Wednesday, 26 January 2011

More Ancient Books

My hubby has just produced some other old books he’s got – also found at the back of the church – the first is an absolute gem. It is a printed book, entitled “Certain Sermons or Homilies Appointed to be Read in Churches, in the Time of Queen Elizabeth of famous memory: and Now thought fit to be Reprinted by the Authority from the King’s moft Excellent Majefty” (note long “s”s) published in 1676, during the reign of Charles II. The print is in the old Gothic style and the pages are wonderfully dog-eared and distressed – it’s a real treasure! As far as the subject matter is concerned, listen to this:

A Table of the Sermons Contained in this prefent Volume.
I. A Fruitful Exhortation to the reading of Holy Scripture.
II. Of the mifery of all Mankind.
VII. Againft Swearing and Perjury.
X. An Exhortation to Obedience.
XI. Againft Whoredom and Adultery.
...and so on!

There is one entitled “An Homily Against Disobedience and Wilful Rebellion” in six parts, followed by “A Thanksgiving for The Supprefsion of the Laft Rebellion.”
My hubby had already told me about one of the sermons, which is entitled “An Homily Against Excefs of Apparel” which had amused him greatly, so I made a point of looking at this one. I love the ancient spellings, too; in its introduction, there is a passage quoting David in one of the psalms, referring to “wine to make glad the heart, and oyls and oyntments to make the face to fhine” which I love! (Doesn’t “oyl” sound so much more “oyly” than “oil,” and “oyntments” so much more potent than “ointments”?)

Later it says, “Which, if it were obferved, many one doubtlefs fhould be compelled to wear a ruffet-coat, which now ruffleth in filks and velvets, fpending more by the year in fumptuous apparel, than their Fathers received for their whole Revenue of their Lands...” “he that ruffleth in his Sables, in his fine furred gown, corked flippers (!) trim busking, and warm mittons, is more ready to chill for cold, than the poor labouring man, which can abide in the Field all the day long, when the North-wind blows, with a few beggarly clouts about him.” “We must have one Gown for the day, another for the night, one long, another fhort, one for Winter, another for Summer, one through-furred, another but faced, one for the working-day, another for the holy-day, one of this colour, another of that colour, one of Cloath, another of Silk or Damask. We must have change of apparel, one afore dinner, and another after, one of the Spanifh fafhion, another Turky: and to be brief, never content with fufficient.” Isn’t this simply +marvellous? “Thus with our phantaftical devices, we make our felves laughing-stocks to other Nations, while one fpendeth his Patrimony upon pounces and cuts, another beftoweth more on a dancing fhirt, than might fuffice to buy him honeft and comely apparel for his whole body.” (As my hubby says, this is just the MEN!!!)

This “tome” is an absolute gem! You never hear sermons like that these days.
You have been warned. No more ruffling in filks and velvets, and get those corked flippers off, and put on some honest beggarly clouts!

Here are some pictures of this ancient book.

Book of Sermons 1 Cover

It has a leather cover which, as you can see, is very worn. This is the title page:

Book of Sermons 2 Title Page

and the first page of the Preface:

Book of Sermons 3 Preface

This is how the printed pages appear:

Book of Sermons 4 Pages 1

and in detail:

Book of Sermons 7 Print Detail

This is how the titles to the sermons appear:

Book of Sermons 5 Sermon Title Page

Towards the back of the book is a prayer:

Book of Sermons 6 Prayer

This is the final page of the book.

Book of Sermons 8 Final Page

My hubby also brought home another book for me to see. This is a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and it is a very large book with wooden covers bound with leather, and which unfortunately has become very worm-eaten. He tells me that after the Reformation, all English churches were required to have four books: a Bible, a Prayer Book, a Book of Sermons, and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. The copy of Foxe that we have is normally chained to the wall of the church to prevent it’s being stolen, with a stout iron chain, but a modern combination padlock has been added at some stage, and there appear to be hacksaw marks on it where someone has had a go at stealing it!

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 1

The style of printing is more modern than the Book of Sermons, but still employs the long “s.”

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 2 Pages

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 3 Page Corners 1

The corners are wonderfully dog-eared and distressed.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 4 Page Corners 2

Here are some pictures showing the cover and chain in more detail. On this one you can see the hacksaw marks on the modern padlock.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 5 Front Cover

On this picture you can see the tooling on the leather cover, and the worm holes.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 6 Front Cover Detail 1

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 7 Front Cover Detail 2

More detail of the leather tooling:

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 8 Front Cover Leather Detail

and finally one of the clasps.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs 9 Clasp Detail

This book has now been returned to the church. The text of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a great Christian classic, is available online.

I still have the Book of Sermons because I want to delve into this more deeply, and maybe type out some of the text.

Handling these ancient books, I feel as if I have been handling history. I often wonder how many similar treasures are hidden up and down the land, in churches, in stately homes, in attics. Even after many years of “The Antiques Roadshow” being broadcast, it is amazing how many artefacts continue to surface year by year, all part of our national heritage, and worthy of preservation, not just for their historical provenance and content, but for their sheer beauty.


  1. How Amazing Shoshi! What a super find for the church to have in their archives! *Hugs*

  2. Oh Shoshi....Your card for hubby is GORGEOUS!!! He is going to LOVE It!!!!!! I loved loved loved seeing the pictures of your beatrice!!! LOL She looks JUST LIKE my princess!!!!!! Too funny how she loves the laptops!!!!!!


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