Ellison, Melinda (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Master of Science in Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, July (2001)
In a surviving copy of the seventeenth century English publication, Culpepper’s Directory for Midwives, the phrase “Elizabeth Hunt her book not his” has been written in three places throughout it. From this statement, it is apparent that Elizabeth Hunt intended to proclaim herself, not her husband, as the owner of the book. Despite Hunt’s determination and the fact that women have been book owners for centuries, the history of women as book collectors, especially before the nineteenth century, is largely absent from library literature. This is a curious absence since ample evidence exists for women’s libraries in the form of property inventories, records of commissions, letters, paintings, and other historical documents. This fact raises a number of questions: Who were these “absent” women who collected books? What did they collect? Where and when did their libraries emerge? How were their books obtained?