Tag Archives: 17th century

Guest post: John Taylor the Water Poet: animating the archive

This guest post comes from Dr Johann Gregory, Teacher of English Literature and Research Associate at Cardiff University.


The rare books in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives have held an important place in the development of my research. As I launch a new pilot project on an early modern travel writer, I’d like to share that story.

As a PhD student I took part in training workshops on handling rare books and curating exhibitions. In 2011, I was given the opportunity to work alongside Special Collections staff to curate a small exhibition on an aspect of my PhD research. I chose the topic, Healthy Reading, 1590-1690. Focusing on this aspect helped me to contextualise the early printing and language of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, the focus of my wider PhD research. I later presented on the exhibition and the play during a conference in Paris on ‘Shakespeare et les arts de la table’. My subsequent book chapter on the subject featured images from the Special Collections. I’m very grateful to the Special Collections’ staff, as their support was crucial for this work.

During my research, I became interested in the work of John Taylor (1578-1653), self-titled ‘the Water Poet’. He was a larger-than-life figure who worked as a Thames waterman for much of his life. However, he also published a great deal and his work – ranging from political pamphlets to travel writing to nonsense verse – often includes interesting prefaces, paratexts and titles.

All the vvorkes of Iohn Taylor the water-poet : Beeing sixty and three in number (1630)

All the vvorkes of Iohn Taylor the water-poet : Beeing sixty and three in number (1630)

I was excited to find that we held his Works (1630) in Special Collections, and was able to include it in my Healthy Reading exhibition, opening the book on the first page of ‘Laugh and be Fat’: this was Taylor’s response to the work of a fellow traveller, Thomas Coryate, who has been discussed in a previous blog post.

It’s always seems to me that Taylor deserves to reach a modern readership, and one broader than scholars in specialist libraries. This year I have developed a new project that seeks to shed light on Taylor’s journey around Wales in the summer of 1652.Map of John Taylor's 1652 journey around WalesI have created a new online modern-spelling edition of Taylor’s journey around Wales, and this has been published on a dedicated John Taylor website alongside other resources, such as a Google map of the route. I have also produced a schools’ pack on Taylor’s account of Mid Wales. Pupils at Penglais School (Aberystwyth) have used this to consider Taylor’s account of their hometown and have produced visualisations of his journey that will feed into the project. I now plan to tweet his journey in real time. He set off, with his horse called Dun, from London on 13 July, travelling up through the Midlands to North Wales and then along the coast down to Tenby and across South Wales via Cardiff, arriving back to London in early September. During the trip he turned 74.

This pilot project is something of an experiment, bringing Taylor to new readers. The aim is that it will also provide proof of concept for future projects on John Taylor and travel writing.

For more information about the project, visit the website.

Follow @DrJ_Gregory for Twitter updates.

The stars align to reveal an Old Prophet in the stacks!

It was a dark and stormy afternoon in Special Collections & Archives. I was sitting in my office, cataloguing a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, when Lisa, our Assistant Librarian, tapped at my office door. ‘I think maybe there’s an error in the catalogue,’ she said.

When the Cardiff Rare Books collection came to Cardiff University in 2010, we’d drawn up a bare-bones inventory, knowing that it would be several years before the collection could be fully catalogued. Lisa had been looking through the collection inventory to look for uncatalogued books that might be useful for a resource guide on Witchcraft. ‘The inventory says this book was published in 1681, but the catalogue record says 1685,’ she observed as she showed me the two conflicting records.

Being a cataloguer and somewhat inclined to obsessive-compulsive behaviour, I couldn’t allow such an egregious error to remain in our records, so I went to the stacks to investigate. Stretching to reach the top-most shelf, I spotted the title in question: William Lilly’s Merlini Anglici ephemeris: or, Astrological judgments for the year 1685… with the 1681 issue, uncatalogued, sitting next to it on the shelf—both records had been correct, but incomplete! Alongside these almanacs I noticed several other volumes of William Lilly’s astrological writings. Thinking they might be useful for the resource guide, I brought the lot of them back to my office for cataloguing.

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A selection of astrological books by William Lilly, from the Cardiff Rare Books Collection.

A contemporary of John Dee and Nicholas Culpeper, William Lilly began his life as the son of a yeoman farmer in Leicestershire. He worked for seven years as a servant in London before marrying his former master’s widow when he was just 25 years old. Now a man of leisure, he spent his time studying astrology. From 1647 to 1682, he published a series of astrological almanacs which brought him both popularity and scandal. By 1649, sales of his almanacs had reached nearly 30,000 copies and by the 1650s, they were being translated into Dutch, German, Swedish, and Danish. At he same time, however, he made many enemies by predicting on astrological grounds the downfall of the Stuart monarchy, while also criticizing both parliament and the Presbyterians.

