Rare Book of the Month: February 2019

The February 2019 rare book of the month is Marie de Romieu’s Les devis amoureux de Mariende et Florimonde, mere & fille d’Allience, printed in Paris in 1607.

This is truly a rare book in the sense that not many copies of it have been recorded in other libraries. Both the Heritage of the Printed Book database and the Universal Short Title Catalogue list one other copy, at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Marie de Romieu was a poet and translator, born circa 1545 and died circa 1590. Biographical details of her life are scarce, but we know that she lived in eastern France, in the Vivarais region, had an older brother named Jacques, and most likely had a son. Marian Rothstein writes that her poetry was influenced by Pierre de Ronsard and Philippe Desportes, as well as Hesiod, Ovid and Virgil.

Title page rsz
Title page

Unlike other women authors of this period, de Romieu’s had much of her poetry printed, rather than circulated only in manuscript form. It was common during this time for women to circulate their writings in manuscript amongst their friends and social circle. During her lifetime, two works were printed, with a further four printed posthumously, including this volume. Those printed during her lifetime were: Instruction pour les jeunes dames (1572) and Les premières oeuvres poetiques (1581). Those printed posthumously were: Instruction pour les jeunes dames (1597); Les devis amoureux (1607); La messagère d’amour (1616); Discours de l’excellence de la femme (1618). All of these volumes are exceedingly rare and in many instances only one or two copies are recorded. It is therefore possible that other books were printed in the late 16th/early 17th century but that they simply have not survived or been attributed to de Romieu.

According to Marian Rothstein, Romieu’s most interesting works “are quasi translations of poems by Italian male authors. In keeping with the standards of her time, she translates them freely, incorporating modifications to suit her own sex, time, place, and station (which was presumably that of her audience). Romieu wrote mainly, though by no means exclusively, for women.” This book consists of a series of dialogues between Mariende (mere) and Florimonde (fille). According to Brunet, this edition is in fact the same work as the Instruction pour les jeunes dames, which itself was a translation of Dialogo della bella creanza, by Alessandro Piccolomini. This has been reiterated in a recent publication, La Raphaëlle, edited by Mireille Blanc-Sanchez.

The book was printed by Jean Corrozet, who was part of a longstanding printing family. His father (Galliot Corrozet) and grandfather (Gilles Corrozet) were both well-known printers in Paris. Galliot and Jean Corrozet used the same printer’s device.

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Faint pencil markings in the margins of the text

This copy contains numerous faint pencil marks in the margins but no indication of previous ownership, although it was part of the Robert Ashley bequest of 1641.

Renae Satterley


February 2019


Rare Book of the Month: January 2019

The first rare book of the month for 2019 is a book which features in the current library exhibition, Women in the Law. It is John Aylmer’s An harborovve for faithfull and trevve subiectes, agaynst the late blowne Blaste, printed in 1559.

Elizabeth I, Queen of England
Queen Elizabeth I

Aylmer was Bishop of London but had to flee to Strasbourg in 1554, having been “implicated in Wyatt’s rebellion in January 1554”. He then moved to Zurich in 1557. While there he wrote this treatise, in response to John Knox’s The First blast against the monstrous regiment of women. Knox’s book famously argues that women are not, and should not be, rulers; if a woman finds herself in the position of ruler, Knox argues that she should be deposed. While Aylmer’s book “attempts to repair the damage inflicted” by Knox’s work, it is not exactly a glowing recommendation for women rulers. At various points he describes women as weak, feeble and unskilled. Instead, he argues that it is Elizabeth I’s personal qualities which commend her as a monarch.

Aylmer additionally demanded an “end to episcopal lordliness and the equitable distribution of ecclesiastical revenues on behalf of educational projects”. While Elizabeth I declined to respond to this request, she nonetheless allowed Aylmer to return from exile in 1559. By 1560 he had been restored as a deacon and in 1562 was elevated to Archdeacon of Lincoln. He became Bishop of London in 1577.

