Author Archives: ferguswilde

  1. Matilda Betham: An (un)Celebrated Woman

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    Above: Matilda Betham, unknown artist, image taken from Wikimedia Comms.

    Mary Matilda Betham (known as Matilda to her friends and family) was a diarist, poet and author in the last years of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth. She had a keen interest in women’s rights, which was reflected in her numerous writings. Like many of the individuals whose works are included in Chetham’s Library’s new exhibition, A Woman’s Write, her life highlights the difficulties faced by women who tried to publish during this period. 

    Like her fellow author and contemporary Jane Austen, Matilda was the daughter of a rector. Born in 1777 to Reverend William Betham and his wife Mary (née Damant), she was the eldest of fourteen children. William Betham was himself an author, having written and published works on royal genealogy and the English baronetage. From a young age Matilda exhibited an interest in history and literature, reciting poetry and reading plays and histories. She educated herself in her father’s extensive library under his occasional tutelage, although she also received instruction in sewing to prevent a ‘too strict application to books’. During visits to London she learnt to speak French, and she later learnt Italian from Agostino Isola in Cambridge. 

    Unfortunately, Matilda’s growing family faced severe financial hardship. Driven by a sense of duty, Matilda left the family home and took to painting miniature portraits to support herself. While in London she was encouraged to pursue her talents by her uncle Edward Beetham, whose family was closely involved in literary and artistic circles. Matilda received instruction from the portraitist John Opie, who was tutoring her cousin Jane Beetham, and was encouraged by her uncle (himself a publisher) to realise her literary ambitions. It was around this time that Matilda developed an interest in women’s rights, and she began to ‘rally and argue about the equality of the sexes’. In 1797 she published her first work, Elegies and Other Small Poems, for which she received praise from her family, her friend Lady Charlotte Bedingford, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote to her in 1802, comparing her to Sappho (another poet featured in ‘A Woman’s Write’) and encouraging her to continue writing. Between 1804 and 1816, Matilda exhibited her portraits at the Royal Academy of Arts.

    Matilda published her second work, A Biographical Dictionary of the Celebrated Women of Every Age and Country, in 1804. The result of six years’ research, it included short biographies of women who were ‘distinguished by their actions or talents’, including Cleopatra, Boadicea, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Marie de France (a medieval poet), Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Elstob (an early Anglo-Saxon scholar) and Marie Antoinette. A copy of this work can be found in Chetham’s Library, although we know relatively little about how it got here besides the fact that it was acquired before 1862. It is the only work of Matilda’s to have entered the library.

    Above: The title page of Chetham’s Library’s copy of Matilda’s A Biographical Dictionary.

    In the years that followed, Matilda’s literary career flourished. She published a second book of poetry in 1808 and several shorter works anonymously in magazines, and gave public recitals of Shakespeare in London. In 1816 she published the Lay of Marie, a poem with scholarly appendices, inspired by the life of the medieval poet Marie de France. This poem was Matilda’s best-received work, but its publication was beset by difficulties. Advertisements for the poem misspelt both the heroine’s name and its author’s, many of the printed books were damaged by mildew, and the costs of publishing and advertising the work drove Matilda into severe financial hardship. Forced to abandon her literary career, she returned to the country and tried to support herself by painting miniature portraits again, hindered by the shabby state of her clothing. She later recalled sleeping in room without furnishings or a bed, keeping herself warm by covering herself with old clothes. In 1819, she was placed in a mental asylum by her family. 

    Matilda was released the following year. She claimed that she had suffered a ‘nervous fever’ due to the stresses of publishing the Lay of Marie, and that she had been unjustly committed without any sort of examination or treatment. Following her release she returned to London and kept her address secret from her family. She received financial assistance from the Royal Literary Fund and returned to her literary pursuits, directly championing women’s rights. In a letter to the MP John Cam Hobhouse, she urged him to continue working for ‘general suffrage’ in parliament to improve women’s conditions. In 1821 she published A Challenge to Women, which defended Queen Carolina against the charges of adultery levelled against her and called on women to support her by signing a petition. The following year she was once again committed to the asylum by her family, but she continued to pursue her literary ambitions after her release. She published Sonnets and Verses in 1836, and A Dramatic Sketch in 1838. However, she also suffered from several setbacks. Her play Hermoden, written in the late 1830s, was lost and was never published. She tried to publish Crow-quill Flights by subscription in the early 1840s, but when the promised money failed to materialise she was forced to apply for additional funding. Many of her manuscripts were lost in a fire, and she was unable to secure copies of poems she had previously sent to her friends; as a result, several of Matilda’s works are now lost. Nevertheless, she maintained a circle of friends into her old age, and a young man of her acquaintance remarked that he ‘would rather talk to Matilda Betham than the most beautiful young woman in the world’.

    Above: Portraits of famous women in Matilda’s A Biographical Dictionary.

    Matilda died in London on 30th September 1852 at the age of seventy-five. Over the course of her life she had published at least nine works, and won acclaim from those in her literary circle. Her poetry and miniature painting earned her some financial independence, but she nevertheless faced hardship throughout her life. After her death she was included in Six Life Stories of Famous Women and Friendly Faces of Three Nationalities, both written by her niece Matilda Betham-Edwards, but today she is little-known. Hopefully, A Woman’s Write can bring inspirational women like Matilda to light and celebrate their remarkable achievements.

    By Emma Nelson.

  2. The Accedence of Armorie: Sixteenth-Century Paint by Numbers

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    The top shelf of the last press in Chetham’s Library, press Z, is home to a copy of Gerard Legh’s Accedence of Armorie (shelfmark Z.1.64). Having accessed the book in this remote location, the enterprising librarian is rewarded with a beautiful book: Legh’s work illustrates the basics of blazon, the symbols and colours depicted on coats of arms. The Library’s copy of the Accedence  (a word defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning ‘fundamentals’ or ‘first principles’) has been carefully coloured in by one of its early readers, whose efforts have turned the title page into a vibrant work of art. It is possible that the artist was Thomas Tyndale, whose signature can be seen on folio 96r. In addition to the woodcuts and hand-colouring, the book also includes a foldout illustration of a particularly elaborate coat of arms, flanked by the mythical figures Hercules and Atlas.

