The art of books continued…

When I was little, the favourite present I ever received, was a pretty pink diary, complete with lock and miniature key. Since this key doubled as a pendant one can easily see how such a gift appealed to my vanity. Nowadays, all my secret thoughts are worn on my sleeve; my diary just a scrapbook of places I’ve been. But the point of my rhyme is the lesson this taught me: that books are revered, treasured, and possessed materially.

It is undoubtedly a privilege to conduct outreach with Special Collections, and of course this requires transportation of items and their weight alone makes one appreciate the physicality of the book anew. Thus, when we showcase our Pre-1700 folios, we draw attention to the scale of the book as a status symbol as well as an indicator of early modern print technologies. Of course, the miniature book can be as fascinating as the grandest of tomes, as – for instance – our much-loved tiny rhyming bible, Verbum sempiternum, abridged in couplets by the Water Poet, John Taylor. Whilst we can’t possibly know for certain, I like to conjecture how this well-thumbed book could have been intended for daily meditative use, to be carried on one’s person at all times. Certainly, the biblical text is followed by prayers for morning and evening as if to suggest the applicability of reading it over the course of one day.

Image of Verbum sempiternum, open at page from Exodus, reading 'Grasshoppers, darkness, death of first-born men: these were th'Egyptian plagues, in number ten.'

John Taylor, Verbum sempiternum [1693]

Religious texts dominate the landscape of early modern print, but our collections also reveal how these texts have been subjects for decorative book-making and manipulation well into the present day. As I mentioned in my previous post, we took Sophie Adams’ Book of common prayer (2016) with us to the Art of Books workshops in Ramsgate, into which she has folded the word ‘Prozac’. What I missed saying was that we also took two further examples of religious texts that epitomise the idea that a book is also a treasury. This edition of Wesley’s hymns still has its original early-nineteenth-century clasped binding, which (however) is so tight it’s warped the book’s covers. And this Victorian book, Parables of our Lord, is a replica of medieval manuscript with a beautiful papier-maché cover that resembles Italian church doors as if to invite the reader to open the book as a means of unlocking sacred knowledge.

image of Wesley's hymns, showing clasped binding.

John Wesley. A collection of hymns, for the use of the people called Methodists (1809)

image of Parables of our Lord, showing pages that imitate medieval manuscript and the parable of the sower.

Parables of our Lord (1847)

Other artist books we showcased deliberately conflate text and textile, notably Alison Stewart’s Fabricback novel (2010) in which each page has been uniquely crafted out of textiles to both reveal and remove the communication barrier text presents to the dyslexic individual. And if textiles can be read as texts, so too can texts feature textiles in their composition. The earliest paper in books was made of linen rag. And consider this example from our Osborne facsimiles collection: The dog’s dinner party, the cover of which truthfully announces how versions ‘mounted on cloth’ were available at a steeper price so as to resist tearing in the uncoordinated clumsy hands of small children. Such untearable editions were widely available from the 1850s, and stemmed from a growing market for picture and toy books at the time.

Image of Fabricback novel, each page uniquely made using different textile techniques.

Alison Stewart, Fabricback novel (2010)

Image of the front cover of The dog's dinner party.

Harrison Weir, The dog’s dinner party (1981, facsimile)

Since the objective of our workshop was to encourage children (and adults) to have a go at making books for themselves, we also showcased a variety of Special Collections items featuring multi-media or otherwise diverting forms. Ryanairpithiplanium, for instance, is a small press poem that has been deliberately, subversively, produced in the form of a paper aeroplane. And Welcome to heck is an anonymously, multi-authored scrapbook diarising events on Remembrance Day, 2018, to celebrate the Armistice Centenary. Both examples, one professional and the other amateur, play with notions of what a book is and – I hope – encourage you to play at making books too! Check out these ideas by artist Tina Lyon for some simple instructions on paper-folding and book-binding and show us what you create!

Image of Ryanairpithiplanium, single sheet poem folded into a paper aeroplane.

Jeff Hilson and Tim Atkins, Ryanairpithiplanium (2014)

Image of example pages from Welcome to heck, with leaf and other sensory pieces pasted in.

Anon. Welcome to heck (2018)

The art of books

Display of artist books and other materials from Special Collections and Archives.

