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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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9 William Somner and his Books: Provenance Evidence for the Networks of a Seventeenth-Century Canterbury Antiquarian



The ownership and donation inscriptions in the books of the seventeenth-century Canterbury antiquarian, Willam Somner, show the contribution which provenance research can make to the study of regional social and scholarly networks. An account is given of his relations with contemporary antiquarians such as William Dugdale, Sir Roger Twysden and Sir Simonds D’Ewes, including Canterbury colleagues John Ludd and Meric Casaubon. A list of Somner’s surviving books, now in Canterbury Cathedral Library, includes records of all ownership inscriptions. A transcription is given of the appendix to Somner’s Dictionarium-Saxonico-latino-Anglicum which gives a long list of those who supported his labours on the dictionary.

The canons of Canterbury Cathedral during the seventeenth century included a number of important scholars, several of foreign origin or descent, such as Isaac Casaubon, his son Meric, Gerhard Vossius, and Pierre Du Moulin and his son Peter. Some of these were honorific appointments, essentially non-residentiary. However, the Cathedral also had a significant scholar among its secular staff, William Somner, a prominent Anglo-Saxon specialist and antiquary who (like his father) worked first as Registrar of the ecclesiastical courts in Canterbury and, after the Restoration, as the Cathedral’s Auditor. Our focus is on Somner and his circle of friends and collaborators within the Canterbury Chapter and in the county of Kent and on the traces of their activities recorded by the presence of their books in the Cathedral Library.

Provenance Studies

The study of the ownership of books...

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