    Signature of Thomas Tyndale, folio 96r.

    The book is a good example of the interaction between printed books and handwritten additions by readers. Manuscript culture did not simply disappear with the advent of printing in Europe in the fifteenth century: rather, manuscript and print coexisted for many years, and many early printed books relied on professionals or readers to ‘finish’ the book, for example by filling in initial letters or colouring in images.

    Foldout illustration of a shield flanked by Hercules and Atlas.

    Legh’s work similarly invites its readers’ cooperation: for example, the book is printed in black and white, but because colour is an important part of a coat of arms, detailed instructions for readers are included, specifying which part of any coat of arms should be depicted in which colour. To achieve this, the book includes small letters in every section of the images, each of which stands for a colour. The letters and corresponding colours are all listed carefully in a table at the back of the book, rather like in a modern ‘paint by numbers’ set. 

    Table of colours.

    The table uses the Anglo-Norman French widely spoken at court in the Middle Ages, when blazon was originally developed. For instance, ‘O’ stands for ‘or’ – the term still used for ‘gold’ in modern French. Similarly, ‘V’ is for ‘vert’ (French for ‘green’) and ‘A’ for ‘argent’, ‘silver’. The reader of the Chetham’s Library copy has carefully followed these instructions, colouring in every coat of arms up until folio 50r.

    Last page with hand-colouring.

    At this point, the reader seems to have lost interest or was unable to complete the project for an unknown reason, and the subsequent coats of arms all remain uncoloured. Nevertheless, the Accedence of Armorie shows how closely some readers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries engaged with their books as they carefully completed the work begun by author and printer to create a coloured copy of the work.

    First page with uncoloured coats of arms.

    While metallic colours like gold and silver have turned very dark due to oxidization, most other shades retain their original vibrancy. The first shield described in detail, for instance, the mythical shield of Perseus, depicting the head of Medusa, includes a bright pink border and a deep blue background. Other images show shields with animals like goats and elephants, all carefully hand-coloured by the reader.

    The shield of Perseus with the head of Medusa, fol. 29r.

    Although the Chetham’s Library copy of the Accedence of Armorie demonstrates such intense focus on the part of one reader, it also bears marks entirely unrelated to the text of the book. On a page containing a kind of index towards the end of the text, a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century reader has written:

    ‘As Fier [‘fire’] cannot fries [‘freeze’], for it is not his kind

    So trew [‘true’] love cannot lose the constancy of the mind’ 

    Manuscript verse at the back of the book.

    Perhaps this was the work of a different owner, or perhaps the diligent colourist became distracted by a love affair and turned to recording romantic verses rather than completing his work on the Accedence of Armorie. Either way, this single book demonstrates two distinct ways in which readers in the past engaged with their books: while one reacted to the text, having closely observed the author’s instructions and the purpose of the book, the other used the book more or less as we would use a notepad, in a way that is not tailored to the text, but rather simply makes use of empty space on a random page. The result is a unique and beautiful copy of Legh’s work, bringing together printed texts and two very different kinds of readers’ marks.

    By Ellen Werner.


  3. An English Renaissance Feminist: Cancelled

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    Above: Portrait by Lady Mary Wroth, by John de Critz 1620.

    Just before International Women’s Day 2023, there emerged from the shelves of Chetham’s Radcliffe collection a rare copy of The Countesse of Montgomeries Urania, published in 1621.

    Beyond the unassuming cover lies the first romance or novel written by an English woman. The very circumstances of its publication are intriguing. John Marriott and John Grismand, publishers, entered Urania into the Stationers’ Register on 13th July 1621, a mere three days after they had been released from the Marshalsea prison, having been fined for promoting an allegedly scurrilous poem by George Withers. Publishing was, then as now, a risky business.

    This volume looks innocent enough, and even dull, but 5 months after it was released its author was writing to the Duke of Buckingham to ask for a warrant to have any sold copies withdrawn; she seems to have been intent on cancelling herself. It is possible she did not intend it for publication since there was an aristocratic stigma against those, especially women, who circulated their work in print. But in her letter requesting its withdrawal she blamed ‘strong constructions that have been made of my book’ that were ‘as far from my meaning as is possible.’ Urania appears to have been a succès de scandale.

    Chetham's Library copy of Urania.

    Chetham’s Library copy of Urania.

    Who was this woman who disregarded convention to the point of endangering her reputation? Mary Sidney was a contemporary of Shakespeare and bright star of the Elizabethan court. She was born in 1587 into a literary and political family which included the poets Sir Philip Sidney (her uncle), Mary Sidney (her aunt) and Robert Sidney, the Earl of Leicester (her father), Sir Walter Raleigh was also a first cousin. Mary herself was not only a scholar but an accomplished musician and dancer. After Queen Elizabeth’s death she became a close associate of Queen Anne, the wife of James I, for and with whom she sang and danced in popular masques.

    This glamorous young girl was married at the age of sixteen by arrangement, as was the custom of the time, to Sir Robert Wroth, well-connected, a sportsman, but allegedly a spendthrift, gambler and drunkard; it was said that he hunted while she danced. She was already eminent enough to have several literary volumes dedicated to her by the time she was in her twenties, the only book worthy of her husband’s patronage was a Treatise On Mad Dogs.

    Within a few months he was complaining to her father of his wife’s demeanour towards him. Ben Jonson, although praising Wroth publicly, wrote that Mary was ‘unworthily married on a jealous husband.’ Although Wroth did refer to Mary in his will as his dear and loving wife, his death from gangrene in 1614, followed by the death of their only son, meant that Mary was deprived of property and heavily in debt.

    Either before or after her husband’s death, Mary began an affair with the married William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, her first cousin and childhood friend with whom she shared a passionate interest in art and literature. This time the liaison was Mary’s own choice, even though Herbert was said to be ‘immodestly given up to women.’

    One of Herbert’s mistresses, Mary Fitton, has been suggested as a model for the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Herbert himself has been claimed by some to be the Fair Youth. All did not end well for Mary Wroth; soon after she left the court as a result of the Urania scandal Herbert appears to have abandoned her, never acknowledging the two children they had together.

    William Herbert was not a self-effacing man. His statue outside the Bodleian Library in Oxford celebrates his generous gifts of manuscripts, books and money.