The title page states that the book was printed ‘At Strasborowe’ (i.e. Strasbourg), but this is a false imprint and it was in fact printed in London by John Day. Day was a reasonably prolific printer of illicit Protestant material during the 1550s and was arrested for this in 1554. He is probably best known for printing John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Like Aylmer, Foxe had been in exile during the reign of Mary I, also returning in 1559 upon Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne. Foxe had correspondence with Aylmer in 1557 regarding Lady Jane Grey, while researching and seeking out accounts for his book.

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Title page of John Aylmer’s An harborovve for faithfull and trevve subiectes, agaynst the late blowne Blaste

Aylmer’s book has a contemporary signature on the title page, which is now obscured by damage. The name ‘Emanuel’ is still visible however (see close-up below). The book appears in the 1700 catalogue (https://www.middletemple.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Bibliotheca_Medii_Templi-13M.pdf), but with the wrong printing date of 1587. Neither the publication date nor author is included on the title page, which explains their absence from the printed catalogue entry. The 18th century cataloguers probably were not aware of the author and publication date.

title page close-up

This book is in need of restoration. If you would like to sponsor its repair at a cost of £400, contact the Librarian: r.satterley@middletemple.org.uk.

Renae Satterley


January 2019

Rare Book of the Month: December 2018

The final rare book of the month for 2018 is a manuscript: MS 100, Case reports 26 to 32 Elizabeth I, written by an anonymous scribe possibly around 1592. The manuscript is undated and includes Elizabethan case law from circa 1584 to 1590 as well as transcriptions of moots performed at Middle Temple. According to Sir John Baker some of the cases are “attributed to named members of Middle Temple” and may stem from existing reported cases. The manuscript also describes a reading by Matthew Cracherode (admitted 3 November 1560) which according to Sir John is the “only known reading on the statute of 4 & 5 Phil. & Mar. c. 8 on the abduction of heiresses”. This is the statute entitled An Act for the Punishment of such as shall take away Maydens that be Inheritors, being within the Age of sixteen Years, or that marry them without Consent of their Parents (short title: Abduction Act 1557).

Second opening

The manuscript is inscribed ‘R. Bromley of the Middle Temple’ on the first leaf. There is a ‘Robert Bromley, eldest son of John Bromley of Wiggan, Lancashire’ listed in the Register of Admissions as being admitted to the Inn on 12 November 1755. According to the Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Robert was rector of St. Mildred Poultry, London from 1775-1806, then of St. Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange until his death in 1806.

The manuscript is written in a fairly rough secretary hand predominately in Law French. It was rebound (poorly) during the 19th century, as were many of the library’s rare books and manuscripts. This was presumably done when the ‘new’ library was built in 1861, in order to have uniformity amongst the bindings.

The manuscript has been damaged by water at some point and improperly dried out, resulting in mould damage to the end-papers and tide lines in the text block. The original binding was most likely a clasped one, which has resulted in a deformed textblock. The use of clasped bindings was common for manuscript compilations such as this one, and the library still has some 18th century manuscript law reports in clasped bindings. The textblock has been trimmed, resulting in the loss of the headers. As seen here, however some of the headers have not been trimmed, and consist of the term dates (e.g. 26 Elizabeth), meaning that the manuscript was most likely ordered by date, not topic heading. The date ‘1583’ is also visible.

Opening of the text

The manuscript serves as an example of an Elizabethan lawyer’s commonplace book or miscellany, containing a mix of moots, readings and case reports. The creation and use of commonplace books was fairly typical of the time, as law students and lawyers routinely compiled this type of material as learning exercises. Sir John notes that the manuscript be of interest to scholars as it could show how cases were being discussed at the Inns in the 16th century. Frederick Pollock once noted that manuscript notes of cases: “were freely handed about among barristers and students, as lecture-notes are to this day in the universities”.

