Book of The Month: “And The Heretics All To Destroy!”

So my dearly beloved; life itself may be filled with pain, and all men flawed and ill made, and happiness an impossibility borne upon the wings of a fever dream; and hearts, promises and pie crusts all things that were made to be broken, but books, books are eternal.

I recently decided (translation: I turned up at a party and no-one wanted to admit they’d invited me, which means I no longer have anyone to borrow money off) that it’s about time I got back into using the internet for its primary purpose; as a pathetic apparatus for staving off loneliness and isolation as a means of sharing my love of what I do for (what I shall now rather laughably refer to as…) a living.

This is a wonderful, interesting thing:

Cecil, William.

Certaine Advertisements out of Ireland, concerning the losses and distresses happened to the Spanish Navie, upon the West coasts of Ireland in their voyage intended from the Northern Isles beyond Scotland , towards Spaine. 

London: I. Vautrollier for Richard Field, 1588.

First Edition. Small Quarto. 18cm x 13cm. 19pp. First edition (in setting that collates A-B). Beautifully bound in quarter pigskin over marbled boards to style, pink leather title label. new endpapers. Internally clean and bright. Woodcut printer’s device to title page. Blind stamp of North Library to title page; from the Tony Sweeney collection. Woodcut headpiece to Aii.

A scarce contemporary account issued anonymously by the Royal Treasurer (or Spymaster if we’re being blunt) of Elizabeth I, regarding the destruction of the Spanish Armada and the subsequent annihilation of many of its survivors who were despatched on the beaches of Galway by the local populace. The final two leaves detail the ships lost and their crews in 1588 with an additional list of men and ships lost in the two months preceding. Apart from the fascinating period detail and providing an understanding of the professional and detailed nature of the Elizabethan propaganda machine under Cecil, this ephemeral pamphlet rarely seen at all (only a handful of copies in auction since 1961), sometimes seen bound with “A Copie of A Letter Sent Out of England…”, although possessed of its own separate imprint and title page; provides a harrowing account of what the enemies of the crown could expect when washing up on the shores of the scepter’d isle:
“He inviteth also that there was at the same time another great ship cast away in Tereawley…and all the residue of that ship are slain and drowned…Meleghlen Mac Cab, A Galloglasse, killed 80 of them with his Galloglasse axe…”
When it comes to the defending the shores of Britain from invaders, apparently there is no such thing as bad publicity. A scarce and fascinating survival.





Such paper! Much Booke!

Such paper! Much Book!

So, this basically dates from the birth of the dirty, gritty and searingly unpleasant modern world. The birth of Intelligence services and the myriad tiny, grubby wars they fight, the birth of terrorist training camps, double and triple agents, suicidal religious zealots, torture, rendition, cryptography and the gentleman spy.

It’s 1588, for those of you that have never been in a Tardis before. Most of the world is Catholic, gleefully, enthusiastically, pointy-hattedly, Inquisitively, Catholic. Pretty much half the planet was Papally divided between Spain and Portugal, Britain and William of Orange’s Holland were small, irritating Protestant strongholds and just last year Elizabeth I of England (body of a weak and feeble woman, brain of a steel trap,  capacity for fear and weakness of a Megalodon shark) executed the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, thus putting paid to any plan to get a Catholic on the throne of England without invading. For the previous decade or more England has been a hotbed of plot after plot after plot seeking the removal or assassination  of Elizabeth. The Ridolfi Plot in 1571 was a straight up armed invasion, the Throckmorton Plot in ’83 intended to put Mary on the throne and the Babington Plot of ’86 was aimed at killing Elizabeth and then putting Mary on the throne. There were three assassination plots in 1586 alone, they were presumably put down so swiftly and brutally they didn’t have time to catch any names.

"Babs, are you sure we want to do this? Those people in the background appear to be being symbolically about a strongly worded letter? A leaflet campaign?"

“Babs, are you sure we want to do this? Those people in the background appear to be being symbolically dismembered…how about a strongly worded letter? A leaflet campaign?”

The happy go lucky swashbuckling, thigh slapping chaps of the informal British Navy; Drake, Raleigh et al. are generally harassing the living daylights out of Spanish shipping both in Europe and the New World. Philip placed an embargo on all English goods in 1585 and Francis “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” Drake took Galicia for ten days in the teeth of the Spanish, went on to sack ports in the Canaries and the Caribbean and then eventually raided Cadiz; which went down like a Bathory concert in the Vatican.