Among the volumes I’d picked up for cataloguing was a first edition of Christian astrology modestly treated of in three books (London, 1647), Lilly’s most comprehensive work. An amalgamation of 228 earlier texts, Christian astrology contains 832 pages of instruction on reading the stars and planets and their influence on everything from the physical characteristics and likely fortunes of unborn children, to international politics. The work is significant because it was the first astrological instruction book to be published in English rather than Latin, making it accessible to a middle-class audience.

After carefully transcribing the book’s bibliographical details, I began to describe the unique attributes our particular copy: binding and marginalia. I spotted inscriptions in at least four different hands, ranging across three centuries. I deciphered and recorded them in the catalogue record as best I could, and then brought the volume over to Lisa, thinking she might find them interesting.

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Inscriptions, dating between the 17th and 19th centuries, on the front endpaper of William Lilly’s Christian astrology (London, 1647)

*     *     *

‘Is that the “Old Prophet’s” signature?’ I exclaimed, at which point, the lights in the office flickered. I had a sixth-sense (those of us who work with special collections often get this!) that this was the signature of the Welsh Independent Minister and author, Edmund Jones (1702-1793).

An intriguing figure in eighteenth-century Wales, he was a passionate Calvinist connected with the vicinity of Pontypool and Monmouthshire, where he regularly preached during the 1730s. Sympathetic to the growing Methodist movement, characterized by a more heartfelt, experiential form of religion, it was Jones who encouraged Howell Harris to preach in Monmouthshire for the first time in 1738.

Certainly, his diaries record a dedicated schedule where he travelled and preached extensively, delivering 104 sermons in the year 1731. Almost fifty years later, in 1778, he took a ‘tour through Monmouth [and] Wales … to Caerphilly’. Although not traditionally educated, his autobiography reveals how he was a ‘great lover of books, buying and borrowing as much as he could’. One such book it seemed, appeared to be our copy of Lilly’s Christian astrology.

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Edmund Jones’ signature on the front endpaper of Christian astrology (London,  1647).

 

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Edmund Jones’ signature on A geographical, historical, and religious account of the parish of Aberystruth (Trevecka, 1779), held by the National Library of Wales.

In order to confirm my suspicions, we needed to compare this signature with some known examples of Jones’s handwriting. Fortunately, the National Library of Wales holds Jones’s diaries, saved from the final destination of being used as wrapping paper in a Pontypool shop. Thanks to the help of their Manuscript Librarian, these journals not only reveal a script eerily similar to our sample, they also include a list of books that Jones acquired …

And yes! No need to consult the stars on this one, for Lily’s Astrology is clearly recorded at the bottom of the page.

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A page from Edmund Jones’ diary for the year 1768, listing the books that Jones acquired that year. Held by the National Library of Wales (NLW MS 7025A).

So not only does Special Collections hold Edmund Jones’s personal, annotated copy of Lilly’s Astrology, but this discovery reveals Jones’s more mystical side.

Known as the ‘Old Prophet’ due to his apparent gift of prophecy and ability to foretell future events, he was also a firm believer in witchcraft and the supernatural. His interest in books was not confined to collecting, for he published a number of works, including A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits which comprised a collection of supernatural experiences and spiritual encounters designed to ‘prevent a kind of infidelity … the denial of the being of Spirits and Apparitions, which hath a tendency to irreligion’.

As the seventeenth century drew to a close, a slight change of attitude towards the beliefs in apparitions and witchcraft, is evident. Atheism now posed a greater threat than popery (Roman Catholicism), and works composed around this time were directed at countering this new danger.

Joseph Glanvill’s Sadducisimus Triumphatus, for example, provides ‘full and plain evidence concerning witches and apparitions’. To deny the existence of the spirit, he argues, ‘is quite to destroy the credit of all human testimony’. Bovet’s Pandaemonium, or the devil’s cloyster, is aimed at ‘proving the existence of witches and spirits’, for ‘there can be no apprehensions … from the attacks of the … Sadducees’. For Richard Baxter, a belief in spirits was a means to salvation since through faith in the world of spirits, the ‘saving’ knowledge of God could be obtained.