While there were volumes of printed law reports readily available during this time period, lawyers continued to compile manuscript case law until at least the late 18th century. It is very possible that the scribe who compiled this volume either copied these cases out from another manuscript or printed book, wrote notes down while in court, or rewrote rough notes taken down in court; that level of analysis is beyond the scope of a blog post, unfortunately.

Mould damage
Mould damage

Due to previous damage, the manuscript is now in a highly fragile state. A report from The Sussex Conservation Consortium Ltd. has shown that dirt has become heavily ingrained in places. Mechanical damage to the paper in addition to the dirt is causing loss of the text, which in some places is substantial. This report has shown that, without intervention and repair, there will be continued deterioration and loss. Middle Temple Library is crowd-funding for the repair of this important work, which will cost £1,090 to repair. If you would like to donate to this cause, please contact the Librarian at: r.satterley@middletemple.org.uk ; 020 7427 4830.

Renae Satterley


December 2018

Rare Book of the Month: November 2018

The November 2018 rare book of the month is Origines juridiciales written by William Dugdale. Middle Temple Library holds three editions of this book which was printed in London in 1666, 1671 and 1680. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004; vol. 17, p. 156), the first edition of the Origines juridiciales ‘reached the booksellers when most of the stock was destroyed by the great fire’.

The book provides information about the history of English law, lawyers and legal institutions including the Inns of Court. The extent of the coverage is well reflected in the full title – Origines juridiciales; or, Historical memorials of the English laws, courts of justice, forms of tryal, punishment in cases criminal, law-writers, law-books, grants and settlements of estates, degree of serjeant, Inns of court and chancery. Also a chronologie of the lord chancellors and keepers of the great seal, lord treasurers, justices itinerant, justices of the Kings Bench and Common Pleas, barons of the Exchequer, masters of the rolls, Kings attorneys and sollicitors, and serjeants at law.

It also contains probably the first published rules on English judges’ dress. According to these rules, judges in Court of Westminster had to wear either black or velvet gowns together with mantle, hood, white Serjeant’s coif, black skullcap and cornered cap. Depending on the time of year, the ‘facing’ for the gowns would alternate between taffeta in summer and miniver in winter. Furthermore, the rules provided for other eventualities. For instance, when ‘riding’ the Circuits, judges were to wear ‘a Serjeants’ Coat of good Broad-Cloth with sleeves, and faced with Velvet’, and be accompanied by a driver and six other men.


All thee editions of the Origines juridiciales contain various illustrations, including coats of arms and plates. Some of the plates were signed by well-known engravers of the time, such as the English engraver William Faithorne (c. 1620–1691) or the Bohemian etcher Wenceslaus (Václav) Hollar (1607–1677). Hollar cooperated closely with Dugdale for many years and his illustrations are included in other books by Dugdale. Thanks to Hollar’s plates, we know how many castles and churches looked at the time. A collection of Hollar’s images can be found online in The Wenceslaus Hollar Collection via the University of Toronto Libraries.


Some interesting inscriptions can be found in the third edition of the Origines juridiciales. For example, notes regarding the sale prices of this work, or contemporary marginalia commenting on various pieces information in the book. These marginalia were probably inscribed by a previous owner – Sir James Burrow (1701–1782), a law reporter and Master of the Crown Office.


The author of the book – Sir William Dugdale (1605–1686) – was a herald as well as a collector and organiser of antiquarian material. He gained access to records in the exchequer and the Tower of London, visited cathedrals and major churches in London, the midlands, and the north. There, together with a draughtsman, Dugdale recorded the monuments, inscriptions and coats of arms, just before some of them were destroyed in the English Civil War. Apart from Origines juridiciales, he was the author of other significant books, including Monasticon AnglicanumAntiquities of Warwickshire and History of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London which are all part of the Middle Temple Library Rare Book collection.

The third edition of the Origines juridiciales is available freely online via Google books.


