Friday, 27 September 2013

Between the covers: Evidence of owners

In this post I am going to focus on one set of inscriptions that appears with some frequency within the Cwm collection - the signature of Edward Poyntz (c.1570-1615). Those of you who have heard me present papers at various conferences over the last few months will have been made aware of the significance of these inscriptions.

Poyntz's signature appears on 25 of the books, all printed between 1564 and 1605. The inscriptions usually feature an abbreviated form of his name, a price, a date that is often 1605 and his motto 'Potiora Spero' (I hope for better), as in the illustration below (click here for more information):

C.3.1 - In Canticum Canticorum (Paris: 1603) 

Edward Poyntz was a member of the well known Catholic family of Iron Acton in Gloucestershire, as well as Tockington and Caerleon in Monmouthshire. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Poyntz (1537-1585) and his second wife, Lady Margaret Stanley (d. 1586), and as such has all but been ignored from official family records. 

Poyntz seems to have been an active member of the Catholic community, described in a 1605 report by the High Sheriff of Herefordshire as being "altogether Jesuited". The same report connects William Morgan of Llantarnam with "Jones the Jesuit, the firebrand of all", illustrating the strong links between members of the clandestine catholic community that analysis of the Cwm library begins to unlock. 

The Poyntz family were notoriously Catholic - it was said by superstitious locals that when Edward's father Sir Nicholas Poyntz died in 1585, thousands of ravens rested on his house and the nearby church where he was buried for a whole month afterwards.

Eventually my research led me to Edward Poyntz's will, made in October 1613 and proved shortly after he died in September 1615, which contained a rather significant bequest that "he bequeath all his bookes to Nicholas and John Poyntz his sonnes to be equallie parted between them." (TNA PROB 11/126)

A bit more research revealed that his youngest son John Poyntz (1602-1671) entered the Society of Jesus a few years later, professing his four vows in 1640 having been ordained in 1633. John is more commonly known by his alias John Stephens and by his other two aliases of Campion or Scripsam, which is why the connection had not been made before with the more famous Poyntz family of Iron Acton. Jesuit records state that John Stephens (vere Poyntz) served at the College of St Francis Xavier between 1640 and 1646, which is presumably how Edward Poyntz's books ended up as part of the Cwm library. 

This case casts an interesting light onto how the Cwm library may have been formed, highlighting the  possibility that it is in fact composed of several personal collections, somewhat haphazardly added in to the core Jesuit collection. 


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