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30 January 2007


Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History; 13
The inventory of Michael Harte, bookseller of Exeter

The inventory transcribed below is in the Devon Record Office, Exeter Court of Orphans records (Ref: DRO/ECA/Book 144 p.129-134. Attention was drawn to it by W.G.Hoskins "An Exeter bookseller's stock in 1615", Devon and Cornwall notes and queries, vol. 21, 1940, p.36-7. The numbers 1 to 91 have been added to the first items in the inventory to facilitate reference in the commentary which follows the transcript and some of these have links to a table which identifies the items. The small images of each folio can be clicked on to produce an enlarged image, and these images in turn can be clicked on to view them full size. The essay following the transcript first appeared in Devon documents in honour of Margery Rowe, edited by Todd Gray (Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, 1996)

Harte inventory, 1615, p. 129 The Inventory of all the goods of Michaell Hart
deceased taken and appraised the Nynth day
of December 1615 by John Mongwill John Warren
and Georg Prouz sen
Bookes in the Hall
1 Inprimis 1 gallens Workes in fo old xxv s
2 it 2 Willetts Sinopses in fo: xxvi s
3 it 2 Spannishe histories in fo: xxiiii s
4 it 1 French historie in fo: xi s
5 it 1 History of Venys in fo: vii s
6 it iii Greenhams Workes in fo: xviii s
7 it 1 Babintons Workes in fo: vii s vi d
8 it 1 Willett vppon Samuell in fo iiii s vi d
9 it ii Willetts vppon the Romans xi s
10 it 1 French Dixsnary in fo: vi s vi d
11 it 1 Penedam in Solimomons vii s
12 it 1 Church bible xxx s
13 it 2 Jewells workes in fo xxiiii s
14 it iii wolloms of Peeter Marters
workes in fo:
xiii s iiii d
15 it 1 gualter uppon the Corinthes v s
16 it 1 Dallingtons Aphorismes in fo: iiii s
17 it 2 Sezaries ii wolloms in fo: x s
18 it 1 Boddyms Derepublica in fo: iiii s
19 it 1 Tagnes Esses in fo iiii s
20 it 27 old fo: bookes xl s
21 it 1 old latten bible in 6 parts iii s iiii d
22 it 12 peecs & v perfitt bookes x s
23 it 60 books in 4° vii li x s
24 it 40 bookes in 4° iii li
25 it 100 bookes in 4° iiii li iii s iiii d
26 it 1 Hebrew bible in 4° vi s
27 it 1 Zanchy Tractacions in 4° iiii s
28 it ii Vrcineus Catthesme in 4° ix s
29 it 1 Smithes Sermons whole v s
30 it 1 Cooper vppon the Romans iiii s vi d
31 it 3 king vppon Jonas in 4° vii s vi d
32 it 1 Maloonett vppon the profitts iii s vi d
33 it 1 second & 3 parts of the French
iiii s
34 it iii Blundivills exercises 4° vii s vi d

Harte inventory, 1615, p. 130 35 it ii xpian warfares 2 & 3 parts v s vi d
36 it iii Downhams Defenses in 4° iiii s vi d
37 it ii Dod vppon proverbes in 4° iiii s
38 it ix books in 4° xiii s iiii d
39 it 200 bookes in 8° in parchemt v li
40 it 20 bookes in 8° in parchemt xx s
41 it 160 bookes smale in viii° xx s
42 it 60 new schoole bookes in viii° xl s
43 it 120 old schoole bookes in viii° xl s
44 it 40 small stitch bookes vi s viii d
45 it 2 bundles of Stitch bookes iiii s
Summa xlv li is vi d
The bookes in the warehouse
behynd the Shoppe
46 Inprimis 53 old bookes in fo: xxx s
47 it 100 old bookes in iiii° xxx s
48 it 100 old bookes in viii° x s
49 it 30 bundles of Stitch books 4o v li
50 it 1 parcell of psalmes & geneoligy v s
51 it 1 parcell of unperfit bookes &
waste papers
v s viii d
52 it 49 bundells of stitch bookes
in viii°
iii li
Summa xii li viii d
The bookes in the Shopp
53 Inprimis 20 bookes in fo iii li x s
54 it 64 bookes in fo vi li viii s
55 it 52 bookes in fo lii s
56 it 100 bookes in iiii° xlvi s viii d
57 it 1 shelfe Cont 80 bookes in viii° xxvi s viii d
58 it 340 bookes in viii° iii li
59 it 40 bookes in viii° xl s
60 it 50 bookes in viii° xv s
61 it 100 bookes in 4° v li
62 it 147 bookes in iiii° l s
63 it 100 bookes in viii° xxxiii s iiii d