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Illustration detail from Glanvill’s Saducismus Triumphatus (London, 1700)

It is in this context that Jones collected Relations of Apparitions which include fairy encounters and apparitions such as corpse candles and phantom funerals. For example, a ‘Mr. E. W.’ confirmed in a letter to Jones that saw the fairies as a company of dancers in the middle of the field, while an innkeeper from Llangynwyd Fawr saw them with speckled clothes of white and red, as they tried to entice him a while he lay in bed. Another gentleman also told Jones how ‘the resemblance of a young child … and also of a big man’ appeared to him. As he looked on, ‘the child seemed to vanish into nothing’. Not long after the encounter, Jones notes, the child of the man who witnessed the apparition sickened and died, as did he not long after his daughter was buried.

The phantom funeral or Toili, could manifest itself as a mournful sound, the cyhyraeth. Noises associated with the funeral procession or service, or the dismal cries of the Cŵn Annwn (Hell Hounds), inevitably signalled death. Thomas Phillips heard the cries of these spiritual dogs prior to the death of a woman in his parish of Trelech. In Ystradgynlais, two women heard someone singing psalms. The voice was that of John Williams, who sang the psalms at a later Dissenting meeting and was indeed ‘buried’ a few days after. Faced with such great sums of truth, Jones challenges, ‘who … can deny the reality of Apparitions of Spirits?’

Indeed, and here at Special Collections we are well aware of the ghosts of owners past that we sometimes encounter amongst the aged pages of our rare books. Like Jones’s unique accounts of the supernatural experiences of ordinary Welsh men and women, these rare books occasionally reveal the spectre of a bygone reader and their occult interests. So the moral of this post is to beware! For you can never predict what you’ll find between the pages of a rare book, even one on predictions.

John Donne’s Biathanatos

NPG 6790; John Donne by Unknown English artist

Portrait of John Donne by Unknown English artist, oil on panel, circa 1595. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

This week’s cataloguing efforts have uncovered another noteworthy item in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection: a first edition of Biathanatos (London, 1644) by John Donne.

The full title of the book is Βιαθανατος : a declaration of that paradoxe, or thesis, that selfe-homicide is not so naturally sinne, that it may never be otherwise. Wherein the nature, and the extent of all those lawes, which seeme to be violated by this act, are diligently surveyed. The paradox was a literary genre popular during the English Renaissance in which the author puts forth an argument in support of a thesis which contradicts common sense or questions a commonly-held belief. As a young man, Donne wrote several paradoxes, generally on comparatively trivial subjects such as, “That old Men are more Fantastique then younge,” or “Why have Bastards best fortune.”  In his personal correspondence, Donne claims that his paradoxes were made “rather to deceive time than her daughter truth,” and “are rather alarums to truth to arme her then enemies.” Donne’s use of the genre for a discussion of suicide suggests that it is not intended to be taken at face value, but rather to encourage thoughtful discussion and contradiction.

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Title page of the 1644 first edition of Biathanatos.

Biathanatos was written during a lengthy period of unemployment, during which Donne suffered from low spirits. In 1608, around the time that Biathanatos  was originally composed, Donne wrote to his friend Henry Goodyer, “Every Tuesday I make account that I turn a great hourglass, and consider that a week’s life is run out since I writ. But if I ask myself what I have done in the last watch, or would do in the next, I can say nothing.” Although John Sym’s Lifes Preservative Against Self-Killing (London, 1637) was published earlier, Biathanatos was the first book written in the Western tradition on the subject of suicide.

Donne’s treatise is divided into sections discussing the rational, legal, and theological arguments against suicide. Its controversial thesis proposes that while most motivations for suicide (including despair, self-aggrandizement, fear of suffering, or impatience to reach the afterlife) are selfish and sinful, suicide is justified when, like submission to martyrdom, it is done with charity and for the glory of God. Donne even goes so far as to say that Christ himself, in allowing himself to be killed on the cross, was in fact a suicide. Donne’s case is supported by thousands of citations from more than 170 authors (though Donne admits in the introductory matter that, “In citing these Authors…I have trusted mine owne old notes; which though I have no reason to suspect, yet I confesse here my lazines; and that I did not refresh them with going to the Originall”).

Although the subject matter may be uncomfortable to some, this treatise has an intriguing history. Aware that Biathanatos dealt with “a misinterpretable subject,” Donne carefully controlled its circulation in a small number of manuscript copies which he distributed among his close personal friends.

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From a letter from John Donne “To Sr Robert Carre now Earle of Ankerum, with my Book Biathanatos at my going into Germany,” published in Letters to severall persons of honour (London, 1654).

