Do you recognise these words?

A snippet of an image from Bolton L.108.3 featuring shorthand text

by Olivia Lardner, Bolton Cataloguer


Curiously placed on the foredges1  (verso) of the first gatherings2 of Dispvtationvm adversvs gentes (Hanau : Typis Wechelianis, 1603), a work composed by Arnobius of Sicca in response to the persecution of Christians by Diocletian in the 4th century,3 is what seems to be a prayer, or possibly an ode or poem.

The hand is somewhat faded in places, which renders faithful transcription difficult, but we have attempted to present it to you here in its entirety:



_ _ _ in this intended way, _ then shall crown thee with a bay

And as the yeares _ _ _ [will], and heavens joy surely thou shalt merit

O let not _ _ subvent thy ways nor hand possession of thy heart

Thrice happy is the woman who took paines in thy production _ are her gaines

Her memorable name shall never die, but by they fame _ _ into ye skie

In her wombs offspring well may ye rejoice, and sing Gods prayses with extolled voice

[Her grieving her] a son with whose _ all _ dwell their onely place of rest

Whose’s kind & _ no extravegant, a comforter to those who art in want

If I [should] _ to make a briefe _ of _ _ and outward perfection

The waxen wings [where with] _ _ _ _ _ _ away by _ up too high

And if his beauty much _ thou abuse in _ if it with an artlesses _

_ _ _ _ God to bless thy [progresses] with joy and happiness

_ _ _ he will if that _ _ observe His laws & from his _ covenant _ _


It is possibly in the hand of this individual:


The markings of its creator
Its author?


Markings such as these are not uncommon in books of such a great age. Indeed it would be very unusual not to find something in an item which is over four hundred years old:


Library collections tend to be perceived as static entities, yet the books they contain, especially those from historic collections, have moved around extensively in their centuries-old existence.4


‘… still our patterne doth remaine’


In Bolton Library F.15.10 we find


The patient onely doth possesse his soule,

Th’ vnpatient’s vnder euery man’s controule,

If none perplexe him [he] himselfe perplexethe,

Is on his owne racke, & himselfe still vexeth,

Viewe Job in’s height, in’s fall, in’s rise againe,

His patience still our patterne doth remaine.


Poem beginning The patient onely doth possesse his soule
The patient onely doth possesse his soule


This poem or prayer appears in manuscript5 on the front pastedown of George Abbott’s Whole Booke of Iob paraphrased (London : Edward Griffin, 1640).

It may be in the hand of one Wm C_, the creator of the almost illegible signature below:


The marking of Wm C
Wm C_


For speed or secrecy

Several items collected by William Leman, with associations to the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691), bear leaves of shorthand inside, such as here in Bolton Library L.18.3.



Whilst the use of shorthand is rare in the Bolton Library, it enjoyed popularity in the 17th century, with figures such as navy clerk Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) employing it across diaries and correspondence.6


A wedding token?

The contents of The confession of faith : together with the larger and lesser catechismes (Glasgow : Robert Sanders, 1675) may be weighty indeed, concerned as it is with the Westminster Confession of Faith,


Title page of Bolton B.6.2
The confession of faith (Glasgow : Robert Sanders, 1675)


but the diverting markings it bears more than distract.

On its front pastedown7 appears this piece of manuscript music … and random wildlife:


Handwritten music appearing inside the front cover of Bolton B.6.2
Manuscript music in the hand of Elizabeth Farrar?


It is possibly the work of, or addressed to, one Elizabeth Fa_ – the surname is possibly Farrar – whose partially effaced signature appears above it.

On its title page appear the signatures of James [Farrar] and Anna [Maitland]


Barely legible signatures on the title page of Bolton B.6.2
Partially legible signatures of a happy couple?


and on the foredge of p 208 appears the line ‘Round is my ring and [he ath] no end So is my love unto my_’, at which point the text peters out.


A wedding day declaration of love in Bolton B.6.2
A wedding day declaration of love?


This cataloguer speculates that the item may have been a wedding gift to James and Anna from Elizabeth, but all suggestions are welcome.


No item in the collection journeyed directly from scriptorium or printing house to Cashel; their route to the Bolton Library involve much meandering through many hands. These centuries of readership and use, trade and misuse, all leave their mark, and we will be detailing the more interesting and unusual of these markings here in this blog.


Further Reading

For a detailed description of all the markings uncovered in the Bolton Library to date, we invite you to have a read of the Provenance Note in each record in our online catalogue.




  1. The front edge of textblock/ binding, directly opposite its spine.[]
  2. Sheets printed and then folded for binding, e.g.: an octavo gathering is one printed sheet folded three times, giving rise to 8 leaves or 16 pages.[]
  3. Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent.[]
  4. Dondi, C. (2013). ‘”IScBooktrade”: an evidence-based assessment and visualization of the distribution, sale and reception of printed books in the Renaissance’, Gazette du livre médiéval, 60(1), pp. 83-101, available here.[]
  5. Written by hand.[]
  6. Magdalene College (2021). Virtual exhibition: Samuel Pepys’s diary, available here.[]
  7. Leaves, usually blank, pasted inside to front and rear covers[]