Oxford dictionary of national biography (OUP 2004)

Gillian Tindall, The man who drew London. Wenceslaus Hollar in Reality and Imagination (Chatto & Windus 2002)

Rare Book of the Month: October 2018

The October 2018 rare book of the month is a volume of seventeen almanacs, all dated 1628, and all with roughly the same title: A new almanack and prognostication, for the yeere of our Lord God, 1628. All were printed in London by the Company of Stationers.

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In addition to having similar titles, each almanac has a title page printed in red and black, and the first pages, usually the calendar, also printed in red and black. Each has a separate, dated title page for the ‘Prognostition’ section of the work.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance, almanacs are books “containing a calendar, a list of ecclesiastical festivals and saints’ days, and a list of astronomical phenomena, sometimes with astrological predictions of the weather and political events. … The earliest almanac to be printed in England (a translation from a French original) was The Calendar of Shepherds (c.1497)”. Adam Smyth writes that they were “sold in the last months of each year and provided information about the year to come”.[1] The books were inexpensive, and small, generally issued in the octavo format- in other words a pocket-size book. They also contained tables of regnal years- a very useful tool for lawyers.

In addition to being used as a diary and weather reports, almanacs issued during the early modern period were often used as notebooks, due to the large amount of blank space they contained. Bill Sherman writes that almanacs, due to their blank spaces, “were used to record not just comments on the text but penmanship exercises, prayers, recipes, popular poetry, drafts of letters, mathematical calculations, shopping lists”[2] etc. None of the almanacs in this volume have been used in this manner, unfortunately. However, another set of almanacs dating from 1622 to 1636, has notes in Robert Ashley’s hand, including reminders about a book he lent, and a comment about men including John Selden imprisoned in the Tower of London and Marshalsea in 1629.

Calendar entry rsz

Almanacs were often known by their compiler’s name, and each almanac in this volume was created by a different compiler: Richard Allestree, Daniel Browne, Joseph Chamberlaine, William Dade, Abraham Grammar, William Hewlett, John Neve, George Osborne, Samuel Perkins, Philip Ranger, William Rivers, John Rudston, Arthur Sofford, John Vaux, John White and John Woodhouse.

The best known of these authors is Richard Allestree, who was uncle to the Richard Allestree known as a ‘royalist divine’. Allestree the compiler was an almanac maker and mathematician who published almanacs from 1617 and 1643, the year of his death. Although he was originally a believer in astrology, after twenty years of practising it, he “came to believe … that it was essentially fraudulent. His almanacs reflect this view and have a pious, even puritan flavour” (Dictionary of National Biography).

Publishing an almanac was a profitable affair- they sold widely and were hugely popular in England. According to Thomas Nashe selling almanacs was “readier money than ale and cakes”. Yet almanacs were transient, ephemeral objects, and not many of them remain, despite their large print runs. Smyth points out that once their usefulness has passed, they were used to line “pie dishes, for lighting tobacco, [and] as toilet paper”. Middle Temple Library is lucky therefore to have twenty-six surviving English almanacs.

[1] Smyth, Adam, ‘Almanacs, annotators, and life-writing in early modern England, English Literary Renaissance’, Studies in English manuscripts Vol. 38, No. 2 (Spring 2008), pp. 200-244

[2] Sherman, William H., Used Books, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008


Rare Book of the Month: September 2018

The September 2018 rare book of the month is Claude-Barthélemy Morisot’s Orbis maritime, sive rerum in mari et littoribus gestarum generalis historia, printed in Dijon in 1643 by Pierre Palliot.