Harte inventory, 1615, p. 131 64 it 260 bookes in viii° xliii s iiii d
65 it 2 old lating bibles ii s
66 it 1 parcell of French books x s
67 it 400 bookes in a presse l s
68 it160 bookes in viii° iiii li x s
69 it 310 bookes l s
70 it 18 School books xii s viii d
71 it 143 old books in 16° xx s
72 it 5 prayer books gilt over viii s
73 it 5 bookes in viii° veller and filts iiii s
74 it 27 bookes veller and filts xviii s
75 it 16 bookes in xii° xx s
76 it 164 books in xii° xxx s
77 it a parcell of old Mapps xii d
78 it a parcell of wast paper ii s
79 it 54 Stitch bookes in the Chest v s
80 it 4 unperfitt & one perfit psalmes
in quiers
ii s
81 it 1 old parchmt S[kin?] and a Shepes Skynn iiii s
82 it for Inkhornes and quills xii d
83 it 2 pr of old Skales xviii d
84 it 1 nest of boxes 2 old deskes iii s iv d
85 it in Claspes bosses & pots of brasse xviii d
86 it the Chest in the Shopp x s
87 it 1 Cutten presse wth the plow iiii s vi d
88 it 1 presse pynn of Iron viii d
89 it 1 Sowing presse xviii d
90 it for the Shelves in the Shopp x s
91 it for the borde of thenterclose
behind the Shopp
ii s
Summa - li li xix s viii d
The houshold stuffe
in the kitchin
Inprimis 95 li of pewter iii li iii s iiii d
it 28 li of Brasse xviii s viii d
it 2 little brasse potts v s
it 1 morter viii d
it 1 warming pann iii s

Harte inventory, 1615, p. 132 it 2 old brasse Skeends and
ii brasse ladles
xx d
it 2 Andirons with brasse Topps iii s
it 1 Dryping pann ii s
it 5 broches iiii s
it 1 litle pr of Andirons & two
pair of Doggs
ii s vi d
it 2 pr of pott hooks 4 Crooks iii s
it 1 old pr of Tongs & a fleshook ix d
it a parcell of old Iron xii d
it 1 Amery vi s viii d
it 1 parcell of Cloame & Cupps iiii s
it for Trenchers Trencherkniffes
& two Rolers
ii s
it 4 Timber boales iii s
it 1 beating hammer & a stoane ii s
it 2 litle Table bords iiii s
it for Shelves windowes & bords vi s
Summa vi li xvi s iiii d
In the litle Buttery
Inprimis 1 old Amery ii s vi d
it in wooden vessell ii s vi d
it 1 old Chare vi d
it for thenterclose of the
Buttery & the Shelves
x s
it 2 Dores ii s
Summa xvii s vi d
Household stuffe in
the Hall
Item one Cubbord xv s
it 1 latten basen & Ewer xv s
it 4 glasses 1 little erthen pott xii d
it 5 pictures & a mapp vi s viii d
it 1 Galleaver with a Flask &
Titch box & a Dagg without lock
or Snappance
vi s viii d
it iii Chares iii low stooles ix s
it 6 Joyne stooles v s
it 1 Stayne Clothe iiii s
it 5 green Cushins iiii s
Summa lvi s iiii d