The art of the book (diverse examples from Special Collections and Archives).

For the book lover, the book is often comfort, adventure, escape, and home-coming all at once. There can be nothing as delicious as settling into a cosy armchair with a steaming mug of tea and lifting the book into one’s lap, opening the cover and absorbing oneself and one’s senses in turning, gazing, reading the pages and the words thereon. We would all likely recognise a book, we have grown up browsing the shelves in libraries and book shops, judging covers, considering blurbs, selecting the next read to suit our interests. Typically, we recognise a book as being a text-block of multiple pages, bound together, and protected by covers and sometimes dust-jackets. We know books can come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, and have different features such as illustrations, pull-outs, glossaries, or perhaps ribbons to serve as bookmarks. But it’s not often we realise the art of the book, the book as a work of art. Last week we visited Discovery Planet, Ramsgate, with Stella Bolaki from the School of English and Tina Lyons, a book artist, to explore this with our Prescriptions: Artist Books Collection and complementary items from the rest of Special Collections & Archives.

Image of The book of common prayer, the text-block folded to reveal the word 'Prozac'.

Sophia Adams, The book of common prayer (2016)

Image of Home, showing loose leaves of book in a random arrangement, revealing words 'me', 'go', home', 'you'.

Gemma Lacey, Home (2012)

Over the course of two workshops with a local Home Education Group and year 9s from The Royal Harbour Academy, as well as a free drop-in day for the public, we both engaged children and young people with questions of what makes a book, and helped them make one for themselves. It is always gratifying to find collections come to life in new conversations, and I was astounded by the intelligence and creativity with which these groups approached book forms never seen before. Sophie Adams’ Book of common prayer prompted conversations about the origins of print and the prevalence of religious literature during those early years when the technology was in its infancy, from the Gutenberg to the King James’ Bible. Besides that, it also showed how texts could be repurposed to have alternative meanings and highlighted how simple folds could change a book into something more sculptural and three-dimensional. Gemma Lacey’s Home fascinated people with its loose leaf format, for what happens to narrative linearity when a book is unbound?

Page from Arabesque 3, showing abstract shapes on fine tissue paper.

Randi Annie Strand, Arabesque 3 (2014)

One highlight for me was simply having time to sit with and interpret two of my favourites from the collection for myself: Randi Annie Strand’s Arabesque 3 and Martha Hall’s Tattoo. Having recently visited an exhibition of Arabic and Islamic art in the Re-Orientations exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland, I was immediately drawn to Strand’s geometric patterns that alternate as one turns the fine tissue pages of Arabesque 3, and the encounter offers a tangible metaphor of how one would treat a patient: with care, patience, delicacy. Martha Hall’s concertina Tattoo features inserted stitched booklets that narrate the artist’s own revised perceptions of tattoos, from something signally naval occupation or corroborating stereotypes of hyper-masculinity to something that is necessitated by certain medical treatments, such as radiation for cancer, and even evocative of inner female strength, as sported by women over mastectomies.

Image showing the concertina length of Tattoo, with needle inserted into front cover.

Martha Hall, Tattoo (2001)

Having introduced Special Collections & Archives, and welcomed groups to encounter these artist books for themselves, the workshops turned to making books: encouraging our young people to reflect both on the collections and their own stories and emotions as they folded, cut out, manipulated paper to craft books for themselves. On the Friday we were lucky to have book artist, Tina Lyons, with us, and she took us step-by-step through making a T-fold booklet as well as extended concertinas. (Check out her videos to have a go yourself!) On Saturday, Stella Bolaki led the groups and it was astonishing to see the diversity of approaches and creations that stemmed from her instructions. I have to give a special commendation to Leo and Libby for their mutual dedication and inspiration. Leo’s Art is an expression for his dad (just in time for Father’s Day) featured multiple sensory pages to signify, for instance, the satisfaction and confusion art can evoke. Libby was inspired by the form of Allison Cooke Brown’s Core sample, and – prompted by conversations regarding the status of the book as something special, even a gift – made a beautiful slip-case for her concertina book. We also had a variety of big books, little books, pop-up books, stitched books, handbag books, every book you could imagine. To close, I can only showcase a sample of what was made – enjoy!

A hand-made book with be-ribboned slip-case decorated with roses.

A hand-made book with slip-case.

