October 2015 Books of the Month: Partridge’s The Treasurie of Hidden Secrets (1633) and Read’s The Manuall of the Anatomy or Dissection of the Body of Man (1655)

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Title-page of Read’s Manuall: Fellows’ Library K.5.19 Gall (© Jesus College, Oxford)

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Title-page of Partridge’s Treasurie: Fellows’ Library R.4.5 (7) Gall. (© Jesus College, Oxford)

These books illustrate some of the range of medical publications in early modern England. Read’s work attempts to distil anatomical concepts, while Partridge’s Treasurie is a cheap, popular household manual of ‘kitchen physic’ and culinary recipes. Their intended readerships vary from learned (male) students to ‘Courteous Gentlewomen, honest Matrons, and virtuous Virgins’. While different in emphasis, however, they bear an interesting similarity in publication history: both were printed by women.

Despite being prohibited from establishing businesses by the Stationers’ Company, women stationers comprised approximately eight percent of the book trades in Britain (Smith, p.164). These women were permitted to manage the family business in the intervening period between remarriage or a son’s coming of age. Sarah Griffin had an unusually long career, spanning two decades. Although only five of her publications are confirmed, the records detailing her two printing presses, one apprentice and six workers suggest that her print shop was a successful one (McKenzie, p.116).

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Illustration to accompany the treatise on muscles in Read’s Manuall: Fellows’ Library K.5.19 Gall. (© Jesus College, Oxford)

Women chose to print a variety of subjects, from prayers for pregnant women to grammar textbooks. Some women printers exploited their lower legal status to print seditious texts with fewer reprisals. However, for the majority like Allde and Griffin, their gender did not define the content of their work.

Emma Sillett (Library Assistant)

Sources and further reading:

  • Catalogue records for Treasurie and Manuall on SOLO.
  • McKenzie, D., McDonald, P., & Suarez, M., Making meaning : “Printers of the Mind” and Other Essays (Amherst: University Of Massachusetts Press, 2002).
  • Smith, Helen, ‘Print[ing] your Royal Father off’: Early Modern Female Stationers and the Gendering of the British Book Trades”, TEXT 15 (2003), 163-86.
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