Harte inventory, 1615, p. 133 In the Chamber over the Hall
Item one Tablebord iii s iiii d
it 1 wecker Chare xii d
it 1 Trunke iii s iiii d
it 1 great Trunk Chest vi s viii d
it 1 bedd ii bolsters 4 pillowes iii li ii s iii d
it 1 Old Doust bed 1 pr of blancketts viii s
it 1 bed ii bolsters 1 pyllow
of Flox
xiii s iiii d
it 1 old Arris Coidlitt 1 Arris
iiii s vi d
it 2 other old Coidlitts iii s
it 2 Ruggs viii s
it 2 pr of Curtaines 1 old xviii s
Summa vi li xi s v d
More in the said Chamber
Inprimis ii Dornex Carpetts v s vi d
it ii Cloakes xxx s
it ii Sutes of Apparrell
1 Dublett & Jerkyn
xxx s
it 1 pr of Stockins 1 pr of
Busgins & one wastecoat
ii s vi d
it 1 Redd Capp 1 Rideing hood xviii d
it 1 ounce 3/4 of Silver old vii s
it 6 bands 3 Capps 1 pr of
Cuffes ii handkerchers
x s vi d
it ii Shirtes vi s
it iii pr of Sheets xv s
it 6 bord Clothes xvi s
it 7 pilloties xx s
it 2 dozin Napkins & 1 Towell x s vi d
it 2 remnants of old black stuffe xii d
it 4 Carrick Dishes xviii d
it for brushes xii d
it 1 looking glasse 5 other glasses xvi d

Harte inventory, 1615, p. 134 it for flaskitts & baskitts ii s
it 1 Trendlebedsteed ii s
it 1 hatt & band wth Siphers iiii s
it for the painted Cloth xviii s
Summa ix li v s iiii d
In the Last in the
said Chamber
Inprimis 1 standing bedsteed xviii s
it 1 Trendlebed steed ii s
it 6 old Coffers & boxes vii s
it for old Hampers xii d
it 1 pr of old bootes xii d
it 1 old stool & a bord wth a brandiz
wch was at the house at Dawlishe iiii s
it 1 Trowell xi d
it for the lease of halfe the
iii li
it in reddy money v s vi d
it in Doubtfull Debts xx iiii li xvi s ix d
Summa Total Clxv li xiiii s xi d
A common culture? : the inventory of Michael Harte, bookseller of Exeter, 1615

The 1615 inventory of Michael Harte of Exeter is that of a substantial provincial bookseller of the early 17th century1. It is one of only thirteen recorded for English provincial towns outside Oxford and Cambridge during the 17th century and, as both were of a similar size, it invites comparison with that of John Foster of York compiled the following year. But while Foster had succeeded to a well-established York business run by his uncle Anthony, Harte was the son of an Exeter shoemaker and went to London to learn his trade2. He was apprenticed to John Windet, citizen and stationer of London on 29 September 1585 and was turned over to Andrew Maunsell and then to Robert Dexter when he succeeded Maunsell at the sign of the Brazen Serpent in about 1590. He was admitted freeman of the Stationers Company on 5 October 1592 and the following year his name appeared in the imprint of George Gifford's Dialogue concerning witches and witchcraft. However he soon after returned to Exeter, becoming a freeman of Exeter by succession on 31 December 1593. He obtained a licence dated 20 November 1596 to marry Rebecca Harding and the wedding took place on 16 January 1596/7 in the church of St Petrock. His business was in the parish of St Martin where he is recorded in subsidies from 1595 onward. Two children are recorded in the parish register of St Martin: Joan, baptised on 7 October 1600 and Michael, baptised on 15 December 1601. One apprentice is also recorded: John Moungwell, who became a freeman of Exeter in 1604/5 and was one of those who drew up Harte's inventory in 1615. As Moungwell was active as a bookseller in his own right until the 1650s, one can therefore place some credence in the values assigned to the stock. Harte's burial is recorded in the registers of St Martin for 12 November 1615. The inventory was drawn up for the Exeter Court of Orphans on 9 December 1615. Michael's son, also named Michael, was subsequently free of the city on 2 December 1622 but is not recorded as an active member of the book trade3.

One could wish that John Moungwell, John Warren and George Prouze had not lost interest in listing individual titles so soon. In the case of the York inventory some three quarters of the 3373 copies listed can be individually identified, a total of some 750 different titles. Nevertheless some analysis is possible and some comparisons can be drawn. In the following paragraphs figures for Foster's inventory are given in parentheses.

