Tag Archives: print culture

Pepys’ Book Presses – 350th Anniversary year

Follow the link below for a really interesting post on Samuel Pepys’ book presses, the first of their kind! I worked at the Pepys Library for almost a year and never got tired of looking at those lovely pieces of practical furniture (the books inside were pretty good too). I heartily recommend a visit to anyone, it’s a wonderful, wonderful place (and FREE!!!):

Source: 350th Anniversary year


A little post on e-books vs books

I’m not going to tackle the rather daunting debate on book vs e-books in any detail here, but I thought I’d just share a couple of recent posts I’ve seen that set out some stats on the issue quite nicely. This infographic presents a nicely balanced view on the merits of both. I particularly like what it says in regard to children’s books, if there is a point where I myself would put my foot down on the use of e-books it would be there. I’m sure picture books are available in e-book form, but there is nothing in this wide world to compare with cuddling up and reading a physical book with my son.

via the CILIP Multimedia Information Technology Group Blog

And from a nearby academic library, a couple of informative posts on their own internal survey of student opinion on e-book usage. It presents more evidence of a balanced view of e-book usage amongst those who use books (of both kinds) intensively. Though in the context of this academic library, it is clear that print is still winning out:

Education Faculty Library, Cambridge

Education Faculty Library, Cambridge


Photo by grandgrrl @ Flickr

Photo by grandgrrl @ Flickr


It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad designe – Part I

A Mad Designe

A Mad Designe or, A Defciption of the King of Scots marching in his difguife, after the Rout at Worcefter, With the Particulers where He was, and what He and his Company did, every day and night after He fled from WORCESTER.

Here we find ourselves back with the printer/publisher Robert Ibbitson and another pamphlet that he produced  in the aftermath of the battle of Worcester in 1651. The hand written note at the bottom right of the pamphlet tells us that the the pamphlet was bought (by Thomason) two months after the battle itself on November 6th.


Having read the royalist account of Charles’ escape back to France, with all its derring do, I’ve been looking out for the contemporary Commonwealth accounts, and this pamphlet is such an example. As with the pamphlet I showed last week (A list of the Scots Kings Party Slaine), this is a piece designed to mock and undermine the so-called ‘King of Scots’, though in this case it is written close to the events it professes to recount. The later Royalist accounts of the escape (which I will cover in a future post), in particular the Boscobel Oak story,  are firmly enshrined in the national cultural consciousness, thanks partly to the later revival of interest in the Stuarts in the 19th Century. However, what ‘A Mad Designe’ shows is that the King’s escape was clearly of immediate interest to the country at large and it seems that Ibbitson cannily tapped into the commercial potential of producing the ‘official’ version of events. That they had failed to capture the king was undeniable and no doubt a cause of immense frustration (see the massive reward here) so it is unsurprising that this tract was licensed given its aim to ridicule.

The tract itself consists of central woodcut with accompanying text. Elements of the image are numbered and the text provides a commentary on each of these, and by doing so tells the story of  how the King of Scots skulked his way out of the country. The woodcut itself raises a couple of questions:


Close up of the woodcut

EEBO: Wing (2nd ed.) / M236. Thomason / 669.f.16 (32).

The image seems to show a parade or pilgrimage of people and unearthly figures making their way to  a globe depicting Rome (in the very far left), on top of the globe sits King Charles. Nick Poyntz (www.mercuriuspoliticus.wordpress.com) points out, in his comments on my King Death post, that it is uncertain whether the woodcuts used in pamphlets like this were actually created for this purpose or if they were reused from something else. It could be that the pamphlets themselves were a way to recoup as much money as possible from what was an expensive object. I would say that my suspicions about this image would back that up. I’ll look further at the text in part 2, but the first instinct is that image in itself does not really fit the subject matter and that the points that the author is trying to get across are rather inelegantly twisted to fit around the elements of the image, somewhat akin to an old episode of the Magic Roundabout*.

It also looks like a stock image has been used and made to fit the desired content of the pamphlet, a kind of early modern photoshopping. I haven’t been able to trace this image elsewhere to prove this but I suspect that the numbering and the image of Charles’ head on the far left are out of sync with the rest of the picture and that possibly it was a larger image (carrying on further to the left). My guess is that this is an anti-catholic woodcut from elsewhere (perhaps specifically mocking pilgrimages?) that has been altered and reused in this context. Given the haste in which this must have been produced to catch the potential zeitgeist this would not be surprising. Without even looking at the text the catholic imagery in the woodcut in itself is making a clear statement about Charles’ loyalties and the threat that he brought to the country.

More on the text in Part 2

*though as I understand it the Magic Roundabout contained less Republican propaganda and was largely ambivalent on the issue of a catholic succession. But contained more drugs.

King Death

A List of the Scots Kings Party Slaine and taken Prisoner

A List of the Scots Kings Party Slaine and taken Prisoner

Stumbling around EEBO looking for some more of the parliamentarian take on Charles II after the battle of Worcester, I came across this anti-Stuart broadside, printed by Robert Ibbitson after the battle. It’s a fascinating little title and crams in a goodly amount of Republican ire into one pamphlet.

The central image conflates death with monarchy.


King Death

The caption reads:

Whilst on this figure,

Thou shalt fix thine eye,

Learne theise two lessons,

Howe to Live to Dye.

Death’s proclamation is a message against the presumptions of monarchs to rule, when in fact only Death (the great leveler) rules over men in the end. The threat is clear, the defeat at Worcester demonstrates that Charles, the newly crowned King of Scotland, will meet the fate of all other Kings who try to usurp death by taking the throne.

This broadside draws on striking apocalyptic imagery that would have been familiar to people in the mid-Seventeenth century. The point is forced home by use of a rather tenuous arithmetical model, identifying Charles II with the numbers 666 and therefore as ‘the beast’ from the Book of Revelation (thereby adding Charles to the list of other ‘things carrying the mark of the beast’ alongside the Pope, Kaiser Wilhelm and oddly enough barcodes).

Another notable thing is the emphasis on Charles as the King of Scots, a point drawn on in other contemporary writings. Most studies of the battle of Worcester point out that Charles’ failure to recruit significant English fighters enabled the government to portray it as a foreign invasion and further weakened Charles’ attempts to gain popular support.

It is milked here for all its worth in the long list of Scots Kings that died violently:

List of Scots kings

The list itself makes for morbid reading, here are the top Scottish King deaths:

King Alexander the Third – Killed with a fall from his horse

King Donald the Seventh – Cast into prison with his eyes put out

King Donald the Fifth – Killed himself

King Fergus – Poisoned by his wife

King Maldxin (?) – Murdered and cast into a privy

King Ferquerd (?) – Killed by a wolf

and surely the worst:

King Kenneth – Murdered by a Scottish woman

Clearly, the victory over the would be King of England itself was not enough of a deterrent and the brush with monarchy, no matter how perfunctory, had opened wounds. Pamphlets such as this demonstrate that the government felt a need to drive the Republican message home in the strongest terms possible. While the King was at large he was a threat.

Book-lover’s worst nightmare!

Oh dear, I thought there was a musty smell around the Chateaux Administrator on our return from holiday…



Cue frantic checking of books…

My babies... (even you Mr Christmas Art Ideas)

My babies... (even you Mr Christmas Art Ideas)

Which were mostly ok, though a little spotted in places. Lots of bleach based anti-mould cleaner later and its all back to normal. Damn damp. I’ll have to check that bookcase more often in future.