    Bronze statue of William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1580–1630) in front of the main entrance to the Old Bodleian Library. Photo by Frank Schulenburg.

    By 1621 Mary was well-known and respected for her poetry and for Love’s Victory, a pastoral ‘closet drama’ to be read rather than performed, in which four different couples are paired up, each signifying a different kind of love (flawed, chaste, comic and true). She had already transgressed traditional boundaries by writing in a secular vein, with an emphasis on female agency and desire. Now, in Urania, she produced a complex romance in 400,688 words, ending with a sequence of sonnets and with almost a thousand characters, hundreds of intersecting tales, mostly about love, though also incorporating political themes.

    The central story is of Queen Pamphilia’s love for her cousin, the Emperor Amphilanthus, whose name means ‘lover of two.’ Pamphilia, Greek for ‘all-loving’, takes pride in her constancy to him, even as he repeatedly becomes entangled with other women. Though the references are coded, this is thought to echo Wroth’s own love for Herbert. She used her vivid imagination to fictionalise the world she knew, often adding melodramatic flourishes to real events, and including songs and poems as part of the story.

    When Urania was published, some elements of aristocratic society would have rejected the book as shameful gossip by a woman whose error consisted of writing a book containing her thoughts. She was criticised by some powerful noblemen for depicting their private lives under the guise of fiction and was accused of ‘taking great liberty … to traduce where she please.’

    Edward Denny, Earl of Norwich, who claimed to recognise his family in Urania, accused her of slander in a satiric poem, calling her a ‘Hermaphrodite in show, in deed a monster’, and declaring ‘Thy witt runs madd not caring who it strike.’ She fired back with her own poem, later suppressed, calling him a ‘lying wonder.’ Other men, however, praised her work. Henry Peacham named her ‘an inheritrix of the Divine wit of her immortal Uncle’, while Ben Jonson lauded her in a sonnet, and claimed that by copying her works he not only became a better poet, but a better lover. There is evidence that other aristocratic women writers read and commented on Urania, at the time of its publication and later in the 17th and early 18th century.

    Women of any class in the time of Mary Wroth were expected above all to be silent and obedient, as illustrated in contemporary religious works, legal treaties and literature. Mary was a radical in her time merely for writing a work intended for public consumption, since the act of composing a novel violated the ideal of female virtue. She was a pioneer in freely adapting a traditional romance form to accommodate the experience and perceptions of a Jacobean woman. In mixing fact and fantasy the text draws attention to contemporary issues, such as the hitherto unquestioned ‘traffic’ in women, who were acquired and exchanged as the property of men. Urania is now in the 21st century seen as a valuable text for feminist readings of the early modern age, providing insights into the complex and often contradictory nature of women’s place and role in society.

    Chetham’s library edition of Urania is one of only twenty-nine surviving 17th century copies. It remained out of print until the appearance of a scholarly edition in 1995. Our 1621 copy is unusual in that it does not include the elaborately drawn frontispiece by the engraver Simon van de Passe, which depicts the ‘Throne of Love’, an idealised vision of relations between the sexes.

    There remain some uncertainties about Mary Wroth’s intentions for her book. Although it is named in honour of her friend, Susan Vere, the Countess of the title, none of the seventeenth-century copies includes the usual commendation by friends, or author’s dedication or letters to readers. The end of each of the first two parts of the book are marked with an elaborate printer’s ornament and announcement, but strangely there is no definitive conclusion; at the end of Part 3 Wroth breaks off the happy ending in mid-sentence (all things are prepared for the journey, all now merry and contented and nothing amisse; griefe forsaken, sadness cast off; Pamphilia the Queene of all content; Amphilanthus joying worthily in her; And …) The printer has left the last page blank, perhaps in the hope that he might eventually receive material to complete the volume.

    Chetham’s copy begins with a handwritten inscription: The Countesse of Montgomeries Urania written by the Honourable the Lady Wroath: Daughter to the right noble Robert Earle of Leicester and Neece to the ever famous and renowned Sr Phillip Sidney knight ; and to ye Most Exelent Lady Mary Countess of Pembroke late deceased. Unlike the novel, the sonnets have a definitive ending. Mary Wroth went on to compose a second volume of Urania between 1620 and 1630, running to a mere 240,000 words, half the size of the first part. It survived only in manuscript until its publication in 1999.

    Chetham’s Library copy of Urania.

    This sequel generally follows a second generation of characters descended from those that appear in the first volume, and it occupies a world stage, containing epic encounters between Christianity and Islam. This, together with the first Urania, Love’s Victory and 105 sonnets, comprise the canon which has enjoyed a dramatic increase in interest in the last twenty years and is the subject of international scholarly debate. Mary Wroth lived privately and worried by debt until her death in 1651 or 1653 (documents disagree). How differently might her life have turned out if she had not found it necessary to withdraw from public life after the launch of Urania!

    By Kath Rigby

  4. Lucy Hutchinson and the Civil War

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    Given our recent theme focusing on women in the library, the time seems right to tell, if only in brief, some of the remarkable stories of their lives and achievements. Our first choice lights on the talented and scholarly Lucy Hutchinson (1620-1681). Born on 29 January 1620, Lucy is most noted for her Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, a biography of her husband John Hutchinson, the parliamentarian governor of Nottingham Castle during the English Civil War. Chetham’s Library is fortunate in having one of the early publications of this work, it should however be noted that it was not published until 1806, 125 years after her death, by her descendant Reverend Julius Hutchinson.

    Photograph of engraved portrait of Lucy Hutchinson

    Engraving of the oil painting of Lucy Hutchinson from our copy of Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, 1806.

    Her other achievements include being the first person to translate Lucretius’s first-century BC philosophical work on the nature of existence, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) from Latin; however her work was published only in 1996 after being in the possession of family members, and subsequently in the British Museum, before being rediscovered. The reasoning for her translation of this document has been debated by historians, as parts of its hedonistic and effectively atheistic nature are at odds with Lucy’s staunch puritanism. The fact of Lucretius denying the existence of an immortal soul would have sat very ill with her theology. Lucy herself states that her reason was to better understand and engage with the then widely read classical work, even though she herself denounced it as ‘pagan mud’.

