The lively contemporary reception of George Herbert’s book of poems The Temple has been clearly demonstrated by a substantial body of modern scholarship. This article shows how that body of work can be complemented through material evidence of readership drawn from from specific copies of The Temple. By investigating readers’ marks in over 120 copies of the book published between 1633 and 1709, it confirms that The Temple was received with enthusiasm and active readership. While marks in the book often suggest that it was sometimes used for the “commonplacing” of sententious phrases and religious maxims, this article demonstrates how Herbert’s poems also attracted more nuanced literary engagements. The sale and acquisition of the book in private and public libraries in the late seventeenth century likewise suggest that The Temple held a dual role, sometimes positioned in relation to other devotional texts (like the Book of Psalms), and sometimes in a relation to the emerging category of secular literature.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.