Donne’s reluctance to publish Biathanatos is not remarkable in itself; many of Donne’s works, including the poems for which he is best known today, were not published during his lifetime. Nevertheless, his attitude toward Biathanatos seems particularly ambivalent. In entrusting the manuscript to to Sir Robert Ker, he writes: 

“I have always gone so near suppressing it, as that it is onely not burnt: no hand hath passed upon it to copy it, nor many eyes to read it: onely to some particular friends in both Universities, then when I writ it, I did communicate it … Keep it, I pray, with the same jealousie; let any that your discretion admits to the sight of it, know the date of it; and that it is a book written by Jack Donne, and not by D. Donne: Reserve it for me, if I live, and if I die, I only forbid it the Presse, and the Fire: publish it not, but yet burn it not; and between those, do what you will with it.” (from Letters to severall persons of honour).

He is eager to distance himself from the work, ascribing it to the his younger self, Jack Donne, rather than the mature Doctor Donne, but he still insists on preserving its existence. Equally fearful that his work would be either lost or misunderstood, Donne never sent it out unaccompanied by letters of introduction like the one quoted above. The transmission of the manuscript copies is a fascinating story in itself, discussed in detail in Peter Beal’s book, In praise of scribes: manuscripts and their makers in seventeenth-century England.

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From the dedicatory epistle of the first printed edition of Biathantos (London, 1644), written by John Donne, Jr. sixteen years after his father’s death.

After Donne’s death, his son published Biathanatos against his father’s wishes, writing in the dedicatory epistle, “Two dangers appeared more eminently to hover over this, being then a Manuscript; a danger of being utterly lost, and a danger of being utterly found.” The first edition appeared in 1644, followed by a re-issue with a new title page in 1648 and a new edition in 1700. Both the 1644 and 1700 editions can be found in the Cardiff Rare Books collection.

Following its publication, a number of outraged rebuttals appeared, most notably John Adams’ An essay concerning self-murther. Wherein is endeavour’d to prove, that it is unlawful according to natural principles. With some considerations upon what is pretended from the said principles, by the author of a treatise, intituled, Biathanatos, and others. (London, 1700). More than 300 years later, scholars still debate whether the argument set forth in Biathanatos was intended to be sincere or satirical. Either way, Donne’s paradoxical essay has succeeded in its goal of stimulating thoughtful conversation on a topic which remains controversial even today.

Coryats Crudities: 17th century wanderlust

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The engraved title page of Coryats Crudities (1611). The word “crudities,” like the French “crudités,” suggests something under-cooked or unrefined.

In May 1608, Thomas Coryat of Odcombe set out from London with little money and only one pair of shoes on a voyage that took him through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. Travelling approximately 1,975 miles (3,175 km) alone and unarmed, sometimes walking as far as 36 miles in a single day, he acquired the well-deserved nickname, “the Odcombian Legstretcher.” Returning to England in October, he hung his well-worn shoes in the church at Odcombe (with the rector’s permission) and began compiling his observations into what would become more than 650 pages of descriptive prose, published in 1611 as Coryats Crudities.

verona

“A delineation of the Amphitheater of Verona expressed in that forme wherein it flourished in the tyme of the Roman Monarchie, only the greatest part of the outward wall which inclosed it round about is omitted.”

At a time when travel was dangerous and undertaken primarily for reasons of business, religion, or politics, Coryat’s aim was to encourage persons with sufficient means to enrich their minds through continental travel. In his narrative, he described natural, scientific, and archaeological wonders, food and drink, prices and exchange rates, as well as local customs, some of which he helped popularise in England.

clock

“A true figure of the famous Clock of Strasbourg.”

He described the use of table forks at dinner, which were at that time common in Italy but virtually unknown in England. He subsequently acquired his own fork and frequently imitated the Italian fashion of eating after his return from the continent.

He is credited in the Oxford English Dictionary with the first recorded use of the word “umbrella” in his description of the Italian practice of shading oneself from the sun.

While in Switzerland he heard and recorded the story of William Tell; his account is believed to be the first time the tale was recorded in English.

In addition to documenting these novelties, Coryats Crudities contributed to the popularity of the Grand Tour, a custom which would become an educational rite of passage from the 1660s until the 1840s.

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John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Inigo Jones are among those who contributed commendatory verses.

At the time of the book’s publication, it was customary to solicit commendatory verses in praise of the author. To that end, Coryat circulated copies of the title page, illustrated with a portrait of himself and depictions of his many adventures. Although he kept company with the likes of Ben Jonson, John Donne, and Inigo Jones, Coryat was viewed at court as something of a self-important buffoon who was perhaps a little too fond of the sound of his own voice. He soon found himself the subject of dozens of verses, many of which mocked his high opinion of himself and his florid, euphuistic prose.

commendatory3

The so-called panegyrics published with Coryats Crudities included these four lines in Welsh, which call Tom Coryat a goose (gwydh), meaning a stupid or foolish person, in contrast to another world traveller, Sir Francis Drake, punningly called the Sea-duck (Hwuad-môr).