A hand-made pop-up book, showing a character in a landscape, with a decorative frame.

A hand-made pop-up book.

A hand-made concertina book, with varied sensory pages.

A hand-made concertina sensory book.

A hand-made concertina book revealing a story of a surprise birthday party and the arrival of different guests.

A hand-made concertina picture-book.

A hand-made T-cut book, with lots of different images pasted inside in scrapbook fashion.

A hand-made T-cut book, titled ‘Art is an expression’.


From Conqueror to Gloriana: The Second Volume of Holinshed’s Chronicles

Written by Matthew Crook, student on HI6062: Dynasty, Death and Diplomacy – England, Scotland & France 1503 – 1603

Holinshed’s Chronicles is arguably one of the most important history books to have emerged from the Elizabethan era. Made up of two volumes, Holinshed’s twin books offer a fascinating insight into both early modern history and sixteenth-century printing; they also provide an understanding of how the people of the Tudor period viewed their own national past. The Chronicles were printed many times, and the Templeman Library’s Special Collections and Archives currently holds a copy of the 1587 edition of the second volume—it is this version that that will be discussed here.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the Chronicles is that Holinshed was not the man who dreamt them up. Though he would later give his name to the work, Raphael Holinshed was really a secretary hired to help the project’s originator—Reyner Wolfe, a Dutchman who arrived in London in 1533.[1] Wolfe appears to have been an extremely ambitious man, as he originally planned for the Chronicles to cover the histories of ‘every knowne nation’, a desire which would prove to be far more difficult than he had perhaps imagined.[2] It would seem that Wolfe was naïve to the state of printing in sixteenth-century England, and his printers were quick to point out the impossibility of his plan. Even with Holinshed on board to help with the workload, Wolfe was forced to accept that the book would need a very serious scaling back to be feasible. Ultimately, the decision was made to focus the Chronicles on Great Britain alone, telling the histories of ancient England, Scotland and Ireland in the first volume and England’s royal lineage in the second. This, it would seem, was felt to be a far more manageable task than a complete international history.

Surprisingly, Holinshed was very nearly not involved in the Chronicles in the first place. Originally, he had his career trajectory aimed towards the Church, rather than history writing; his biographer, Cyndia Susan Clegg, said that he was involved in the English Protestant movement until the accession of Mary I in 1553.[3] With England’s religious situation changing rapidly, he took up work with Wolfe and, when the Dutchman passed away with the Chronicles still incomplete, he took over as project manager. What this shows is the complicated nature of the book’s production—the originator died before its completion and left it to a man who was not a trained historian. Certainly, the Chronicles was not born out of easy circumstances.

The front cover of the Chronicle—though it does show signs of age, it remains sturdy and protects the pages inside well

The front cover of the Chronicle—though it does show signs of age, it remains sturdy and protects the pages inside well

Nevertheless, the Chronicles remains a fascinating example of sixteenth-century literature; the Templeman’s edition is not only academically striking, however, but is also physically captivating. It’s covers are rebacked calf-over-boards and, though worn by age, it is obvious that the covers once had gilded edges. Whilst showing signs of exhaustion, these covers do show the wealth of the person who purchased the text, since books in this period were not distributed with their own covers. After all, such a book was deliberately designed for an audience that was both literate and educated, and therefore likely to be wealthy too.

The spine for the Templeman’s copy of the Chronicles—though not original, it is undoubtedly fitting for such an impressive text.

The spine for the Templeman’s copy of the Chronicles—though not original, it is undoubtedly fitting for such an impressive text.

It is, however, this volume’s patchwork nature that makes it uniquely attractive; the Templeman’s volume is a mixture of sixteenth-century craftsmanship and various repair jobs of wavering quality. For instance, the book’s spine has been very well restored, giving the text a sturdy support whilst also demonstrating the sort of gilding that is now missing from the covers. Inside the book is a different matter entirely; the first page of the Chronicles’ main body, which covers William the Conqueror, is both badly damaged and poorly repaired. The paper appears to have been torn at one point and crudely stuck back together—the technique employed, however, indicates that it was conducted towards the end of the nineteenth century; whilst this book may have needed repairing upon purchase, it does suggest the possibility that it was used a great deal throughout its lifetime.

