Isabella Hervey d.1686

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Isabella HERVEY or MAY d.1686

Biographical Note

Daughter of Sir Humphrey May of Carrow Priory, Norfolk. In 1658 she married Sir Thomas Hervey of Ickworth, Suffolk.


Over 240 books survive today, at Ickworth House and elsewhere, inscribed "Tho: & Isabella Hervey", although there are numerous books which seem initially to have belonged to Isabella personally. A number were inherited from Thomas's father William. The books are wide-ranging in subject, including theology, history, philosophy, husbandry and literature, with smaller proportions of science and medicine. There are many French books, alongside English and Latin ones. The Shakespeare First Folio which belonged to them is now in Meisei University, Tokyo. Examples: many at Ickworth; Christopher Edwards catalogue 77 (2020)/64.

Characteristic Markings

The inscription "Tho: & Isabella Hervey" (or sometimes just "Tho: & Isabella") seems to have been added to the books by Thomas, systematically. After Isabella's death in 1686, he inscribed a number of books, associated with her, with a statement of mourning taken from the Aeneid ("O decus atque dolor"). There are about 10 books at Ickworth inscribed "Isabella May" which evidently belonged to her before her marriage. The books sometimes have occasional marginal annotations but mostly they do not have extensive marks of reading.


  • History of Parliament.
  • Barker, N. Treasures from the libraries of National Trust country houses, New York, 1998, no 31.
  • Smith, E. Marital marginalia: the seventeenth-century library of Thomas and Isabella Hervey, in Katherine Acheson (ed), Early modern English marginalia, New York and London, 2019, 155-72.