Coryat intended to dedicate his volume to King James I’s eldest son, Prince Henry, whose patronage he hoped to secure. The teenage prince accepted the dedication, but insisted that the work be published with 55 of the satirical poems intact. In the first edition, they occupy no less than 64 pages. These verses became so popular in their own own right that they were published separately that same year in a pirated edition entitled, The Odcombian Banquet.

Coryat’s wanderlust continued throughout his life. In 1612 he set out once more, travelling through Constantinople, Israel, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and India, and learning Turkish, Italian, Persian, Arabic, and Hindustani along the way. In 1616 he published Thomas Coriate Traveller for the English Wits, and in 1625, Samuel Purchas published Purchas his Pilgrimes, which incorporated Coryat’s notes from the early part of his Eastern voyage, though in drastically abbreviated form.

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Cardiff University’s copy of Coryats Crudities once belonged to Sir Walter Wyndham Burrell, whose crest is stamped on the cover.

Cardiff University holds a copy of the 1611 first edition of Coryats Crudities, bearing the armorial crest of Sir William Burrell. Sir William Burrell served as M.P. for Haslemere in 1768, and again in 1774 after a brief stint as a commissioner of excise. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries, as well as a director of the South Sea Company.

Burrell had a lifelong interest in antiquities and made an intense study of the history of Sussex. He personally visited nearly every parish in the county to inspect and copy its records, tracing family lines and collecting drawings of churches, houses, and sepulchral monuments along the way. His work was never published, but he bequeathed his entire collection of sketches and other documents to the British Museum.

 

The Panther Prophesy: A 17th Century Apocalyptic Vision

Throughout history, there have been a number of apocalyptic sects, groups who believed that the world will end within their own lifetime.  Most recently, we’ve lived through Y2K and the end of the Mayan calendar, but apocalyptic predictions are nothing new.

One example of such a prediction turned up recently in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection in a pamphlet entitled The panther-prophesy, or, A premonition to all people, of sad calamities and miseries like to befal these islands.  Published in 1661 after the restoration of King Charles II, the prophecy purports to be a vision revealed in December of 1653 to “A Person of Honesty and Integrity, but of an extream sence of the Misery … that was coming upon his country,” and is heavily laden with imagery from the book of Revelation.

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The Panther Prophesy (London, 1661) draws comparisons between contemporary political events and the Biblical apocalypse.

In this vision, a soldier, a lawyer, a citizen, and a minister refuse an invitation to a “Marriage Supper,” an allusion to Revelation 19:7. These four admire a panther emerging from the forest, which proceeds to devour them entirely. In the meantime, many people abandon the “City,” heeding God’s warning to withdraw from Babylon (Revelation 18:4). The panther then excretes the four men it devoured, who are transformed into a duke, an earl, a baron, and a bishop, who pick up and support the panther. With the “poor People” hiding in the forest, the panther grasps a “Godly Man” by the throat, at which time Christ descends on the clouds and shoots arrows into the panther and the four men supporting him. As the panther’s supporters flee from Christ, the people emerge from the woods saying “The Lord Reigns,” a voice declares that Babylon is fallen, and the City burns.

The English Short Title Catalogue identifies this pamphlet as a “Fifth-monarchy tract”, relating to a millenarian sect which had centers of strong support in London and in Wales during the 1650s and 1660s.  Fifth Monarchists were named in reference to a prophetic dream in the Book of Daniel (chapter 7) in which four beasts, symbolizing the four great empires of the ancient world, rise and fall, to be superseded by the fifth empire of Christ. This empire would last for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:3-5), culminating in the Last Judgement. Although many orthodox puritans held similar beliefs, the Fifth Monarchists believed that current events, especially the execution of King Charles I in 1649, signalled the start of the Biblical apocalypse. They believed it was their mission to overturn worldly government and establish Christ’s kingdom through their own efforts, going so far as to organise uprisings in London in 1657 and 1661. After the 1661 uprising, most of the revolutionaries were captured and killed or imprisoned, but a few pamphlets in support of the movement continued to appear, including the Panther Prophesy.

Before I learned about this pamphlet’s ties to apocalyptic sects and political revolution, however, what caught my attention was not its message but its unusual typography. Black lines divide the page up into many small panels. In those panels, the text describes objects in the vision in terms of their position on the page (such as, “In this Corner is the Portracture of a Church” or “On this side stand Four Men as it were in consultation”). The words seem to describe a picture or diagram rather than a series of events.   

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Each page is divided up into panels, with different objects and actions described separately in each panel.