On the spine, the title and volume number are written in gold lettering, something which reflects the gilding of the covers.

Aside from the damage and patch-up attempts, the book still maintains much of the Chronicles’ original features; among others, it demonstrates a variety of charming details that can be found in early modern printed texts. Being a book of considerable size and covering every monarch from 1066 through to the late sixteenth-century, its printers were likely aware that ease of navigation was important. Each left page has ‘An. Dom’ in the top right corner, followed by a date—since each chapter covers a different English monarch, this allowed an early modern reader to find a specific year within a king or queen’s reign without difficulty. Another interesting reader aid comes in the margin, as each paragraph has a small summation to its side that briefly describes its contents. Such a tool would be useful for anyone who used the book for research purposes; many writers used the Chronicles in such a manner, and perhaps the most famous of the text’s users was William Shakespeare. Allardyce and Jacqueline Nicholl, in their book Holinshed’s Chronicles as Used in Shakespeare’s Plays, notes that he was known for using Holinshed’s book to inspire many of his most beloved plays, including Richard III and King Lear.[4]

this image shows the inside of the book—specifically, the start of the section about Richard II. Though the book is centuries old, the print is surprisingly legible.

This image shows the inside of the book—specifically, the start of the section about Richard II. Though the book is centuries old, the print is surprisingly legible.

The Chronicles’ function as a history book is relatively straightforward; it details the lives of each English monarch in a linear fashion, with little deviation from such a structure. Curiously, however, the authors appear to have taken the chronology aspect very literally. For example, the chapter on Richard II does not end with the king’s death in 1400, but rather with his deposition the previous year.[5] At the very end, there is an authorial note which declares that, ‘Thus farre Richard of Burdeaux, whole deprivation you have heard; of his lamentable death here—after, to wit, pag. 516, 517’. The death of Richard II is only acknowledged during the section on his successor, Henry IV; whilst one would expect the deposed king’s death to be acknowledged at the end of his own section, it would seem the authors here preferred the history to be uninterrupted by time jumps. Though this does make certain chapters somewhat strange—after all, one would expect it to end with the monarch’s passing—the pathway of logical is sound and adds more to the Chronicles’ identity.

There is no doubt that Holinshed’s Chronicles is an utterly fascinating book. Not only is it contextually and academically marvellous, but its numerous printing quirks and occasional damage makes it a captivating physical object as well. Filled with all manner of oddities and unusual details, it is a treasure-trove of curiosities for any budding bibliophile.


Primary Material:

Holinshed, Raphael, Chronicles (London, 1587) Special Collections & Archives: Pre-1700 Collection, q C 587 HOL

Secondary Material:

Clegg, Cyndia Susan, ‘Raphael Holinshed (1525-1580?)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [accessed 31 October 2018]

Heal, Felicity and Henry Summerson, ‘The Genesis of the Two Editions’, in The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed’s Chronicles, ed. by Paulina Kewes, Ian W. Archer and Felicity Heal (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2013) 3-21

Nicoll, Allardyce and Josephine Nicoll, Holinshed’s Chronicle As Used in Shakespeare’s Plays (J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.: London, 1927)

Pettegree, Andrew, ‘Reyner Wolfe (d. in or before 1547)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  [accessed 31 October 2018]

Tuck, Anthony, ‘Richard II (1367-1400)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [accessed 31 October 2018]

[1] Andrew Pettegree, ‘Reyner Wolfe (d. in or before 1547)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [accessed 31 October 2018]

[2] Felicity Heal and Henry Summerson, ‘The Genesis of the Two Editions’, in The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed’s Chronicles, ed. by Paulina Kewes, Ian W. Archer and Felicity Heal (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2013) 3-21, p.3

[3] Cyndia Susan Clegg, ‘Raphael Holinshed (1525-1580?)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  [accessed 31 October 2018]

[4] Allardyce Nicholl and Josephine Nicoll, Holinshed’s Chronicle As Used in Shakespeare’s Plays (J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.: London, 1927), p.vii.

[5]Anthony Tuck, ‘Richard II (1367-1400)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  [accessed 31 October 2018]


‘A Dialogue between Experience and a Courtier, of the miserable state of the worlde’ by David Lindsay.