    These sentiments were echoed in her Order and Disorder, a poem very much against Lucretius, and which has been described as ‘a Biblical epic as ambitious as Paradise Lost‘, but which was for some time wrongly credited to her brother. Despite these achievements Lucy has received little attention until the 20th and 21st centuries and is steadily gaining the recognition she deserves.

    Lucy was one of ten children born to Sir John and Lady Lucy Apsley. Her father was Lieutenant of the Tower of London and the family had rooms in the Queen’s House. Lucy notes in her Memoirs that her mother was responsible for giving medical aid to prisoners in the Tower who could not afford a physician. Her mother also funded the chemistry and apothecary pursuits of noted prisoner Sir Walter Ralegh. Ralegh would often make his own medicines from the lieutenant’s herb garden, and Lucy’s mother would study them in order to further her medicinal knowledge. Julius Hutchinson notes this may have contributed to Lucy’s own medical knowledge which would be put to good use in the future.

    Even as a child she stood out intellectually: at four years old she was an avid reader and by seven she had eight academic tutors. Writing in her Memoirs she records ‘my father would have me learne Latine, and I was so apt, that I outstripped my brothers who were at schoole’. It is this intellect that her husband fell in love with when reading the Latin works she had translated. He was studying law with her sister, who was the one to introduce him to Lucy’s work. When they both met, Lucy shared his feelings and they were married on Tuesday July 3, 1638 at St Andrew’s Church. The wedding took place after she had a near fatal attack of smallpox.

    Image of John Hutchinson from our copy of her Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson.

    Their settled married life at Owthorpe, Nottinghamshire, was interrupted by the eruption of the English Civil War in 1642. Lucy and her husband were on the side of the Parliamentarians and were to play a key role once John was appointed Governor of Nottingham Castle 1643-47. It is this period that Lucy’s Memoirs record her husband’s victories on the battlefield. In 1649 John took part in the trial of Charles I and his signature appears on the King’s death warrant. This put him in great danger of being the object of vengeance when the Restoration of 1660 brought the late king’s son, Charles II, to the throne.

    John was arrested in 1663 for alleged involvement in a Monarchist plot and was to die in Sandown Castle in 1664. This was when Lucy would begin writing the Memoir with the object of clearing her husbands name. However, it also reveals her extraordinary input during the Civil War skirmishes that took place in Nottinghamshire, assuming the role of surgeon. She records ‘five of our men hurt … who for want of another surgeon were brought to the governor’s wife .. .were all cured at a convenient time’. She even chose to offer medical aid to enemy prisoners against the wishes of seniors in the Parliamentarian army.

    After her husband’s death she faced financial struggles from his remaining debts and had to sell property at Lowesby in Leicestershire, then Owthorpe itself in 1672 to her husband’s half-brother, Charles Hutchinson. Lucy was still active in these later years, having finished her husband’s Memoirs, she turned her pen to theological debate once more. In 1679 Order and Disorder, or, The World Made and Undone, Being Meditations Upon the Creation and Fall, As It Is Recorded In The Beginning of Genesis was published anonymously.

    A facsimile of Lucy’s handwriting included in ‘Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson’.

    The work opens with an introduction similar to that found in her Lucretius, addressing concern over popular heretical works. This opening dedication of her work paved the way for a more Christian epic poem that analyses the then controversial aspects of the book of Genesis, far removed from her Lucretius translation and adding further reasons to her prior denouncement of that work. It has also become a work that firmly dispels the impression that all literature in the 1660s was royalist in sympathy. She would continue to write poetry throughout the 1660s. She died at Owthorpe in October 1681 and was buried next to her husband.


    Reference list

    Hutchinson, L. (1806). Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson … 1st ed. Fleet Street: Julius Hutchinson.

    Hutchinson, L. (2001). Order and Disorder. Wiley-Blackwell.

    Hutchinson, L., Barbour, R., Norbrook, D. and Titus Lucretius Carus (2012). The Works of Lucy Hutchinson. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

    Norbrook, David, Hutchinson (nee Apsley), Lucy (1620-1681), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,

    Salzman, P. (2006). Reading Early Modern Women’s Writing. OUP Oxford.



  5. Note, Gentle Reader

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    Thomas Gudlawe’s annotations in the Nuremberg Chronicle

    The Chetham’s Library copy of the Liber Chronicarum (“The Book of Chronicles”, more commonly known as the Nuremberg Chronicle and previously featured in our 101 Treasures series here) is among the most extraordinary volumes housed in the Library. The book is an attempt at a comprehensive history of the world from its beginning to the time of the publication of the Chronicle, compiled by Hartmann Schedel from various sources and printed in the Nuremberg workshop of Anton Koberger in 1493. A stunning example of an incunabulum or early printed book, the Chronicle features beautiful woodcuts by Wilhelm Pleydenwurff and by Albrecht Dürer’s teacher Michael Wolgemut. It is possible that Dürer himself also contributed some of the images.
    Although many copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle survive in libraries all over the world, the copy in Chetham’s Library is particularly noteworthy for the many handwritten annotations that cover almost every page of the book, as well as several additional leaves inserted at the front and back. Most of these annotations were created by Thomas Gudlawe, a lawyer from the North West of England, in the sixteenth century. They are not only extremely copious, but also show Gudlawe’s extraordinary strategies of reading.

    Photograph of a a page of manuscript added to the Library's copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle by its owner, Thomas Gudlawe.

    Fig 1: A page inserted at the front of the Chronicle and covered with Gudlawe’s text

    While readers habitually annotated their books in the early modern period, Gudlawe’s annotations differ significantly from those created by most of his contemporaries. They testify not so much to an interested and active reader as to an almost obsessive attempt to fill the blank spaces on the pages of the Chronicle with as much information as physically possible, with annotations on topics ranging from Ethiopia to Merlin and from Cleopatra to the city of Nuremberg itself.
    Gudlawe embarked on his encyclopaedic undertaking by not only amending and expanding the Chronicle’s printed index, but also inserting several glossaries that run throughout the whole book. They are roughly alphabetically structured and contain brief definitions of a large number of headwords. The glossary entries read much like a modern encyclopaedia or Wikipedia entry, for example “Averni, people of the countrye in France called Avergne”. This glossary is not directly related to the contents of the Nuremberg Chronicle, but instead demonstrates Gudlawe’s attempt to gather encyclopaedic knowledge on many different topics within his copy. Entries like the one about the “Averni” or another on the Nile (“a famous greate Ryver runninge thorowe Ethiope and Egypt”) demonstrate the global span of Gudlawe’s interests, reaching from North West England to distant places all around the world.