Stage directions and short lines of dialogue are set off with tapering outlines and travel at odd angles from one panel to the next, sometimes cutting through the middle of paragraphs and sentences in other panels.  The text travels in a line from the speaker’s panel to that of the addressee, even if it must be turned upside down in the process.

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Lines of dialogue move across the page in all directions.

The text does not flow continuously from one panel to the next, or from one page to the next. Rather, each page re-paints the visual diagram for the next moment in the vision, creating a kind of textual stop-motion animation. 

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The text does not flow continuously from one page to the next. Instead, each page describes a single moment in the vision.

With is tableaux of allegorical figures, The Panther-Prophesy is reminiscent of the illustrated emblem books which were popular during the 16th and 17th centuries, while its unconventional page layout calls to mind graphic novels and storyboards–an impressive feat for a book without a single illustration!

A well-travelled travel book: tracing former owners of a copy of Sandys’ Travels (1658)

???????????????????????????????George Sandys’ Relation of a journey begun an. Dom. 1610, more commonly known as Sandys’ Travels, relates the author’s wanderings through Europe and the Middle East. Setting off in May 1610, Sandys spent several years touring extensively through France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus and Palestine. His narrative of the journey was published in 1615 and was an influential work on geography and ethnology. Sandys was eventually appointed colonial treasurer of the Virginia Company and sailed for the New World in April 1621.

Like Sandys himself, our copy of the 1658 edition of his book has travelled far in its lifetime with several of the book’s previous owners leaving their mark in some way. An inscription on the front free endpaper reads, “Tho Sergeant. 1708. The gift of Joseph Moyle Esqr.” Some research revealed that Joseph Moyle was brother to the English politician, Walter Moyle, who was born in Cornwall in 1672, studied at Oxford and was admitted to Middle Temple in 1691. While a Member of Parliament for Saltash in Cornwall, he also wrote several essays on the forms and laws of government. After Walter’s death in 1721, his brother Joseph arranged for his works to be published and he selected Thomas Sergeant to be the editor. As our copy of the Travels was a gift from Joseph Moyle to Sergeant in 1708, they had apparently known each other for a long time.

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Further evidence of previous ownership can be found pasted onto the rear of the title page: an engraved bookplate of an unusual coat of arms with the caption, “Mr. Smart Lethieullier of Alldersbrook in Com Essex”. Smart Lethieullier (1701-1760) was the son of Sir John Lethieullier, Sheriff of London, and himself rose to the office of High Sheriff of Essex from 1758. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford, and developed a lifelong passion for antiquities and fossils. Lethieullier wrote numerous papers on antiquarian topics, including the first English account of the Bayeux Tapestry, and, like Sandys, travelled widely throughout Europe.

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Yet another interesting inscription can be found on the book’s front pastedown which reads, “C. E. Norton. Bought at auction for my father, perhaps in 1847-8”. Some research of the web led me very quickly to an identical autograph of one Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908), professor of the history of art at Harvard University and a leading American writer and social reformer. So our book, like its author, had also found its way to the New World. Between 1864 and 1868 Norton was editor of the first literary magazine in the United States, the North American Review, alongside his friend, the Romantic poet James Russell Lowell. In 1861 Norton and Lowell had assisted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with his translation of Dante and together they had founded the Dante Club.

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Norton’s father, Andrews Norton (1786-1853), was professor of sacred literature at Harvard. A renowned preacher and theologian, he was instrumental in bringing liberal Unitarianism to New England. In addition to his duties as a lecturer, Andrews Norton also acted as librarian of Harvard College from 1813-1821.

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There is no evidence in the book to reveal how it made its way back across the Atlantic from the United States to Wales. Cardiff Public Libraries were certainly purchasing many books at auction in the early 1900s in the hope of becoming the Welsh national library, and it is possible that the book was bought at a sale after C. E. Norton’s death in 1908. However it returned to these shores, our copy of the Travels clearly lives up to its name.

 

The high and low adventures of Robert Knox, sailor, prisoner and discoverer of cannabis

Captain Robert Knox (1642-1720)

Among the many books on voyages and exploration in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection is a copy of Robert Knox’s An historical relation of the island Ceylon, in the East Indies. First published in 1681, the work was one of the earliest European accounts of the inhabitants, customs and history of Sri Lanka. How Knox came to write the book is a remarkable tale of adventure, misfortune and daring escapes.

