Category Archives: Shakespeare

50 objects 48: Elizabethan spies

leftspiesLong before James Bond, there was John Dee and a network of other spies drawn together by Francis Walsingham to serve Elizabeth I. Some research material on such spies in Shakespearian times is found in Brunel’s Holmes collection.

Edward Holmes researched into the authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare. He published Discovering Shakespeare: a handbook for heretics (Mycroft : 2001) which discusses the authorship in an accessible way through fictitious dialogue between two people. His research notes were given to Brunel University Library and are housed in Special Collections.  However, the notes are far more extensive than the subject of the book. There are files on many subjects related to Tudor and Elizabethan times, including language, gardens, music, and other literary men. As a tangent to this last, Holmes notes that there seems to be some overlap between writers of literature and drama, and spies or secret agents. leftlit-soldier-spy

Perhaps the most well-known example of this overlap is Christopher Marlowe. Here’s a page of Holmes’ notes on Marlowe’s death and related issues.

marlowe

Holmes goes on to amass a file of information on espionage and ciphers at this time, sometimes interweaving Shakespeare, and similarities to characters in Shakespeare’s plays, with details on other men. Much of the material is in note form and it tends to be brief and cryptic, but forms a basis for further study both of Elizabethan spies and of academic views on them at a particular time.

leftdoulande

There are notes on the life and work of individuals who may have been connected to the network of agents, and theories about their activities. Here Holmes notes information about “John Doulande”, John Dowland the musician who some suspect of being involved with espionage.

Much of the “espionage” file consists of attempts to draw together a unified picture of the web of intrigue at particular point in time, by charting names, places, contacts, and so forth. Below are three diagrams of such networks.

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There seem to be no conclusive findings here, but many questions are raised and ideas generated for further study.

 

For more on the question of Shakespearian authorship, see the De Vere Society and the Shakespearian Authorship Trust.

For more on espionage and secret agents in this period, see

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/tudors/spying_01.shtml

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/spies/spies/standen/default.htm

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/who-were-elizabethan-spies.html

For more on John Dee, see the material surrounding the Royal College of Physicians’ exhibiton.

 

50 objects 29: Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh

raleigh5Sir Walter Raleigh (c.1552 – 1618) is well-known for his connections with the court of Queen Elizabeth I and for his voyages of exploration, and is popularly credited with introducing potatoes and tobacco to Britain. He was, less famously, a scholar and poet. In 1813 his poems were published with a critical introduction; Special Collections at Brunel holds a second edition of this work, which was transferred to Brunel from the Shakespeare Authorship Trust.

 

This copy of the book is of great interest not simply for the texts it contains, but also for the light it can shed on the past; on the way it was used, and on the ways in which former owners interacted with the text.

 

The work is bound in a nineteenth-century Raleigh3gold-tooled leather binding, with more modern repairs, together with an edition of the poems of Robert Southwell which was printed separately in 1817. The binding would have been done on the orders of an early owner of the works, and may reflect his or her taste and budget as well as current fashions.

 

Handwritten names and notes throughout the book show that there have been several former owners or users; two people with the same surname added their names, indicating that perhaps the book was given or bequeathed by one family member to another.

 

Some of the notes are simply correcting the text, commenting on it, or marking passages of particular interest to the reader. One of the most intriguing additions is a lengthy Raleigh quotation, copied out, and captioned “Quoted by the father of a missing pilot, 1941”.

raleigh2

 

The source for this is a letter written by the said anonymous father to The Times, hoping the quotation would bring comfort to others as it had to him.  The book’s owner, under the quotation, has added “This is supported by the conclusions in psychotherapy as expanded by Marcus Gregory”, and has made notes elsewhere about psychotherapy, showing another of his or her interests as applied to Raleigh’s works.  Marcus Gregory published several  works on psychotherapy in the 1930s; it is not clear which one is referred to here.

 

One former owner studied a place where Raleigh lived, and added pencil sketches to this copy of the poems. The drawings are of Myrtle Grove, a house near Youghal in Ireland, and of yew trees in the garden there. Raleigh lived at Myrtle Grove in the 1580s and legend has it that the first potatoes in Ireland were planted there.raleigh11

The drawing of the garden seems to be copied from a print in The Illustrated Guide to Sir Walter Raleigh`s House by Samuel Hayman (Youghal, 1861), shown here; further research on the annotations in the edited poems could reveal more about the interests of former owners, and about the information they had access to.

This post gives a taste of the kinds of information that can be gleaned from a study of the book as a physical object. Many books have more secrets waiting to be discovered.

50 objects 1: the oldest book

The oldest book held in Brunel Library was printed in 1679 and contains various works by Francis Bacon, collected and edited by Thomas Tenison, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1694 until his death in 1715.

Archbishop Tenison was known for his interest in, and support of, education and libraries. He gave some of his own books to found a library at St Martin in the Fields, and various books and manuscripts of his were given or bequeathed to Lambeth Palace Library. Lambeth Palace Library’s manuscript 2086 is a commonplace book written by William Rawley, who was chaplain to Francis Bacon, and whose executor passed on to Tenison books and papers relating to Bacon. Some of the anecdotes in that manuscript are printed in this book.

Baconiana title-page

Baconiana title-page

Bacon (1561-1626) was a statesman, scientist, philosopher, and essayist, whose works continued to be popular and influential after his death. A theory arose that Bacon was the author of various works attributed to Shakespeare, and this copy of Bacon’s works is at Brunel as part of a collection surrounding Shakespearean authorship, but the book has wider appeal in terms of its content and history.

Baconiana. Or certain genuine remains of Sr. Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, and Viscount of St. Albans; in arguments civil and moral, natural, medical, theological, and bibliographical; now the first time faithfully published contains several different works, including theological treatises, recipes for medicines, reports on the chemical properties of metals, and copies of correspondence in English and Latin. A transcription of the whole text has been made available here by the University of Michigan.

Recipes from Bacon's works

Recipes from Bacon’s works

Copies of this edition of this work survive in many libraries but every copy has its own distinct history and can give unique information. Brunel’s copy has clearly been heavily used: there is damage to the binding and the front cover is missing. Previous users have written notes in the margins, which gives us some insight into who the readers were and how the book was used. One previous owner seems to have been interested in the book’s value over time: cuttings from sales catalogues featuring other copies of this book have been glued to the back board.