    Photo of page of Chetham's Library's Nuremberg Chronicle including manuscript notes at the foot describing the river Nile.

    Fig. 2 : Page containing Gudlawe’s glossary entry on “Nylus” (the Nile).

    In addition to his indexes and glossaries, Gudlawe also supplied cross-references and quotations from other sources on relevant pages. His insertions are usually addressed to an imagined “gentle reader” and often add colour and detail to Schedel’s text, such as when Gudlawe informs his readership that Cleopatra was “a ladye of Egypt which excelled in plesantnes & sharpnes of witt”, or that the city Sidon in Phoenicia not only boasted “plenty of fishes” but was also the site where “glasse [was] firste made”. Gudlawe then recorded these insertions in a separate index, which made his additions to the book as easily accessible as the printed text, thus turning Gudlawe himself into an active contributor to his personalised version of the Liber Chronicarum.

    Photo of page of Chetham's Library's copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle with a woodcut of Queen Cleopatra and manuscript commentary about her in the margin.

    Fig. 3 : Gudlawe’s comments on Cleopatra.

    One annotation is particularly noteworthy: on fol. 179r, Gudlawe recounts how, on the second of April 1569, Jesus appeared to him in a vision. This occurred after Gudlawe had been feeling “verie waveringe & weake in faith & tossed to & fro in conscience like the waves of the sea”. Gudlawe was kneeling down to pray in his room, “before the windowe, […] the dore barred”, when “upon a soden the perfecte and most glorious vision of Jesus Christe […] appeared plainlie before” him. Overwhelmed by this sight, Gudlawe’s “senses were shortlie confounded” and he fell into a “sweete and delectable sound” sleep. The vision had gone when Gudlawe woke up, but he retained a strong sense of reassurance and faith: he records that “all my former doubtes were removed” and “I have ever since bene setled & confirmed in a true & perfecte faith”.

    Photo of page of Chetham's Library's copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle with printed text concerning prodigies, and manuscript notes from the owner concerning a personal vision of Jesus

    Fig. 4 : Gudlawe’s account of his vision of Jesus.

    This deeply personal passage allows us not only a glimpse of Gudlawe’s physical surroundings (his bedchamber, the locked door, the window), but also provides a rare insight into the emotional world of a past reader, from his metaphysical doubts, powerfully illustrated by his comparison with the sea, to his wonder and joy at the vision that he saw as a clear and reassuring confirmation of his faith. Despite the almost intimate nature of this annotation, however, Gudlawe did not intend it as a personal record, but as “the manefestinge” of god’s existence, as he states in a note added below his account of his vision – in a way, Gudlawe here treats his own experience as another cross-reference and as source material for the encyclopaedic work into which he was shaping his copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle.
    As if the Nuremberg Chronicle’s attempt to chronicle the history of the world was not ambitious enough in its own right, Thomas Gudlawe’s annotations thus not only allow us to access details of his life and the cultural setting in which he lived but grant us insights into his interests and beliefs. His additions transform the book from a world history into a kind of global encyclopaedia – the world seen through the eyes of a Northern English reader, recorded in an extraordinary book.
    The Chetham’s Library copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle will feature in the Whitworth Art Gallery’s exhibition “Albrecht Dürer’s Material World” (opens 30 June 2023), along with two other volumes from the library’s collection – a unique opportunity to see this stunning work on display! Meanwhile, if you’d like to take a look at how Gudlawe and other readers read their copies of the Chronicle, you can visit the website Early Modern Readers of the Nuremberg Chronicle for a chance to explore early modern readings of this magnificent example of early printing.

  6. William Hogarth talk

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    Public talk on the art of William Hogarth, 8 March 2023

    William Hogarth’s paintings and prints are for many the very image of eighteenth-century England. His ‘Gin Lane’ and the parallel, ‘Beer Street’, are worthy of the over-used adjective ‘iconic’ when it comes to imagining the London of the 1700s. In Chetham’s Baronial Hall on Wednesday 8 March, using images from Chetham’s own extensive collection of Hogarth prints, expert Dr Noelle Duckmann Gallagher  of the University of Manchester will take us through his earliest ‘hit’ series of prints, the Harlot’s Progress. Drawing attention to the many visual references not immediately obvious to the modern eye, and the dark humour that pervades them, she will set them in the context of the often raw, rough and ready life of the capital under the Georges. All proceeds to help support the Library’s work. Book your tickets here!

    Come and follow the adventures of Moll Hackabout!

    Keeping our Hogarth collection busy this March, the Library is also lending prints from its collection to Derby Museum and Art Gallery for their upcoming exhibition on Hogarth’s response to the threat from the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. The exhibition will open on 10 March.

    Our copy of Hogarth’s portrait of Simon Fraser, eleventh Lord Lovat a Jacobite conspirator,  after he was arrested in 1746 Lovat was brought to London for trial. Hogarth arranged to meet him at the White Hart Inn to interview and draw him. On 9 April 1747 he became the last man to be beheaded in England.

    William Hogarth, artist, engraver, satirist

    We hope you’ll be able to attend the talk; but who is our subject? William Hogarth was born on 10 November 1697. His father was a teacher and writer from Westmoreland, whose business ventures failed and led him to be imprisoned for debt. This family disaster led to William’s education being curtailed, and he was sent into an apprenticeship  with a silver engraver, in which he learned many of the skills that would serve him as an engraver of fine arts.  His ultimate ambition was to master oil painting, seen by him and his contemporaries as the highest form of the artist’s profession. By the 1730s he had indeed established himself as an artist, predominantly focusing on portrait groups, known as ‘conversation pieces’, typically full-length oil portraits of groups of people.

