This essay covers what it meant to “own” a manuscript verse miscellany in the eighteenth century. Manuscript miscellanies offer palpable, if enigmatic, evidence that the often‐obscure individuals who made such books understood themselves to be, simultaneously, readers, copyists, makers, editors, and authors. As a result, when they took ownership of their books by signing their names on elaborate title‐pages, such gestures signified something more complex and variable than a claim to “authorship.” Rejecting a post‐Romantic oppositional hierarchy of writer over reader and original author over copyist, I examine acts of selection, adaptation, and copying, indicated by naming and signing, in a representative selection of miscellanies from the database Manuscript Verse Miscellanies, 1700–1820. I also consider such patterns of selection in four miscellanies extending across seventy years: five‐and‐a‐half‐year‐old Melesinda Munbee's “Collection of Several Poems” (1749); Eleanor Peart's “Collection of Poems by Several Hands” (1768); Elizabeth Frances Amherst's “The Whims of E. A. afterwards Mrs. Thomas” (1798); and Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury's untitled miscellany (ca. 1815–20). Finally, I discuss “A Selection of Modern Poems” by Azarias Williams (1785), in which highly decorative, and often dated signatures, rather than claiming authorship, establish Williams's literary taste and highly developed scribal skills, while also creating a meaningful structure for his life as a transatlantic emigré. In exhibiting the many ways in which a poem might be “owned,” manuscript verse miscellanies invite us to recalibrate the relative values of composition, copying, and adaptation in the practice of literary creativity in the eighteenth century.

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