Elizabeth Isham 1608-1654

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Elizabeth ISHAM 1608-54

Biographical Note

Daughter of Sir John Isham, 1st baronet, and Judith Isham of Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire. Educated at home, she had access to the family library which had begun to be assembled by her father and grandfather. Plans to marry John Driden in the early 1630s foundered on financial arrangements, and she continued to live at Lamport for the rest of her life. Her manuscript diaries have become an important source for appreciating the domestic and intellectual life of gentry women of her time.


Elizabeth's diaries contain numerous references to reading, including both books which would have been identified as her own, and ones which were part of the wider family library (she refers to her brother, Justinian, lending her copies of Sidney and Spenser; book lists for her mother and sister Judith also survive. She compiled 3 separate lists of her own books, dating from the 1640s, which in total include just over 100 books. An edited version of these lists has been created as PLRE 276. The contents are largely devotional and theological, with a few titles in literature, gardening and medicine; apart from a few in French, they are all in English. Some of her books probably remain at Lamport Hall today, though others will have been dispersed during sales from the 19th century onwards.


  • Aughterson, Kate. "Isham, Elizabeth (bap. 1608, d. 1654), diarist." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • Black, J. L. & others, Judith Isham, Judith Isham, Elizabeth Isham, Private Libraries in Renaissance England 9 (2017), 179-189, 201-208, 319-345.
  • Cambers, A. Godly reading, 2011, p.47, 65.
  • Graves, R. The Isham books, Bibliographica 3 (1897), 418-29.
  • Jackson, W. A. The Lamport Hall – Britwell Court books, in his Records of a bibliographer (1967), 121-133.
  • Hallam, H. Lamport Hall revisited, The Book Collector 16 (1967) 439-49.
  • Snook, E. Elizabeth Isham’s “own bookes”, in L. Knight et al (eds), Women’s bookscapes in early modern Britain, Ann Arbor, 2018, 77-93.
  • The diary of Thomas Isham of Lamport (1658-81), 1971.