    Changing artistic direction in 1731, he created a series of paintings satirising contemporary customs and mores, or what he referred to as ‘modern moral subjects’, the first being ‘The Harlot’s Progress’, followed by ‘The Rake’s Progress’ and ‘Marriage à-la-Mode’. These were pictorial narratives of contemporary life in the eighteenth century with a sharp satirical bent, out of which none of the subjects depicted emerges with much credit. Despite – or perhaps because of – this misanthropic turn, the sets sold well and brought him fame.

    Scan of a detail from Hogarth's 'Rake's Progress' plate 1

    Detail from the first scene in the ‘Rake’s Progress’ : Tom Rakewell, the chief protagonist, inherits his father’s money and is soon surrounded by those keen to help him spend it – on themselves.

    Six spendthrift plates later in the series, however, the end has come :

    In the eighth and final engraving of A Rake’s Progress, anti-hero Tom Rakewell is now in Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam), London’s infamous mental asylum, having been driven mad by his self-inflicted fall into penury. Only Sarah Young, the mother of his illegitimate child is there to comfort him; the well dressed women in the back have come to the asylum for entertainment.

    The success of these series was such that they were immediately copied by others, not just in print but through theatre, china, pamphlets, and even ladies’ fans. His work was so plagiarised that he lobbied for the Copyright Act of 1735 to protect writers and artists, leading the legislation to be nicknamed the ‘Hogarth Act’.

    Hogarth’s themes were not invariably dark or satirical. This detail shows a part of his plate for Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, based on a contemporary production from 1727 by Colley Cibber’s company. Cibber himself played Cardinal Wolsey,  and a Mr Booth played Henry, who is shown here admiring Anne Boleyn.

    Throughout the 1730s and 1740s, Hogarth garnered more fame and his reputation grew. His work reflected his passion for social and moral reform, and this propagandist tone was directed towards London and the city’s problems with crime, prostitution, gambling, and alcoholism. This reforming note is reflected in Industry and Idleness (1747), Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751), and The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751). The Four Stages condemned life in the capital as tending towards a progression from animal cruelty (inspired in part by press reports) as far even as murder, followed by society’s own cruel response of hanging and ultimately sending the body of the executed criminal to the dissecting table.

    Those who live in Gin Lane are shown as destroyed by their addiction to the foreign and corrosive spirit, gin, with shocking scenes of infanticide, starvation, madness, decay, and suicide, while Beer Street contrasts in depicting relative industry, health and thriving commerce.

    Detail of a scan of Hogarth's engraving 'Beer Street'.

    On Beer Street, the people may not be the ideals of 18th-century beauty, but their plumpness and relative good humour, with full tankards and joints of meat, fulfil the promise of the caption in the engraving, which begins : ‘Beer, happy Produce of our Isle …’.


    Detail of a scan of Hogarth's engraving 'Modern Midnight Conversation'

    A less than flattering view of an eighteenth-century night with the boys, ‘A Modern Midnight Conversation’.

    From the start of his career, Hogarth despised the predisposition of the art world patrons and connoisseurs to favour foreign artists. This dislike was illustrated in one of his early major works, Masquerades and Operas, published in 1724.  Here he attacked contemporary taste and questioned the standards of the circle that was supported by the 3rd earl of Burlington, a highly influential art patron and architect, whose London home is named ‘Academy of Arts’ in the print. Having angered such powerful figures at the start of his career he would be obliged to work almost entirely outside the academic art establishment; however, through his success the popular art market and the role of the artist would be revolutionised.

    The satirical print ridiculing the ‘reigning follies’ of fashionable London that so angered the art world of the day. At the centre is a waste-paper carrier, whose barrow is filled with the great names of British literature. Crowds queue for entertainments in ‘Bad Taste’, with Burlington House in Piccadilly named the ‘Academy of Arts’. Italian opera is ridiculed in the figures of the fashionable opera singers Francesca Cuzzoni, Francesco Bernardi (Senesino) and Gaetano Berenstadt, who are shown on a large banner performing Handel’s ‘Flavio’. The devil himself leads those seduced away from Shakespeare and the English greats into the Masquerade.

    Hogarth strove to create works of great beauty, but also to create work that would help to improve his home city of London. His willingness to satirise individuals, erstwhile friends as well as enemies, kept him from peaceful enjoyment of the fame his body of work had gained him; he remained in the good opinion of George III, and thus had friends at court, and had friends such as the theatre impresario David Garrick, but fell out with John Wilkes, Horace Walpole, and others of great influence in quarrels and spats that were unresolved at his death in 1764. His complex, fascinating and often amusing life is beautifully captured in Jacqueline Riding’s Hogarth : life in progress (London : Profile, 2021), which we heartily commend to readers.

  7. The Bonnie Prince at Manchester’s ‘Palace’

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    In November 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) arrived in Manchester with 6,000 troops during manoeuvring of his army as part of the Jacobite rising of 1745. The uprising, still known as the Forty-five, was an attempt by Charles to regain the British throne for his father James Stuart, the son of the previous Stuart, King James II of England and Wales (James VII of Scotland). The rebellion had achieved some success as the Jacobites had won at the Battle at Prestonpans in September, and there were hopes that the failure of the 1715 rising could be overcome at last.

    Charles was welcomed and offered accommodation by Jacobite sympathiser John Dickenson, a wealthy merchant who held the office of Borough Reeve (the most senior municipal officer) in Manchester. He provided the Prince with the use of his town house at 44 Market Street.

    Contemporary portrait of Prince Charles ‘The Bonnie Prince’

    The house was one of Manchester’s more prominent buildings and would act as Charles’s headquarters during his stay for the next three days. As a result of this the house was nicknamed ‘The Palace’. Dickenson would become actively involved in the Jacobite cause, collecting pledges on the levy Charles had placed on Manchester. Here the rebel forces had a large intake of English recruits, which were formed into the Manchester Regiment. The Jacobite Rebellion would fail despite early victories, with the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 ending both the movement and backing for the Stuart cause. Charles escaped to France, and remained in exile until his death in Rome in 1788.

    The Library has some relevant pieces relating to this year in Manchester’s history. For example, one of the only surviving images of ‘The Palace’ is in the town maps and plans created by Russel Casson and John Berry. The maps cover the period of 1741 and 1757, and the Library is fortunate enough to own a few of these maps and plans.