Written by Eleanor Barrell, student on HI6062: Dynasty, Death and Diplomacy – England, Scotland & France 1503 – 1603

‘Musing and marveling on the miserie that doth on earth from day to day increase’. This is a serious and lengthy didactic poem titled; A Dialogue between Experience and a Courtier, of the miserable state of the worlde (1581) by the Scottish herald and court poet, Sir David Lindsay of the Mount (1490-1555).

Inserted title page dating from 18th/19th century for this 1581 edition.

Inserted title page dating from 18th/19th century for this 1581 edition

Most commonly known as The Monarche, Lindsay’s Dialogue between Experience and a Courtier has been regarded by many historians, as his ‘magnus opus’. This is because he writes a world history in 6338 lines, beginning with Adam and Eve and concluding with the Last Judgement. He uses the classical literature technique of dialogue between the two characters called Courtier who is ‘tyred with travailing’ and ‘an aged man’ who is Experience, together with a narrative history of the world to answer questions presented by the Courtier about the fulfilment of life and salvation.

Lindsay’s Monarche reflects the knowledge that he would have had as herald about the religious and political issues in Scotland during the time. In ‘The first booke of the Monarche’, Lindsay introduces the Courtier and Experience. The Courtier asks where he can live a ‘quiet life’ away from his unpleasant life at court. Experience replies that the life he wants does not exist as the misery in this world developed from sin, he recounts the story of Adam and Eve to support his case. ‘The second booke of the Monarche’ is formed of Lindsay’s attack on idolatry of saints images, pilgrimages and finishing with a call for reform to the Church. The third ‘booke’ condemns the Church for profiting from the creation of Purgatory and temporal lands, the clergy for living wealthily and unable to fulfil their roles of office, and Rome having control over secular rulers. In the last book, Lindsay discusses ‘Death and the Antechrist, and of the generall judgment’ with the Courtier asking Experience when the day will be. Experience dates the year ‘Two thousand till the worldes ende’ but before then, fifteen signs will appear as warning. Lindsay uses the Apocalypse as the reason for the early modern world being dismal but also as another plea for reform and repentance. By raising these problems within the context of the Biblical history of the world, the push for reform is presented as an integral part of God’s scheme and the urgency to be ready for Jesus’ coming.

Quarter leather binding, impressed with gold.

Quarter leather binding, impressed with gold.

This particular book was originally ‘Compiled in the Scottish tung’ by David Lindsay in 1554, then ‘first turned and made perfect English : And now the seconde time corrected and amended according to the first Copie’ in 1581. The 1580s in Elizabethan England was briefly threatened by radical puritanism in response to a Catholic resurgence. Therefore, this timely publication (1581) could imply that there needed to be a revival of Protestant literature to communicate the original causes for condemning the Catholic Church and maintaining reform. The date also implies that the popularity of Lindsay’s book had spread to England for it to be translated out of Scots into the English vernacular, many of his previous works had already been published in England before. This also coincides with Lindsay’s opinion on vernacular which is seen in ‘The first booke of the Monarche’ where he criticises the Roman Church for not speaking in vulgar tongue during Mass as it would allow people to understand and learn what is being said. To support his argument, he uses the example of God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses not in Latin or Greek but in the ‘language of the Hebrew’ so that every man, woman and child would know the law. Lindsay is upholding his argument and deliberately writing in Scots so that his Scottish audience can clearly learn from his writing, it is easily accessible.

Front cover of book recovered in marble paper. The measurements of the book are 191(l)x138(w)x127(d)mm which indicates that it would have been an easily portable book.

Front cover of book recovered in marble paper. The measurements of the book are 191(l)x138(w)x127(d)mm which indicates that it would have been an easily portable book.

In the Templeman Library’s copy, the cover is recovered in marble paper which dates to around the late eighteenth and nineteenth century and would have been a cheap covering. The original binding of the book from 1581 has been replaced by a quarter leather binding, impressed with a simple gold design and lettering. This could indicate that The Monarche was a sought after book and in need of repair or possibly the owner wanted a uniform look for their bindings when displayed on a bookshelf. Furthermore, it is clear to see that the book has been amended as the pastedown and flyleaf are at the front and back of the book are on different paper which is intact and only slightly discoloured, indicating that it is newer addition to the original text. The most fragile pages of the book have been stuck down onto a new sheet of paper. The book lacks  any decorative element to it as there are no woodcuts or ornate patterns, only a decorative border around the first letter of each book, known as factotums. This might suggest that the book was made to be produced quickly and cheaply.

