowed can be identified. The list is a rare survival and gives a picture of the intellectual interests and tastes of a small group of gentry and professional people who lived in the east Kent area around Canterbury.

In February 1668, two years before he died, Henry Oxinden of Barham in Kent wrote to his old friend Captain Edward Swann asking him to retrieve a book he had loaned to Sir Thomas Monins of Waldershare. Forty years earlier, Oxinden’s brother James, then a student at St John’s College, Cambridge, had begged Henry to send by the carrier a lexicon, Aristotle’s Ethics and a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in English for ‘it were a folly for me to buy them before I hear from you’. Another letter from his friend, the Latin poet and lawyer Henry Birkhead in 1660 thanked Oxinden for his support:

Though the reading of your owne bookes were enough to make any one complete; yet you are pleased to afforde mee the assistance of other Authors, wherein there is not any...

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