    The house features in this map of the 1740s, indicating the building was already of note. It stood slightly back from the street with a garden, a double flight of stairs, a private chapel within the grounds, and was one of the few purpose brick-built properties. Some of the items Charles came into contact with from Dickenson’s house were saved and removed to his other home, Birch Hall. These included the stone pillars to the house entrance, the bed the Prince slept in, his pistols, and his handkerchief; they also cut up and distributed pieces of his blanket among family and friends.

    The carved shelf, formerly the bed that the Bonnie Prince may have slept in.

    Interestingly another connection the Library has with the Bonnie Prince is the carved bookshelf in the reading room.The shelf has unique origins from the remains of a rare sixteenth-century bed.
    The bed was made for Lancashire gentleman Adam de Hulton, and is thought to have been slept in by Bonnie Prince Charlie on his visit to the Hulton’s residence, the tradition being that a royal visitor would always be given the best bed in the house. At some point in the early nineteenth century it was turned into a sideboard with the addition of part of the top of one of Humphrey Chetham’s chained libraries, apparently one ordered along with others in 1653 but never delivered.  This unique piece of furniture was donated to Chetham’s in 1827 by William Hulton, one of the Library’s governors.



  8. Poetry in the Margins

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    Poetry in the Margins: A Marian Missal Annotated by Lawrence Langley

    We’re delighted to be able to publish a first post here by Ellen Werner, who has joined us to undertake her PhD under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Programme, supervised by Prof Sasha Handley and Dr Fred Schurink of the University of Manchester. Her project title is Early Modern Cultures of Reading in North-West England:

    Chetham’s is home to many books with manuscript annotations, but perhaps few as painstakingly crafted as those left by Lawrence Langley in his copy of Bernardino de’ Busti’s Latin Mariale. Printed in Haguenau in 1513, the work discusses Marian devotion and the question of the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception – an issue hotly debated in the Renaissance. Chetham’s acquired its copy in 1667, after it had already passed through the hands of several previous owners.

    Among them was Lawrence Langley, whose signature appears a number of times throughout the text, with the first signature located at the end of the tabula or table of contents at the beginning of the book. Langley signed his name in a beautiful italic hand and dated his note to 1603. This date indicates that the annotator could be identical with a Lawrence Langleye of Lancaster who matriculated from Brasenose College Oxford in 1588 and was born in around 1570.

    Photo of Laurence Langley's signature and verses on the Blessed Virgin Mary

    Langley’s signature on the last page of the tabula, fol. B5v.

    Langley’s annotations are a fascinating insight into the way this early modern reader absorbed his books. The vast majority of Langley’s notes are in Latin, with the exception of the title page, where he translates the book’s full Latin title into English, and only one other note, similarly translating a passage from the printed text.

    Some of his notes are clearly functional, such as folio numbers added by hand, pointing hands (‘manicules’) indicating important passages, summaries in the margins, additions to the tabula or cross-references to other authorities on the subject. In such annotations, Langley uses a large number of abbreviations to keep his annotations short in the cramped space of the margins and only gives crucial information, such as author and chapter of a text to which he is making a reference.

    In other annotations, Langley brings together the views of several scholars, almost conducting a scholarly debate in the margins and often adding his own viewpoint. Such passages are typically lengthy and indicate Langley’s learning and familiarity with other written works on the subject, as well as an ability to consider a question from different perspectives and to draw his own conclusions based on existing works by other scholars.

    Photo of longer manuscript intervention by Laurence Langley

    Annotation by Langley drawing on other authors, here e.g. St Augustine. Note also the pointing hand added to the printed initial H, fol. 106r.

    There are some notes, however, in which Langley shows us a more personal side, giving his opinion on passages that he considers particularly well expressed. One such annotation, for instance, reads […] prosopopoeia elegans face[t]ia, iucunda, predicanda. LL. (“[…] an elegant, rather fine, pleasant personification worthy of praise. LL.”). That Langley signs this note with his initials, something he never does with his more practical notes, reinforces the personal nature of this annotation: a 17th-century reader is here recording his enjoyment of a passage in the book he is reading.

    Langley’s most unusual notes, however, are eleven Latin epigrams summarising individual passages in the book. These short poems, interspersed throughout the Mariale, display careful, beautiful penmanship, with far fewer abbreviations than Langley’s cross-reference notes. Each epigram consists of one hexameter and one pentameter, conforming to the metrical rules of classical Latin poetry. The epigram, a form of poetry originating from short inscriptions in verse, for instance on funeral steles, in ancient Greece, was later frequently used for satirical poetry, to which it was particularly suited because of its short, pointed nature. It became highly popular during the Elizabethan era as a kind of poetry on which students of Latin practiced their grammar and metrical skills. For people who, like Langley, had received an education in Latin, the composition of epigrams would therefore have been a familiar process.

    Langley’s first epigram in the Mariale can be found above his signature at the end of the tabula. It reads

    Conditor omnipotens caeloq[ue] saloq[ue] soloq[ue]Sanctius hac nullu[m] virgine fecit opus.

    [The creator, almighty in heaven, on sea and on earthMade no holier work than this virgin.]

    Not only does Langley adhere perfectly to the rules of Latin scansion, but he also signs the poem with the words Laurentij Langley distichon (“a distich by Laurence Langley”), demonstrating that his choice of the two-line (‘distich’) form was a conscious one. The other epigrams are generally signed with a similar awareness of himself as an author. On fol. 186r, for instance, Langley inserts an epigram about St Elisabeth and signs it L. Langley scripsit. (“L. Langley wrote this.”). On 291r, he marks an epigram on the Ascension of the virgin Mary with the words L. Langley collocavit. (“L. Langley put this down.”). Langley’s signatures and the vocabulary of writing he employs here designate him as an active co-creator of this copy of the Mariale: what de’ Busti writes, Langley expands on, adding poetry to a work of theology and demonstrating a sense of both literary and visual artistry, his calligraphy and metres equally finely crafted.

    Photo of manuscript epigram by Langley on the Ascension

    Epigram by Langley on the Ascension, fol. 291r.

    Three other books with annotations by Langley are known to exist, two in the John Ryland’s Library (take a look at one of them here) and one in Trinity College Cambridge. It is likely, however, that there are more in other libraries – if you have ever come across Lawrence Langley and his beautiful annotations, let us know!

