EEBO treasures

NB: the following news will be of interest only to fellow bibliophile bookish nerds.

While searching for something on EEBO (Early English Books Online – the drug of choice for historians, medievalists, and similar personality types), I stumbled upon this:

Title page for “The Epistles and Gospelles…” (c. 1540) by Richard Taverner

Note the handwriting across the top:

Tho: Hervey

(plus a fancy flourish in the style of JRR Tolkien, which is twice reproduced in the center white space)

Note the handwriting across the bottom:

Tho: & Isabella Hervey

Thomas & Isabella Hervey had an extensive library that has been written about in various places. They lived in the 17th Century, at which point this book was already over 100 years old. Bless you, Herveys, for affirming the joy of book collecting so long ago.

Just a few pages in, I found this:

folio 7v. / 8r.

Note the stern warning on the left side (folio 7 verso) about reprinting books within seven years of the original printing “upon pain of forfeiting the same.”

For those who enjoy decoding,
“u” is often “v”
accented vowels (i.e. ū and ā) indicate a missing “n” (so: Fraūce=France)
“ſ” is a long ess, so ſhal=shal(l), ſpace=space, &c.
“y” is often our “i”

But especially note the handwritten blurb at the bottom:

1540:
In H- :30: year of Henrie the 8th.

Note that “the” looks suspicially like a “y” plus a superscript e. From this do we get such nonsense as “Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe” which is a naive misreading of what in fact is the letter thorn (sound = th, orthography resembles a “y”). It should in fact be “The Olde Coffee Shoppe” because, well, a coffee shop is a thing that deserves a definite article, it is not a person that we address as “You Old Coffee Shop.”

Here’s the real point: almost 500 years ago, someone picked up a quill pen, dipped it into handmade ink (recipes for which I have, indeed, found on EEBO), and wrote the words and numbers you are looking at now.

If that’s not worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

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