Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Manuscript verse on the Death of Queen Elizabeth

Raphael Holinshed, Third Volume of Chronicles. [London : Printed by Henry Denham, for John Harrison, George Bishop, Ralph Newbery, Henry Denham, and Thomas Woodcock, 1587]
3 v. in 2 ;  39 cm. (fol.)   STC (2nd ed.) 13569

Renaissance Center copy is in contemporary diced calf (rebacked); stamped in gilt on each cover of each volume is the garter, enclosing a griffin crest, surmounted by a ducal coronet (perhaps one of the dukes of Montagu?); this copy includes an additional physical volume, containing most of one of the 18th-century editions (attributed to 1728) of the sheets that had been removed, in which the units are signed a-zz (units a, b, and zz are not present; see Maslen for details); in this copy, v. 3, p. 1328-1331 are not cancelled; in v. 1, A2 is misbound following A3 ; only the text of the title page to v. 3 is present; the woodcut border incorporating 11 portraits (McKerrow and Ferguson 131; this use not noted) has been cut off; the text has been remargined and the page bordered with ms. ink rules; the full title page is supplied in facsimile; front free endpaper and flyleaves of v. 3 detached; there is crude hand coloring of initials and headpieces in v. 3; ms. verse on the death of Elizabeth on p. [1593], v. 3.

In the third volume of our copy of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a former owner has added in manuscript a short poem commemorating Queen Elizabeth I. In all likelihood the poem was written shortly after her death. It reads as follows:

Cum sistures hellep hur body to intear
whose lyuef to us wase odures and swet mear [myrhh]
you sacred nimpes hang gearlandes on hur tome
whose corpes doeth reste till hur redemur Cum

deum Elisabeth

While the italic hand (possibly belonging to a woman) is easy to read, the spelling makes for a relatively challenging transcription; for instance, by rhyming "mear" with "intear" ("inter"), I was able to determine the correct reading of "myrhh." The verse here is not spectacular, but its structure is interesting since the poem begins and ends with the same word. I am assuming the "sistures" and "sacred nimpes" are the muses, whom the poet calls upon to "hellep...intear" the Queen's body.

The volume has several more interesting features. The diced-calf binding features a gilt armorial stamp, which depicts "the garter, enclosing a griffin crest, surmounted by a ducal coronet (perhaps one of the dukes of Montagu?)" (according to our catalog record). The verso of the flyleaf bears an associated book label, which repeats the armorial design from the binding. This particular volume was housed in "Case H, Shelf 1." 

Several of the volume's ornaments and historiated initials have been hand-colored, perhaps by a contemporary. The unpolished coloring job possibly suggests it was executed with a stencil.

Special thanks to John Lancaster for finding this poem and cataloging this book. With the end of the semester and the holidays quickly approaching, this will probably be my last blog post of 2010. We've acquired some interesting materials in the last few weeks that I plan to write about in January. Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the New Year!