  9. The Blavatnik Honresfield Library

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    We recently received a donation of books and archival material from the Blavatnik Honresfield Library through the kindness of the Friends of the National Libraries. The FNL successfully raised £15 million in only five months to purchase the collection for the nation to ensure such treasures remain accessible to the public.

    Donations from the Honresfield collection to libraries and museums around the UK include manuscripts in the hands of Jane Austen, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott, and a significant collection of printed books.

    The Honresfield Library was created by Victorian mill owners Alfred and William Law at the turn of the 20th century and has been kept within the Law family. Chetham’s Library is grateful to have received a share including a selection of Manchester born novelist William Harrison Ainsworth’s works, English Civil War ephemera, and 1840s children’s annuals.

    The Library has a substantial collection of books by Ainsworth. Born in 1805 in King Street, after an unsuccessful career as a lawyer and then a publisher he specialised in journalism and literature. His works would focus on historical fiction and culminated in 39 novels featuring figures such as Dick Turpin, Charles II, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. 

    Ainsworth has a link to the Library in the form of his lifelong friendship with James Crossley in 1817. Crossley was the founder of the Chetham Society and was Honorary Librarian at Chetham’s from 1877 until he died in 1883. We are therefore very grateful to have been selected as custodians of these printed materials. We received the following titles from the FNL: Rookwood, The Royal Oak, The Miser’s Daughter, Mervyn Clitheroe, and Old Saint Paul’s. These volumes in particular are unique as they are presented by the author to members of his family and friends, so are known to librarians and the book trade as presentation copies. The Library has Ainsworth’s portrait in oils, now rather foreshortened by damage due to war-time fire-bombing.

    Portrait of Ainsworth from Chetham’s collection.

    The English Civil War ephemera comprise three contemporary pamphlets and tracts that offered updates of the war in and around Lancashire for the years 1642-1643. These feature events such as the ‘taking of Houghton Tower by the Parliaments forces’ and how ‘the Earl of Darbies forces made an on-set of the towne of Boulton’ – the notorious ‘Bolton massacre’. 

    The future sixth Earl of Derby, then Lord Strange, threatened as he attended a dinner

    These civil war tracts are relevant to the Library’s collection for two reasons: during the 1640s our building had been owned since 1547 by the Stanleys, the Earls of Derby; the site was subsequently used as a garrison by the opposing parliamentary forces. However, as the Stanley family fought on the losing side of the Civil War their lands were confiscated after the Parliamentarians defeated the Royalists. The building was left to gradually fall into a state of disrepair until its purchase from the Parliamentary Commissioners for Humphrey Chetham’s Hospital and Library in 1653. 

    Title page from Peter Parley’s Annual.

    The two volumes of Peter Parley’s Annual date from 1844 and 1848 and feature some beautiful illustrations. This annual was aimed at older children or adolescents in the Victorian period, and joins our collection of 19th-century material. ‘Peter Parley’ was one of a bewildering number of pseudonyms used by George Mogridge (1787-1854), a former ‘Japanning’ (black lacquering) craftsman who turned to writing anything from religious tracts to children’s stories. Known more often as ‘Old Humphrey’, he also published as Paul Preston, Carlton Bruce, Uncle Adam, Viele Humphrey, O.O.O, Old Officer, The Author of My Grandfather Gregory, and more than a dozen other ‘Author of …’ noms -de-plume.

    Scanned engraved portrait of George Mogridge

    George Mogridge, alias Old Humphrey, alias Peter Parley, alias …                           




  10. Who’s got the better Flea?


    Out for photography this week was the Micrographia Nova of Johann Franz Griendel von Ach (1631-1687), a small quarto response to the ground-breaking Micrographia by Robert Hooke (1635-1703), one of our favourite illustrated scientific works. Hooke’s work was published in London in English in 1665, Griendel’s in Nuremberg, in Latin, and in the year of his death, 1687. We were thinking of a longer blog about Griendel’s work, but discovered  an excellent one by Dr William Ashworth already online at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri. Griendel combined the lenses in his microscope – and microscopes in general were an emerging technology – differently from Hooke and others, and claimed a major advance in magnification.

    Griendel's microscope from Micrographia Nova, 1687

    Griendel’s microscope from Micrographia Nova, 1687

    Hooke, who unlike Griendel lived long enough to see the appreciation of his work develop over years, may not have been impressed with Griendel’s claims of improvement in magnification; but who got the better flea? A function of the skills of drawer and engraver rather than of the power of the instrument, of course; but who wins? First comes Hooke’s:

    Engraving of a flea from Robert Hooke's Micrographia of 1665

    Engraving of a flea from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia of 1665

    And next Griendel’s:

    Engraving of a flea from Griendel's Micrographia Nova of 1687

    Engraving of a flea from Griendel’s Micrographia Nova of 1687

    Hooke’s work was published folio, giving his engraver an edge simply in terms of paper size in comparison with Griendel’s small quarto format; but we’re going to give Hooke’s image an easy lead over the later competitor in terms of detail, shading, and general sharpness. Competition out of the way, and given quoting chunks of Griendel’s Latin might be a bit chewy (you can read it online here if you’d like), we might finish with a little of Hooke’s very engaging English prose, describing his approach to studying refraction, and why colours occur in the heavens:

    Hooke's refraction experiments described in an engraving

    Hooke’s refraction experiments described

    “First, The redness of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, will be found to be caused by the inflection of the rays within the Atmosphere. That it is not really in or near the luminous bodies, will, I suppose, be very easily granted, seeing that this redness is observable in several places differing in Longitude, to be at the same time different, the setting and rising of the Sun of all parts being for the most part red: And secondly, That it is not merely the colour of the Air interpos’d, will, I suppose, without much more difficulty be yielded, seeing that we may observe a very great interstitium of Air betwixt the Object and the Eye, makes it appear of a dead blew, far enough differing from a red, or yellow. But thirdly, That it proceeds from the refraction, or inflection, of the rays by the Atmosphere, this following experiment will, I suppose, sufficiently manifest. Take a spherical Crystalline Viol, such as is described in the fifth figure ABCD …”

    Please send us any spare crystalline viols that you may have lying around the place …