William Allen, formerly of St. Mary’s Hall, Oxford and the kind of Catholic who made Torquemada feel like he wasn’t trying hard enough, has started seminaries in Douai and Rome recruiting young, zealous and disenfranchised English Catholics dedicated to returning England to the true faith. Allen was a true believer; the Papacy held the ultimate power, he was committed to nothing short of a military invasion of England and, as one of his adherents said to Philip “if the entire destruction of England was for the greater good of God” then he would be happy to see it done. All of his young men knew that if caught on English soil preaching Catholicism they would be guilty of treason, the punishment for which was being half hanged, taken down, castrated, disembowelled and then dismembered. In reality, under Francis Walsingham’s sanction and William Cecil’s direction they were often captured, tortured, drained of all useful information and then turned in double agents, sent back to the Catholic mainland to spy on, subvert and report on the anti-Protestant plotting. Cecil’s espionage tactics, and the ruthlessness with which they were carried out, actually succeeded in foiling a number of Catholic plots.

Elizabeth and her advisers were obviously aware of Philip’s plans for invasion. The building and deployment of 130 ships, 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers, 1,500 brass guns and 1,000 iron guns isn’t the kind of thing that someone of Cecil’s acumen and networking skills would have missed.

In the event despite the small yet dedicated and tactically agile English navy, with Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins and the other sea cowboys of the Elizabethan age doing their best to destroy it in Calais harbour with the famous fire ships, it was in fact dreadful weather that swept the colossal Spanish Armada north and into the circumstances that Cecil’s propaganda pamphlet speaks of.

The towering Spanish ships were blown far off course and up onto the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. Cecil’s pamphlet charts the losses in a pair of tables in the rear:

And that is just September

And that is just September


The Tireawley entry is the one mentioned above in the catalogue description, where a single Gallowglass killed 80 washed up Spaniards on his own, by strolling along the beach and hacking them up with his axe.

And this is a Gallowglass Axe, clearly it was not a good time to be a Spaniard.

And this is a Gallowglass Axe, clearly it was not a good time to be a Spaniard.

There would have undoubtedly been a wealth of celebration if the navy alone had carried the day, despite the relative impossibility of this in the face of an armada that enormous; the fact that nature itself conspired against the Spaniards, and thus God (the Protestant one, naturally), and that so many of the people responsible for straight up murdering, holding and ransoming the surviving Spanish were not your standard beef eating, bowls playing Englishmen made it, in the eyes of England’s burgeoning intelligence and propaganda community, especially worthy of effort.

Cecil was never a man to miss the chance at some attribution of divine intervention, and a brief look at the title page shows that it features Psalm 118: “This was The Lord’s Doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes…” which, by a stunning coincidence is what Elizabeth herself said to Cecil, seated beneath a tree at Hatfield, when he informed her of the death of Mary I and Elizabeth’s subsequent elevation to Queen. Anyone who thinks of the concept of spin as a modern invention, clearly needs to read more about the Elizabethan period.

As a bibliophilic sidenote, Cecil is the man who gave his name to Cecil Court in London’s West End, famous for having more rare bookshops that any other part of London.


Queers, Homosexuals, and Activists in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain?

Originally posted on NOTCHES:

Charles Upchurch

What does a historian of sexuality do when confronted with something that looks compellingly modern, but decades before it was supposed to exist? Specifically, I mean evidence of identity and political activism built around a positive interpretation of same-sex desire in the 1820s.

The evidence, although fragmentary and sparse, isn’t really ambiguous. One document, long known to Byron scholars as the fifty-two-page poem Don Leon, contains statements that same-sex desire was written into character from birth. The endnotes to the poem indicate that this idea was endorsed by a collective of individuals, and further historical research points to at least some of the men being members of the British Parliament. Remarkably they seem to have lobbied fellow parliamentarians on the need to eliminate the death penalty for sodomy, with one of the more dramatic moments in that effort occurring in 1825.

View original 1,235 more words

The Great Escape: as told by the reporters of the Guardian newspaper

Originally posted on John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog:

Jane Speller, Project Archivist for the Guardian newspaper foreign correspondence cataloguing project, writes:

The archive of the Manchester Guardian contains countless reports of refugees desperately fleeing Germany to escape persecution and often murder at the hands of the Nazis. From early 1933 onwards much of the foreign correspondence is dominated by these accounts.

Many refugees had no real plan of escape beyond getting across the German frontier. Reading their stories brings to mind the classic World War II film, The Great Escape (1963). Based on a true story, The Great Escape follows escapees from the infamous German POW (Prisoner of War) camp Stalag Luft III, as they desperately attempt to reach neutral Switzerland, Sweden, and Spain. Of fifty men, only three succeed in escaping; the rest are returned to prison or shot. Two men row to freedom, eventually stowing away on a Swedish merchant ship. The third man bicycles through…

View original 883 more words

Music To Buy Books By

Originally posted on The Bookhunter on Safari:

Pauline ScholHello.  It’s me, Pauline Schol, again.  The Guv’nor won’t admit it, but he’s a little bit miffed that the blog got about ten times more visitors than usual after my post last week – “Well, if that’s what they want, then you’d better do it again this week, hadn’t you, clever clogs”.  I think he’s only pretending to be miffed, but I’ll leave him watching the cricket for now: First Day at Lord’s, or something – I thought that was the State Opening of Parliament?  English and peculiar anyway.  Rare jongens, die Engelsen (of waren dat de Romeinen?)