Rajahsinge II, King of the Kandyan Provinces of Ceylon

Rajahsinge II, King of the Kandyan Provinces of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Knox’s jailer

Robert Knox was just 14 years old in 1655 when he first joined his sea captain father on the ship Anne for a voyage to India. Three years later, the Knoxes set sail again for Persia in the service of the East India Company but had the ill luck to run into a storm which destroyed the ship’s mast and forced them to put ashore in Ceylon for repairs. King Rajasinghe II was suspicious of the Europeans’ intentions and ordered the ship be impounded and the Knoxes taken captive along with sixteen member of their crew.

Knox's "Historical relation of the island Ceylon", complete with a glowing endorsement from Sir Christopher Wren and a Preface by Robert Hooke

Knox’s “Historical relation of the island Ceylon”, complete with a glowing endorsement from Sir Christopher Wren and a Preface by Robert Hooke

The sailors were forbidden to leave the kingdom but otherwise treated fairly, with some of the captives eventually choosing to enter the king’s service. Although Knox refused to work for the king, he was still permitted to become a farmer and make a living. Knox senior died from malaria in February 1661 but Robert remained in captivity for 19 long years before finally making a bid for freedom with a fellow crewman. They managed to reach a Dutch fort on the coast of the island and gain passage to the Dutch East Indies, before at last setting sail for home aboard an English vessel.

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The grisly fate which awaited servants who displeased the king; Knox believed, apparently with good reason, that entering the king’s service would result in his death

Map of Ceylon showing Knox's escape route

Map of Ceylon from “Historical relation…” showing Knox’s escape route

Knox returned to London in September 1680, having spent the journey writing the manuscript for a book about his experiences. When published a year later as An historical relation of the island Ceylon, the book immediately attracted widespread interest, influencing Daniel Defoe’s famous castaway tale Robinson Crusoe and turning Knox into a celebrity. He continued to work for the East India Company for another thirteen years after his return, captaining the Tonqueen Merchant for four further voyages to the East which made him a wealthy man.

A yadda or wild man of Ceylon with pipe

A yadda or wild man of Ceylon with pipe

One final strange adventure in Knox’s remarkable life deserves our attention. Having become close friends with the scientist Robert Hooke, Knox often returned from his travels with gifts and curiosities for Hooke. After one trip, he presented the scientist with the seeds of a plant previously unknown in Europe. This “strange intoxicating herb,” which Knox referred to as ‘Indian hemp’ or ‘bangue’, is  better known today as cannabis indica. In December 1689, Hooke gave a lecture to the Royal Society in which he provided the first detailed description of cannabis in English, praising its “very wholesome” virtues and noting that Knox “has so often experimented it himself, that there is no Cause of Fear, tho’ possibly there may be of Laughter.”

A scandal repaired – the affair of Penelope Devereux and Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire

The catalogue of honor, compiled by Thomas Milles and published in 1610, records the names, titles, arms and descendants of the nobility of Great Britain. The entry for Charles Blount, 1st Earl of Devonshire, states simply that he “died in 1606. without any issue lawfully begotten”, however in Cardiff’s copy a section of the page has been excised and later replaced with a handwritten list recording “Natural children which he had by Penelope”. Investigating this intriguing addition revealed a scandalous tale of adultery and forbidden love in the Elizabethan court.

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Portrait miniature of Penelope Devereux, c.1590 (public domain)

Penelope Devereux (1564-1607), sister to the Earl of Essex, was considered one of the true beauties of the age, inspiring the work of poets, musicians and authors. She was Philip Sidney’s muse, thought to be the inspiration for Stella in his sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella, and had numerous other poems and sonnets dedicated to her. Even now Penelope continues to inspire the arts with her complicated love-life playing a role in Benjamin Britten’s 1953 opera, Gloriana.

In 1581 Penelope was wed to Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich, apparently very much against her will. Although they had six children together, the arranged marriage was never a happy one and Penelope soon began a secret romance with Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy, who would later be created Earl of Devonshire.

The habit and attire of an Earl, from "The catalogue of honor" (1610)

Attire of an Earl, from “The catalogue of honor”

By 1601, Baron Rich had had enough of Penelope’s adultery and threw her out along with the illegitimate children she’d borne with her lover. Penelope moved in with Blount and their relationship became public. In 1605, Rich sued his wife for divorce, which was granted, but Penelope’s requests to remarry were denied by the Church. In defiance of canon law, Charles and Penelope chose to get married anyway and were wed in an unlicensed ceremony in December 1605, offending the social mores of the aristocracy and leading to the disgrace of both parties and banishment from the court of King James. The couple continued to live together as husband and wife until Blount’s death just a few months later. Penelope Devereux died on 7 July 1607.

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The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) states that copies of The catalogue of honor are, like Cardiff’s copy, frequently found mutilated to remove the section referring to Charles Blount’s progeny. When Blount married Penelope he acknowledged their five children together, allowing them to inherit his titles as legitimate heirs and to take their rightful place in The catalogue, but this was perhaps not enough to lift the shame and appease the nobility.

