Books of Duchesses: Mapping Women Book Owners in Francophone Europe, 1350-1550

S.C. Kaplan  

Sarah Wilma Watson

This video introduction to the interactive Books of Duchesses digital mapping project allows users to explore the kinds of texts women readers owned in the Middle Ages, where these readers lived, and whether the books are still with us today. A beautiful project that fleshes out questions of medieval female readers and writers.


Discussion Questions:

What was the most interesting or surprising thing that you learned while exploring Books of Duchesses? 

Choose one woman owner from the list below and use Books of Duchesses to learn more about her reading habits. How many books did she own and what kinds of texts did these books contain?  

  • Agnes of Burgundy, duchess of Bourbon

  • Alice Chaucer, duchess of Suffolk

  • Isabel of Bavaria, queen of France

  • Jacquetta of Luxembourg, duchess of Bedford

  • Charlotte of Savoy, queen of France 

Brainstorm one or two research questions that you might use Books of Duchesses to answer. For example: “How many women owned books containing female-authored texts?”

Select Sources:

Coleman, Joyce. “Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal—And Patron of the Gower Translation?” In England and Iberia in the Middle Ages, 12th–15th Century: Cultural, Literary, and Political Exchanges, ed. María Bullón-Fernández, 135–165. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. 

Dutton, Anne M. “Piety, Politics and Persona: MS Harley MS 4012 and Anne Harling.” In Prestige, Authority, and Power in Late Medieval Manuscripts and Texts, ed. Felicity Riddy, 133–146. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell & Brewer, 2000.

Hughes, Muriel J. “The Library of Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy.” The Private Library 7.3 (1984):53–78. Jambeck, K. K. “The Library of Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk: A Fifteenth-Century Owner of a ‘Boke of le Citee de Dames.’” Profane Arts of the Middle Ages 7.2 (1998): 106-35.  

Legaré, Anne-Marie. “Charlotte de Savoie’s Library and Illuminators.” Journal of the Early Book Society 4 (2001):32–87.

Powell, Susan. “Lady Margaret Beaufort and Her Books.” The Library 6.3 (1998):197-240    

Sutton, Anne F., and Livia Visser-Fuchs. “A ‘most Benevolent Queen’: Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s Reputation, Her Piety and Her Books.” The Ricardian 10.129 (1995): 214–245