A Marriage Contract … and a Book Cover?

By Elissa B.G. Mullins

Don’t judge a book by its cover—especially when the cover warrants its own catalogue record!
Little did yeoman William Butter and his wife-to-be Judeth Shaw imagine that their marriage contract would one day be recycled to cover an astronomical treatise printed a century before they met.
A fragment of their contract served as a manuscript waste wrapper for a 1560 Latin edition of Proclus’ De sphaera, printed in Paris by Guillaume Cavellat (shelf-mark: 881 P8S.Lℓ1560).

Printed book wrapped in a manuscript contract

We presume William and Judeth were happily married sometime in the latter half of the seventeenth century, given that the manuscript refers to “our most gratious soveraigne Lord Charles the Second,” who reigned from 1660-1685.
Written in an unidentified hand, the manuscript describes a contract between “yeoman William Butter of Buglawton in the County of Chester,” son of Randle Butter, and Judeth Shaw, daughter of John Shaw, witnessed in the county of Stafford. The text reads in bold: “to have and to hold,” and details the terms and contents of the dowry.

Manuscript marriage contract

Having piqued the cataloguers’ curiosity, the cover has been (painlessly) separated from the text of De Sphaera, rehoused, and given its own descriptive record. Come take a look at the proud newest member of our Post-1650 Manuscript Collection (shelf-mark: Post-1650 MS 0801)!