The book deals with naval history, navigation and geography and is notable for containing descriptions of the Americas, and a map of North America. This map, of course, appears very strange to modern eyes, due to its inaccuracy. Joseph Sabin, in his A dictionary of books relating to America describes the work as a “kind of encyclopaedia of everything relating to maritime affairs”. This includes the navigation ventures of the Dutch, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese explorers to the Americas and Africa. John Evelyn mentions Morisot’s book in letters to Samuel Pepys and Sidney Godolphin.America map

Morisot was born in Dijon in 1592 and studied law in Toulouse, but did not practice as a lawyer to any great extent. He wrote a number of works, many of which were printed in Dijon. One of these was a ‘roman a clef’, Peruviana, printed in 1645. It depicted current events surrounding Cardinal Richelieu, Marie de’Medici and Gaston d’Orleans, and used Peruvian names for the main characters and was set in a fictionalised Peru. Part one of the book can be read here: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=smBEAAAAcAAJ&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q&f=false.

The Orbis maritime is generously illustrated with engravings; these illustrations were copied from those originally made by Theodor De Bry, the well-known Flemish-German engraver. Morisot particularly copied De Bry’s illustrations of ships from parts II and XI of the India Orientalis volumes. Morisot acknowledges De Bry by pointing readers to his translations in the margins of the text (see M. van Groesen: https://pure.uva.nl/ws/files/3960216/47113_Groesen_compleet.pdf). It is worth noting that the text of part II of De Bry’s India Orientalis was written by René de Laudonnière, based on his book, L’histoire notable de la Floride, printed in Frankfurt in 1591. The Library has an earlier edition of this work, printed in Paris in 1586.

One of the illustrations shown here depicts ‘canoes’ as used by the inhabitants of ‘Guinea’ in the ‘Aethiopian Ocean’ (i.e. the South Atlantic Ocean). It is possible that Morisot is referring to what is now known as the Gulf of Guinea.


Middle Temple’s copy of the book has a slightly unusual feature: there appears to be the remnants of an added page of text. This is found in our copy’s prefatory material. These preliminary pages are like those in comparable copies, but no other copies record this cut-off page. It’s a bibliographic mystery!

Extra page

A digital copy of the book can be viewed here: http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/de/fs1/object/display/bsb10633548_00005.html.

Renae Satterley


Rare Book of the Month: August 2018

Cosmotheoria, libros duos complexa, Jean Fernel

The August 2018 rare book of the month is Jean Fernel’s Cosmotheoria, libros duos complexa, printed in Paris in 1528. This book is interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it is a very early work on celestial mechanics and astronomy. The Middle Temple Library copy of Cosmotheoria is bound with two of Fernel’s other works:  Monalosphaerium (1526) and De proportionibus libri duo (1528).

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Cosmotheoria, libros duos complexa, Jean Fernel, title page

Jean Fernel was born in 1497 in Montdidier and died in Paris in 1558. He obtained a license to practice medicine at the relatively advanced age of 33, and maintained an interest in mathematics throughout his life. He was the first European to make a “noteworthy modern attempt at measuring the earth” (David Smith, History of Mathematics, volume 2, p.347) and is known to have calculated its circumference to within one percent of the true value. The Cosmotheoria is the second work he published and like his first, Monalosphaerium, was printed by Simon de Colines, who was one of the most renowned of the Parisian printers. He married the widow of the equally celebrated French printer, Henri Estienne. As can be seen above, the title page is beautifully printed, with a woodcut border that depicts the portraits and coats of arms of the France and of the Dauphin. The book was originally printed in 1527 with the title page reprinted to modify the date; the colophon is dated 1527.

Fernel was a professor of medicine in Paris. From 1542 onwards, Fernel’s popularity and fame as a physician grew, when he was appointed “physican to the Dauphin” (Charles Sherrington, The Endeavour of Jean Fernel, p.208). In 1556/7 he became physician to Henry II, King of France. Unlike other physicians of the time, Fernel did not believe in astrology as an adjunct to medicine, nor did he support the widespread use of blood-letting.