twirlsDifferent customs. Here I am enjoying the sunshine at the Bristol Book Fair last weekend (doing “that weird European sun thing you do”, as he puts it).  I’ve been to some book-fairs before, but this was my first outside London – and the first to which I could bring my freshly-trained and…

View original 960 more words

Bones Abroad: Emily Dickinson, Death and Amherst, MA

Originally posted on Bones Don't Lie:

Emily Dickinson daguerreotype with overlaid poem by Flickr user Julie Jordan Scott Emily Dickinson daguerreotype with overlaid poem by Flickr user Julie Jordan Scott

Ever since I was young, I’ve loved the work of Emily Dickinson. Her poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, has haunted me- but in a really good way. I rethink the worlds every once in a while. I’ve loved the idea of a death as a personable and caring entity. That probably sounds pretty dark- but I’m cool with that. Today I had the opportunity to visit the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, NY. It was really see interesting to see the house that inspired her writing and poetry, and I have to admit- it really changed my perception of her!

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst at the Dickinson Homestead on December 10, 1830. Her life was fairly quiet, punctuated by a couple trips, but for the most part she lived out her days in…

View original 430 more words

Currently on exhibition at the Hunterian Museum.

Originally posted on University of Glasgow Library:

Earlier this year I was asked to write a caption to accompany an item from the Library of William Hunter, to be temporarily displayed as part of the Hunterian Museums permanent exhibition:William Hunter: Man, Medic and Collector.

Hunter’s Library is an impressive compendium of some 10,000 printed books and 650 manuscripts and is considered to be one of today’s finest surviving 18th century libraries.  With such a vast array of material to choose from I decided to explore the Library with my own background in mind: Art History.  The relationship between anatomists and artists is one that I have always found to be fascinating; particularly the absolute skill and fidelity shown by artists in producing accurate representations of the human form.

With an existing knowledge of such texts including Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (Basel 1543) (On the fabric of the human body in seven books)…

View original 763 more words

Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration…

The world of rare books (which is a world all its own, with weather, and a magnetic North and the occasional extinction event) seems finally to have hit its stride and achieved some degree of comfort with the blistering pace of current progress. Not me personally, obviously, every forward step I make is accompanied gleefully by a little dog and depicted on this playing card:

Although I have never looked that good in tights.

Although I have never looked that good in tights.

Others though, are making leaps and bounds in the adoption of new strategies and the creation of new ways to make the accumulation of the very loveliest and most exciting of the universe’s most important objects (I’m referring to books, for those of you who came here looking for Womble Bondage or tips on building gazebos) as angst free as possible.

This for example, is Alembic Rare Books, they are amongst my current favourite new, young  dealers, and their blog is just sumptuous. Also, they have a photo of a first world war Zeppelin raid on London, which for future reference to anyone out there, is just basically history porn. Their site is well worth a long visit, they have some excellent advice for collectors and you should sign up for their newsletters, put your name down for catalogues and send them Christmas gifts because at some point you are going to win the jackpot (see how I encourage and nurture you?) and when you do you are going to need Victorian Anatomy flap books with a fiery, burning need.

I'm feeling a trifle naked...

I’m feeling a trifle naked…

Moving from Alembic’s small, elegant and streamlined footprint more into the realm of the Category Five Kaiju, we move on to the next bit of news.

Peter Harrington Rare Books is launching, as we speak, a new website devoted entirely to their customers in the US and other dollar reliant parts of the world: is the US wing of their already pretty hardcore rare books website, offering amongst other things; pricing and payment in dollars with no fees and free shipping to the USA and elsewhere.

Pom Harrington, speaking from the cockpit of his private chrome airship said:

“We’re delighted to have launched a U.S. dollar website this year, which we hope will be far more convenient for customers in America and elsewhere. Everything on the website is priced in dollars, and payment is taken and settled in dollars too – no currency conversion at all. We’re happy to offer free shipping for every book sold through the website, or for a small fee can send books by express delivery.”

The rare book world (a place usually only visited by an obscure ritual, or unwise reading of THE LATIN) is a large, lush world with room on it for all shapes and sizes of book-dealer. On the one hand there’s people like myself whose book of the month (more to follow) is an anonymous pamphlet by Elizabeth the First’s spymaster about exactly how screwed the Spanish Armada was the minute it came nigh to Britain, and on the other end of the continent there’s Peter Harrington Rare Books with this gorgeous beast, and this incredible thing, which I’m sure we can all agree is really no big deal. Then there’s this, my favourite from the stock of Blair Cowl Books, again well worth a visit; this beautiful archive from Between The Covers; and this pretty set from Honey & Wax in far off Brooklyn.

That turned into a bit of an update on everyone else. There’ll be a book of the month from me in a couple of days, and then hopefully some news about my first catalogue and some York Antiquarian Book Seminar updates.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,363 other followers

%d bloggers like this: