Considerable interest attaches to the ownership history of an antique book, usually indicated by bookplates, stamps, signatures, or other inscriptions. It can be telling, for instance, to know that an institution (such as a college or observatory) had a particular title in its library, or that an individual received a particular book as a gift from its author. The Museum library contains numerous associations of these kinds, from the monastic ownership inscription in Stöffler’s Elucidatio (1513) to a simple ‘from the author’ in Darwin’s Origin of Species (3rd edition, 1861).
One unusual ownership inscription is by Abraham Darby II (1711-1763), the famous iron manufacturer, indicating that he confiscated a book in lieu of a debt. It occurs in Practical Measuring Now Made Easy To the Meanest Capacity, by a New Set of Tables by Edward Hoppus (1736), a quantity surveyor’s ready-reckoner, which, on another page, also contains the author’s signature.