For statistical purposes the parcels of books in Harte's inventory have been assumed to contain ten items each, a reasonable estimate based on comparison of prices. With this assumption we arrive at a total of 4558 volumes for Harte's stock (Foster 3373) with a total value of £103/8/2d (Foster £144/16/4d), 71 per cent of the total value of the inventory including household goods, which amounted to £165/14/11 (Foster 88 per cent of £163/15/8d). Rather more than half the number, 2572 volumes, were shelved in the shop, although their value at £47/0/0d was less than half the total value of his stock. The most valuable items, a total of 923 volumes assessed at £44/7/6d, including all those individually listed, were stored in the hall, while the remaining 1063, worth a mere £12/0/8d were in the warehouse. A fuller analysis is given in table 1.

Table 1. Numbers and value of Harte's stock by location and format

Hall Warehouse Shop Total
Vol Value Vol Value Vol Value Vol Value
Folios 56 £14-5-2 53 1 £0-10-0 136 £12-10-0 245 £28-5-2
Quartos 230 £18-1-8 400 £6-10-0 247 £7-10-0 877 £32-1-8
Octavos 560 £11-0-1 590 £3- 10-0 1035 £15-12-4 2185 £30-2-4
12s & 16s 0 0 0 0 323 £3-10-0 323 £3-10-0
Miscellaneous 77 £1-0-8 20 £0-10-8 831* £7-17-8* 928 £9-9-0
Totals 923 £44-7-6 1063 £12-0-8 2572 £47-0-0 4558 £103-8-2

* Excludes maps.

Like Foster, Harte also undertook bookbinding and his equipment, worth 12/2d (Foster £8/6/6d) was stored in the shop.

Perhaps because of the more perfunctory nature of Harte's inventory, his volumes, at an average unit value of 5.4d, were consistently valued much lower than Foster's (10.3d), although full comparisons are difficult because of the different forms of binding, whether gilt, vellum, stitched or in quires, but the different sizes and unit values of the various formats of stock in the two inventories are best summarised in the following table. Prices are given in old pence.

Table 2. Proportions of volumes and value of Harte's stock by format with unit values.

Format Volumes Value Unit value
Per cent Per cent Old pence
Harte Foster Harte Foster Harte Foster
Folio 5.4 4.4 27.3 30.1 27.7 70.6
Quarto 19.2 19.5 31.0 30.0 8.8 15.9
Octavo 47.9 60.8 29.1 29.3 3.3 5.0
12s & 16s 7.1 10.5 3.4 8.3 2.6 8.1
Miscellaneous 20.4 4.8 9.2 2.3 2.4 4.8
Total/average 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 5.4 10.3

The currency of Harte's stock is difficult to assess as the dates of the editions are not recorded. In the identifications in table 3 the date of the latest editions recorded by the Short-title catalogue4 before Harte's death are given. It would seem that editions of about two thirds of the titles which can be identified had appeared in the five years before Harte's death. Over that period only about 2331 titles are recorded as having been published in Great Britain in the Short-title catalogue5. With a stock of 4558 volumes, even if many, such as psalms and schoolbooks, are duplicates Harte should have had a wide-ranging and up-to-date stock, perhaps some 1000 different titles, if duplication is similar to Foster's. There is a little evidence of foreign books such as the Galen (item 1), the Pineda (item 11), the Caesarius (item 17), the Hebrew Bible (item 26) and a parcel of French books (item 66) but Foster too only had seven per cent of continental books. There are also several entries referring to old books (items 1, 21, 43, 46-48, 65, 71 and 77).

Harte's subject coverage would seem to be broadly similar to Foster's. Religious works figure large, with prayerbooks, psalms and commentaries on the Bible. Religious works made up 28.8 per cent of Forster's stock. Schoolbooks both old and new are loisted in Harte's inventory (items 42. 43, and 70), and this is a category which made up 27.8 per cent of Foster's stock. Of the 30 titles that can be identified in Harte's inventory, almost half find probable counterparts in Foster's stock.

So are we talking about a common culture? While there is much in common, there is some suggestion of a difference in emphasis. Harte's stock shows a significant ineterest in other countries in the histories of Spain, France and Venice. As well as the French dictionary there are translations of Montaigne and La Primaudaye. Perhaps this reflects an interest in foreign lands generated by Exeter's position as a major port. The contrast can perhaps be epitomised by the works of Thomas Blundeville in each inventory.While Foster stock his work on horsemanship6, Harte's inventory lists his Exercises which, in its second part, contans a description of Mercator's globes and Drake's circumnavigation. Harte seems to be responding to a community which, while it shared much wih the rest of the country, nevertheless maintained some cultural distinctiveness.