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Adam G. Hooks at the University of Iowa examined several copies of the book and concluded that removal of the section was likely done by the printer himself, William Jaggard, to avoid further offense to the aristocracy and his readers (Blount’s shield has also been altered or printed blank to suggest he had no descendants). However, readers were apparently not as sensitive as Jaggard believed and a previous owner of our copy of The catalogue of honor simply rewrote the entry and repaired the scandal.

“A true report of certaine wonderfull ouerflowings”: the great flood of 1607 in a contemporary pamphlet

With so much of the country finding itself suddenly underwater earlier this month, it is no surprise that I couldn’t resist having a closer look at a book called “Of floods in England – 1607” when I noticed it in the stacks.

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IMG_9878This little pamphlet, printed in London in 1607, commemorates the terrible events of 30 January the same year, when the Bristol Channel overflowed to truly devastating effect. Entire villages were reportedly swept away, hundreds of miles of farmland and whole herds of livestock were destroyed, and more than 2,000 lives were lost. Here in Cardiff, not much more than a fishing village in 1607, the wave reached up to four miles inland and washed away all before it, including the foundations of the parish church on St. Mary’s Street.

The church depicted here is thought to be the church of St Mary in the village of Nash, near Newport.

The church depicted here is thought to be the church of St Mary in the village of Nash, near Newport.

The author of the pamphlet paints a vivid picture of the chaos of that awful night: “Men that were going to their labours were compelled (seeing so dreadfull an enemy approaching) to flye back to their houses, yet before they could enter, Death stood at their dores ready to receive them. In a short tyme did whole villages stand like islands … and in a more short time were those islands undiscoverable, and no where to be found.”

“An infant likewise was found swimming in a cradle, some mile or two [from that] place where it was knowen to be kept …”

The pamphlet’s terrifying tales of watery death and destruction are thankfully tempered by a few stories of miraculous survival and community spirit: “Here comes a husbande with his wife on his back, and under either arm an infant. The sonne carries the father, the brother the sister, the daughter the mother, whilst the unmercifull conqueror breakes down the walls of the houses … yet like a mercifull conquerour, having taken the towne, it gave them their liues …”

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While recent research has suggested that the great flood of 1607 may have been caused by a tsunami rather than a simple storm surge, contemporary reports tended to place the blame firmly on God’s shoulders and viewed the flood as a warning of His displeasure: “If this affliction laid vppon our Countrey now, bee sharper than that before, make vse of it: tremble, be fore-warned, Amend, least a more feareful punishment, and a longer whip of correction draw blood of us.”

The Drummer of Tedworth: a Halloween tale of witchcraft, demons and an extremely noisy ghost

Joseph Glanvill was an Oxford-educated philosopher and clergyman, best known for his 1681 treatise on the supernatural, Saducismus Triumphatus: or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions.

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The devil and the drum, from the frontispiece to the third edition of “Saducismus Triumphatus” (1700)

20131031_150420Among its numerous tales of 17th century ghosts, witchcraft and demons, the book includes the spooky tale of ‘The Drummer of Tedworth’, thought to be one of the earliest reports of poltergeist activity. In Glanvill’s version of the story, John Mompesson, a landowner in the town of Tedworth, brought a lawsuit for extortion against a local drummer. After he had won the suit and confiscated the drummer’s instrument, Mompesson’s house was plagued by inexplicable drumming and thumping noises, strange lights, scratching, and unpleasant smells. These disturbances continued for many months, escalating until the children’s bedsteads would shake and levitate into the air by themselves, and objects were thrown violently around the room by unseen hands.

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An illustration of child levitation from “Sadducismus Triumphatus”

20131031_140845Mompesson’s plight quickly gained notoriety and many people came to visit the house and witness these strange occurrences for themselves. For most of this period, the drummer had been locked up in Gloucester jail and could not have been responsible without recourse to the supernatural, so it was assumed that he must have used witchcraft to summon a mischievous spirit, or poltergeist, to haunt the landowner’s home.

In the tale of the phantom drummer, we can see the prototype for many aspects of the modern poltergeist story, from banging doors and scratching nails to levitating beds. Glanvill’s book itself was a major influence on Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World, written in 1693 to justify the Salem witch trials.

For an in-depth study of contemporary sources for the tale, see:
Hunter, Michael (2005) New light on the ‘Drummer of Tedworth’: conflicting narratives of witchcraft in Restoration England. London: Birkbeck ePrints. Available at: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/archive/00000250