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Inscription on the title page of the De proportionibus libri duo, which reads: ‘Ex dono reverendissimi domi magistri henrici de sancto claro episcopi rossensis’

Each of the three ‘bound-together’ books by Fernel has an interesting provenance. The De proportionibus libri duo has a contemporary inscription on the title page which reads: ‘Ex dono reverendissimi domi magistri henrici de sancto claro episcopi rossensis’. Henry Sinclair (1507/8-1565) was bishop of Ross and Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland. He died in Paris in 1565. The Cosmotheoria has a signature or inscription on the bottom right of the title page which has been trimmed off by an inattentive binder.

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Lambe stamp, probably one of the earliest English book stamps ever recorded

Both the Cosmotheoria and the Monalosphaerium have a book stamp on the verso of the title page: ‘Ex libris M. Guillermi Lambe. 1530’. This is probably the earliest English book stamp ever recorded, and could be that of William Lamb (1495-1580), philanthropist and the man responsible for the construction Lamb’s Conduit. This conduit was at the north end of Red Lion Street in Holborn and provided clean drinking water for Londoners, albeit running through “lead pipes” (George Clinch, Marylebone and St. Pancras, p. 144). The title page to the De proportionibus libri duo is damaged, with half of it missing, but most likely also had the book stamp on the verso.

While the Cosmotheoria does contain an early reference to ‘America’ in the dedicatory letter to John III, King of Portugal, it does not contain a clear reference to the Saint Lawrence River (Fleuve Saint-Laurent), as some references state. In the passage on America, Fernel talks of a ‘mighty and rich river’ towards the ‘36th degree of Northern latitude’, with a ‘mouth stretching for 28 miles’ emptying into the sea. This river description is based on observations made by the Portuguese explorer João Alvares Fagundes, who explored Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Some take this to mean that Fagundes mistook the 36th degree for the 48th, which would roughly match up to the location of the Saint Lawrence River. It is still not clear whether this is an accurate assessment of Fagundes’s account, because it “remains a matter of speculation” (L.A. Vigneras, Dictionary of Canadian Biography) whether he did, in fact, explore the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence.

Renae Satterley


Rare Book of the Month: July 2018

The July 2018 rare book of the month is Pierre Pichot’s De rheumatismo, catharrho variisque a cerebro destillationibus, & horum curatione libellous, printed in Bordeaux in 1577.

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Pichot was originally from Angers, from whence he obtained his title as a doctor. Soon after he moved to Bordeaux, later becoming ‘docteur régent’ at the University of Bordeaux’s faculty of medicine by 1572-73. The book was printed by Simon Millanges, the same publisher as Michel de Montaigne’s Essais (1580). Montaigne “would likely have been familiar with the Bordeaux circles in which moved the scholar-doctors Antoine Valet … and Pierre Pichot” (George Hoffman, The Cambridge Companion to Montaigne, p. 166). Montaigne owned a copy of Pichot’s 1574 work, De animorum natura, morbis, uitiis, noxis, horumque curatione, ac medela, ratione medica ac philosophica, also printed by Millanges and now held at the Bibliotheque nationale de France. Millanges’s press was established in 1572 and came to establish “Bordeaux as a centre of printing” (http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/exhibitions/Montaigne/labels.html).

‘Rheumatismus’ in this sense means to suffer from a flux (or phlegm). The root ‘rheum’ refers to bodily fluids rather than ‘rheumatism’ as we know it today. It was not until later in the 17th century “that Guillaume de Baillou, the father of rheumatology, first used the term ‘rheumatism’ to refer to joint ailments”. As the title page also mentions ‘catarrh’, therefore, this book is about curing the common cold, rather than ailments of the joints. There is nonetheless a relationship to rheumatism- according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Galen knew that respiratory diseases causing the production of phlegm often resulted in patients developing painful maladies, such as the conditions now described as arthritis and neuropathy … Baillou knew that a respiratory disease called catarrh, which is associated with inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, was connected to rheumatism and that rheumatism was systemic in nature, affecting many parts of the body. The rheumatic maladies as described by Galen and Baillou were later associated with Streptococcus infections.”