Table 3. Notes on the first 37 items (* indicates the same or similar title in Foster's inventory, STC refers to the Short-title catalogue number, and BLC to the British Library catalogue.)

Item Title STC no
1.*? Galen. No folio English editions noted in STC. Quarto editions 1521-85 11531-7
2. * Willet, Andrew. Synopsis papismi. 4th ed. 1613 25699
3. Mayerne, Turquet Louis de. The generall historie of Spaine. 1613 17747
4. The historie of France. The four first bookes. 1595 11276
5. Fougasses, Thomas de. The general history of Venice. 1612 11207
6. Greenham, Richard. The works. 5th ed. 1612 12318
7. * Babington, Gervase. The workes. 1615. 1077-8
8. * Willet, Andrew. An harmonie upon the first [second] booke of Samuel. 1614. 25679-80
9. Willet, Andrew. Hexapla: that is a six-fold commentarie upon the epistle to the Romanes. 1611. 25690
10. Cotgrave, Randal. A dictionarie of the French and English tongues. 1611 5830
11. Pineda, Joannes ed. ... ad suos in Salomonem commentarios ... New ed. Mainz, 1613. BLC
12. Bible (insufficient detail to identify) -
13. *? Jewel, John. Works. 1611 14580
14. *? Vermigli, Pietro Martire. (Various folio editions 1564-83) 24667-72
15. Walther, Rudolph. (Title not apparent in STC, Prof D.R.Woolf suggests:) 25013
16. * Dallington, Sir Robert. Aphorisms civill and militarie. 1613 6197
17. * Caesarius, Joannes. Dialectica (or other continental editions on rhetoric) BLC
18. Bodin, Jean. The six bookes of a commonweale. 1606. 3193
19. * Montaigne, Michel de. Essayes written in French. 1613 18042
20-25. (Insufficient detail) -
26. Bible. Hebrew (no English edition traced in STC, various continental eds.) BLC
27. Zanchius, Hieronymus. Speculum christianum. 1614. Octavo edition. 26121a7?
28. *? Ursinus, Zacharias. Summe of christian religion. 1611. 24537
29. Smith, Henry. Sermons. Quarto. 1614. 22729
30. Cowper, William. Three heavenly treatises upon the eight chapter to the Romanes. Octavo. 1612 5936
31. * King, John. Lectures upon Jonas delivered at Yorke ... 1594. 1611 14979
32. * Marlorat, Augustine. Propheticae. 1574. 17409
33. * La Primaudaye, Pierre. The French academie. 1601, 1605 15239-40
34. Blundeville, Thomas. Exercises. 4th ed. 1613. 3149
35. Downame, John. The christian warfare. 2nd ed. 1608. 7134
36. Downame, George. Defence of the sermon preached at the consecration of the Bishop of Bath. 1611. 7115
37. * Dod, John & Cleaver, Robert. Briefe explanation of the whole booke of the proverbes of Salomon. 1615. 5378


1. The inventory is in the Devon Record Office, Exeter Court of Orphans records (Ref: DRO/ECA/Book 144 p.129-134. Attention was drawn to it by W.G.Hoskins "An Exeter bookseller's stock in 1615", Devon and Cornwall notes and queries, vol. 21, 1940, p.36-7. The numbers 1 to 91 have been added to the first items in the inventory to facilitate reference in the commentary.

2. A detailed analysis of Foster's inventory is given by John Barnard and Maureen Bell in The early seventeenth-century book trade and John Foster's inventory of 1616. Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, 1994.

3. The main facts of Harte's life are given by Ian Maxted in The Devon book trades: a biographical dictionary. Exeter: J.Maxted, 1991, p.78.

4. A short-title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English books printed abroad 1475-1640. - London: Bibliographical Society, 1976-91.

5. Maureen Bell and John Barnard. "Provisional count of STC titles 1475-1640", Publishing history, 31, 1992, p.54.

6. The fower chiefyst offices belongyng to horsemanshippe. Six editions 1565-1609. STC 3152-57.

This page last updated 12 Feb 2005
© Ian Maxted, 2005.