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What do you give the 17th-century man who has everything?


Leeds Library

Zelda Caldwell - published on 08/08/17

Kindles weren’t invented yet, but that’s the idea.

You’re packing for a trip, you’d like to take a book, but you can’t decide which one. And how can you possibly take more than one if you want room in your suitcase to bring back souvenirs?

This problem, solved in our time by the invention of the Kindle, was apparently just as much of an issue in 17th-century England, according to an article in Open Culture

Within the University of Leeds’ collection, the article notes, is a curious item: a wooden case containing miniature books making up a “travelling library.”

According to the article, William Hakewill (1574, -1655), a lawyer and Member of Parliament, gave the library to a friend as a New Year’s gift at the turn of the year 1617-1618.

“The books within the library are all small in format and bound in limp vellum covers with colored fabric ties. They are gold-tooled on the spine with a flower and a wreath tool, and all the covers are outlined by two fillets and in the front have a gilt angel bearing a scroll that reads GLORIA DEO,” according to the online catalog.

What would a 17th-century English nobleman want as his bedside reading? Works on theology, philosophy, classical history and classical poetry, including works by Ovid, Seneca, Cicero, Virgil, Tacitus, and Saint Augustine.

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