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As can be seen here, the book has been heavily annotated by an early reader. In addition to writing notes in the margins, this previous owner has crossed out many of the names, such as Galen and Hippocrates, found throughout the work. The reason is not clear. Did he (or she) not agree with those writers? Debates about their theories were taking place throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and tracts both for and against each author were printed during this time. The book has some secondary marginalia in Robert Ashley’s hand in the way of marginal numbering. This is a common habit amongst Ashley’s books, and he most likely numbered passages that he found important, in order of preference or importance. The library holds a second book on the common cold, Jean Vigier’s 1620 Tractatus absolutissimus et accuratissimus de catarrho, rheumatismo …, printed in Geneva.

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The book is in need of conservation and if you would like to sponsor its repair, the estimated cost would be £300.00. Please contact the library for further details.

For a full account of Pichot’s life, see Alain Legros, ‘La vie et l’oeuvre d’un médecin contemporain de Montaigne, Pierre Pichot’, Revue française d’histoire du livre, nos. 92-93, 1996.

Renae Satterley


Rare Book of the Month: June 2018

A treatise on the law concerning idiots, lunatics and persons non compotes mentis by George Dale Collinson

The rare book of the month for June is a two part volume from 1812: A treatise on the law concerning idiots, lunatics and persons non compotes mentis by George Dale Collinson, a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn. The first volume includes theoretical as well as practical descriptions of lunacy and idiocy, differentiating between the two.

title page
Title page

The initial chapters on the ‘nature of lunacy’ include many references to philosophy and literature, and Collinson’s citations of medical authorities are outnumbered by these references to philosophers and other writers. Included are practical descriptions of the legal framework surrounding lunatics at that time, including the inquiries into someone’s supposed lunacy and the management of their estate.

The book is organised around the traditional common law categories of person non compos mentis with the two “philosophical” chapters on the “nature of lunacy” and “the justice and expediency” of the laws governing those of unsound mind.

There is a long extract from Samuel Johnson’s (known for his bouts of acute melancholy) The history of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (1759), a short philosophical fable about happiness. Collinson describes the extract as evidencing, despite its fictitious nature, a “natural representation of the origin and progress, and illustrative of the nature of insanity occasioned by indulging the imagination in chimerical flights, till it rises superior in dominion to reason itself.” (pp.27-28). Collinson then links this with the real world example of Rouseau, while using the work of the influential Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart to illuminate these ruminations on insanity. Stewart’s Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind had been published in 1792, with further volumes appearing, after Collinson’s work, in 1814.

Extract from Samuel Johnson’s The history of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia

Because of its heavy reliance on history, philosophy and literature, Collinson’s book paints an interesting portrait of contemporary reactions to insanity and other forms of mental illness.

The second volume contains the statutes governing lunacy up until 1812, including the the De Prerogativa Regis 1324, which represents the medieval roots of legal intervention into the affairs of mentally disordered people. This ‘statute’ distinguished between “natural fools” in which there was no prospect of recovery and “lunatics”, those who “before-times had their wits” and were possibly able to enjoy lucid intervals and even recover completely. In modern terminology, this evidences a distinction between learning disability and mental illness, a distinction which has been echoed throughout the history of mental health legislation in England.

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De Prerogativa Regis 1324

The De Prerogativa Regis was the basis of a protective prerogative jurisdiction of the Crown, a parens patriae (Latin for ‘parent of the nation’) jurisdiction now administered by the High Court and the Court of Protection.

Other pieces of legislation reproduced in volume two include the Madhouses Act 1774 and the County Asylum Act 1808.