A factotum of the letter W.

A factotum of the letter W.

The title page, which has been reprinted on new paper and inserted into this 1581 published book, helpfully declares that the book is ‘very pleasant and profitable for all Estates, but chiefly for Gentlemen, and such as are in aucthoritie’. This is further supported by Lindsay explicitly showing in his fourth book, where he writes small segments for the people in authority, ‘to the Prelates’ and ‘brethren Princes’, that they may read his words and take guidance from them. This section is what the English publisher possibly had in mind when writing the title page. However, a more subtle indication that this book is aimed at a wider audience, is that not only is it written in the vernacular so that all can read but Lindsay deliberately incorporates a written world history and the Christian teachings surrounding death and the Last Judgement so that more common people could access them whilst the vernacular Bible was circulating. In Scotland, the Earl of Arran had legalised the English Bible in 1543 which enabled all men to read the bible in English or Scots but it was not printed in Scotland at all until 1579 and so the imported bibles came from England.

‘David Hall 1724 Eius Liber’ penned on the edge of the page.

‘David Hall 1724 Eius Liber’ penned on the edge of the page.

Significantly, on the back of page 13 (13b), there is the inscription that reads; ‘David Hall 1724 Eius Liber’ which is Latin for ‘his book’. Was this the David Hall (1683-1756) who was a ‘schoolmaster  and Quaker minister’ from Skipton in Craven, Yorkshire? There is no other significant marginalia within the book but on a couple of pages near the back, especially noticeable on the separate poem published within the Monarche; ‘The complaynt and publique confession of the Kings olde Hounde called Bagshe, directed to Bawty the Kings best beloved Dog, and his companions’ on page 119 in the ‘The fourth booke’, and also page 64, there are pen trials. This indicates that the reader was possibly making notes on a separate page whilst reading this book or the markings could be the reader’s own symbols to draw attention to important parts of the text. This shows that Lindsay’s poem was fulfilling its function of teaching his audience, may it be his intended or unintended audience.


Primary Source:

A Dialogue between Experience and a Courtier, of the miserable state of the worlde by David Lindsay (London: Thomas Purfoote, 1851). Special Collections & Archives, Pre-1700 Collection: C 581 LIN

Secondary Sources:

Collinson, Patrick., ed. Guy, John. 1995. ‘Ecclesiastical vitriol: religious satire in the 1590s and the invention of puritanism’ in The reign of Elizabeth I: Court and culture in the last decade’, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Edington, Carol. 1994. Court and Culture in Renaissance Scotland: Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, (USA: University of Massachusetts Press).

Harland, Richard. ‘Hall, David (1683-1756), schoolmaster and Quaker minister’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [accessed 26/10/2018].

McGinley, J,. K. ‘Lyndsay [Lindsay], David (c. 1486-155), writer and herald’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [accessed 22/10/2018].

Pearson, David. 2011. Books as History: The importance of books beyond their texts (London: The British Library).

Wormald, Jenny. 1981. Court, Kirk, and Community: Scotland 1470-1625, (London: Edward Arnold Ltd).

Looking at Lanquet: A Closer Look at An Epitome of Chronicles

Written by Bex Norris, student on HI6062: Dynasty, Death and Diplomacy – England, Scotland & France 1503 – 1603

Little is actually known about Thomas Lanquet’s life, except that he began writing his Epitome of Chronicles, but he died before it was finished. The Chronicles werefinished by Thomas Cooper and published in 1549, with the book later being known as the Coopers Chronicle. Lanquet died in 1545 after writing about the accession of Tiberius, with the rest of the book being written by Cooper. Despite the fact that very little is known about Lanquet himself, it is known that he was a historian and a humanist, which would suggest that he would have styled his work to mimic Classical literature, something seen as contemporarily popular.

Title Page of An Epitome of Chronicles

The copy of An Epitome of Chronicles held at Special Collections & Archives at the Templeman Library is interesting for several reasons. The book has been rebound and several pages of the beginning on the book have been replaced, most likely due to water damage, as seen in the images below. The newer elements of the book seem to have been replaced in the nineteenth or twentieth century. This is also seen with some pages where the original paper has remained partially intact, with the damaged elements being replaced with newer paper, as seen in the images below. This is something that is therefore unique to this copy of An Epitome of Chronicles and gives a clear idea that the book was not left in the best condition, potentially being left in a damp storage area that would have degraded these elements of the book to the point of needing replacing. [Editor’s note: this damage did not occur in the book’s current home!]

One of the damaged pages

One of the damaged pages


Cover of An Epitome of Chronicles

Cover of An Epitome of Chronicles

Another interesting feature that is unique to this copy of Epitome of Chronicles is the fact it has been annotated. This is indicative that a previous owner of the book did not feel that it was important enough to remain unmarked, with one page containing a sum, which appears to be to do with the chronology of the history. This highlights the use and engagement with the book, as they were able to read well enough that they felt that they were able to annotate certain sections and to add their own thoughts. This suggests that the book was owned by a literate person who was able to write down what they thought of particular passages, giving an insight in to their responses from when they read the book.




The work of Lanquet, and subsequently Cooper was to educate readers on the history of England as they saw it, with references to what was happening in the wider world. This would include who was ruling in other countries and if there were any plagues within countries, such as a pestilence in 491 B.C. in Rome. It is accepted within the writing that the Bible and Arthurian legend are history, and this is used to emphasise the chronology he was writing. Cooper, however, changes Arthurian legends to suit the history he wanted to tell, removing magic from his chronicles and replacing it with the power of the ‘common voice of the people’. Magic being removed when writing the histories would have been not only to make them a realistic part of history, but also because Cooper, who finished the chronicle, was a bishop, and the use of magic would not have fallen in line with his religious views. The histories therefore would have been adapted to suit the narrative that the authors would have believed in, as well as any political leanings that they may have had, which is shown with how the book is dedicated to Prince Edward and the Duke of Somerset. This highlights how Cooper would have been attempting to praise the prince, while affirming Protestant beliefs, with Cooper stating in the preface, ‘the holy scriptures […] teaches us politicall administracion, and let forth many notable examples, which in rulying a publike weal be necessary to bee knowen, and whereby the myndes of princis may bee stiered to the study of true nobilitee and vertue’. This explains why not only the biblical history is accepted as fact and dated within the chronicle, but also why it is so supportive towards the Tudors and how they are favoured by God. The fact that the book is also written in English, in a Gothic font, further highlights the break from Rome, as Lanquet and Cooper did not write in Latin, with English books being more common following the Reformation.

The preface not only gives an idea of the setting in which the book was written in, but also the type of person it was written for. As ‘the readyng of histories doth indifferently avayle all men’ and ‘Princis, yea and all other, that have auctoritee in great affaires and high matters, ought those examples and actes chiefly to consider’ suggest that Lanquet and Cooper believed that the main audience of their book would be those in a position of political power, and that history would be useful in knowing where previous leaders have failed and how they have succeeded.

Even though little is known about Thomas Lanquet, quite a lot can be discerned about England during his time from this single copy of An Epitome of Chronicles, with language choices giving an indication of the context that the book was written in, and additions to the book with owners’ notes giving a sense of the history of this particular copy of An Epitome of Chronicles. The book is unique to other copies because of its treatment since its publication in 1549, making it an interesting centrepiece for research, seen even in the past with different copies of the book. The way in which the book has been treated, such as the rebinding of the book because of its damage makes this copy unique to any others. The copy of Lanquet’s Epitome of Chronicles held in the Templeman Library is therefore interesting based on not only the history of England that it gives, but also in how it differs from other copies


Primary Sources

Lanquet, Thomas and Thomas Cooper, An Epitome of Chronicles [London: Thomas Berthelet, 1549] Special Collections & Archives: Pre-1700 Collection, C 549 LAN

Lanquet, Thomas and Thomas Cooper, ‘An Epitome of Chronicles’, Early English Books Online, <> [accessed 31 October 2018]

Secondary Sources

Fletcher, Robert Huntington, The Arthurian Material in the Chronicles Especially Those of Great Britain and France (New York, NY: Haskell House, 1965)

H., C. W., ‘Queries with Answers’, Notes and Queries, 3rd ser., 11 (1867), 332-333

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