The Madhouses Act 1774 provided legal authority for private madhouses and instituted a system of safeguards for those detained therein. Madhouses had to be licensed and registered, a means of preventing the so-called ‘smuggling’ away of a patient. Lawful confinement could now only take place in a licensed establishment. A licensing body of commissioners appointed by the Royal College of Physicians was established by the Act, and medical evidence of ‘unsoundness of mind’ was required to justify confinement.

madhouses act
The Madhouses Act 1774

The County Asylums Act 1808 gave power to magistrates of each county to establish asylums, although many did not, and lunatics were often placed in local prisons. The Act is often known as Mr Wynn’s Act after Charles Watkins Williams-Wynn, the Member of Parliament who promoted the legislation.

Asylums were often of a poor condition, examples being York Asylum where in 1812 it was discovered that thirteen women were confined in a cell twelve feet by seven feet ten inches, and that the deaths of 144 patient had been concealed. In Bethlem Hospital in 1814, an inspection by a magistrate uncovered a sideroom in which ten female patients were chained by one arm or leg, naked save unfastened blanket gowns.

These volumes are on display in the Library as part of the exhibition, Law and Lunacy: the regulation of madness. This exhibition traces the development of the law relating to lunacy, with a focus on the 19th century legal treatises which expounded, commented on and shaped the law. Also on display are books which show images of Bethlem Hospital, the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world.

Rare Book of the Month: May 2018

Euclidis elementorum libri XV

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Title page signed by Robert Ashley

The May 2018 rare book of the month is Euclid’s Elementorum libri XV, printed in Cologne in 1607. As can be seen above and on the right, the book’s title page was signed by Robert Ashley (‘Ro. Asheley’), using a variant spelling of his surname; his initials R.A. are also Euclid 1607 tp sigwritten on the title page. According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance, “Euclid’s Elements provided the basis for all teaching in learned mathematics”. Ashley was briefly a public professor of geometry in Oxford during 1587/1588 (https://archive.org/stream/aregistermember03oxfogoog#page/n114/mode/2up) and developed a substantial collection of mathematical books during his lifetime. His collection contains three editions of Euclid’s Elements– two from 1607 and one from 1609.

The first printed version of the Elements was produced in Venice in 1482 by Erhardus Ratdolt, and was in Latin. The first Latin edition produced from a Greek translation was printed in 1505 by Joannes Tacuinus- this edition showed that “books 14 and 15, long accepted as part of the Elements, were not in fact by Euclid” (ODR).

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Marginalia in Robert Ashley’s hand on the verso of the title page

The 1607 version of the Elements featured here contains an extra book- number 16, added by François de Foix, comte de Candale. According to Benjamin Wardhaugh, book 16 “was concerned primarily to expand upon the final few constructions of Book 15: in particular the sometimes complex and beautiful figures which resulted when one regular polyhedron was placed inside another” (https://www.thinking3d.ac.uk/Candale1566/). Foix also included a “short treatise on regular and semi-regular polyhedra”.

As can be seen below and on the verso page above, Robert Ashley has marked up the book with a variety of annotations concerning the work itself, mentioning the importance of mathematics to understanding the motion of the stars and planets. Ashley has marked up the 1609 edition in a similar fashion, referencing Philipp Melanchthon. [With thanks to Dr. Jon Blaserak of the University of Bristol for assisting with this marginalia].

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Marginalia in Robert Ashley’s hand

This book was chosen as the May 2018 book of the month as Middle Temple Library will be participating in the ‘Seeing Euclid’ project organised by the History Faculty of the University of Oxford. As part of this project, organisations around the UK are exhibiting their 15th-18th century copies of Euclid’s Elements between 19 May and 15 July. A dedicated website will be launched on 19 May: www.seeingeuclid.org. Middle Temple’s Euclid books will be on display from 18 May to 15 June in an exhibition case on the Gallery, facing the Molyneux Globes.

The book is heavily damaged, with the title page in a particularly delicate state. It was rebound in the 1970s, but without any paper repairs being performed, meaning that the paper has become particularly dirty and damaged. If you would like to sponsor the repair of this work for an estimated cost of £300, please get in touch with the Librarian: library@middletemple.org.uk.

Renae Satterley, Librarian

May 2018