My family has an old book. We have had it for years, and I have never really taken any notice of it – I thought it was an old Bible. But recently, James happened to see it, and became fascinated with it, and I realised that actually, it was rather special. Even if it has no financial value (it is in terrible condition, my father even took with him on a trip to the US once, and showed it to a whole congregation of people!) it certainly has historical value. Let me show you.
The book contains sermons, written by Master Henry Smith, in 1605. Now, even if the book itself is a reproduction, have you ever read anything that was written so long ago? It’s only about 80 years after the first English, Tyndale, Bibles were printed. Think about what was happening in England during the 1600s – the plague, the fire in London, all the stuff about the reformation, people being burnt alive for what they believed. Elizabeth I died in 1603, so things weren’t exactly stable.
It also predates Dr. Samuel Johnson (who wrote the first dictionary and therefore standardised spelling) so the language is amazing. Why wouldn’t you want to spell “poison” as “poyson”? (You do, when reading it, need to remember that all the letters which look like ’f’ are actually ’s’.)
As you read it, you can hear how people spoke in those days, and can imagine yourself back in time, sitting on a hard wooden pew, listening while the preacher berated the congregation. He was pretty harsh about ‘Papists’.
Apparently my granny rescued it from a bonfire her sister had when their mother died. I will try to find out more and let you know. I don’t know if it is of any historical value to the wider world beyond the family. I’m not sure how much literature survives from 1600s, so it might be of interest. I have emailed the British Library, to ask. No idea if anyone will reply.
The words are a little hard to read (unless you have had years of practise reading the writing of 5 year olds, in which case it’s easy!) I have translated a passage about transubstantiation for you (which is when people believe that bread and wine at a communion service change physically – a big area of dispute between the Anglican and Catholic church in the 1600s) I have changed the spelling, but not the grammar or punctuation:
“It followeth, As often as ye shall eat this bread and drink this cup, ye shall show the Lords death till he comes. Here are three invincible arguments against popish Transubstantiation, like the three witnesses, under which every word doth stand.
“First we are said to eat bread; then it is not flesh, but bread. Secondly, we are said to show the Lords death; then it is but a show or representation of his death. Thirdly, it is said, until he come; then he is not come: if he be to come, how can we say, until he come?”
There is another sermon, about Noah being drunk, which I enjoyed. I am guessing the sermons were to be preached to ordinary, working people, as they talk about working the land, and being humble:
“First we are to speak of Noah, then of Cham (Ham?) his wicked son, and after of Shem and Japheth his good sons: In Noah, first of that which he did well, and then of his sin. In Cham, first of his sin, and then of his curse. In his brother, first of their ‘reuerece’ (reverence?) and then of their blessing.
Now we will speak of the father, and after of his children. Then (father Moses) Noah began to be an husband.
This is the first name which is given to Noah after the flood, he is called a husband; and the first work which is mentioned, was the planting of a vineyard; one would think when all men were drowned with the flood, and none left alive to possess the earth but Noah and his sons, that he would have found himself something else to do, than them to plant vineyards: and that the holy ghost should have entitled him King of the world, and not a husbandman of the earth, seeing there be no such men as Noah was, which had more in his hand than any King has in the world, or shall have to the worlds end: but thereby the holy Ghost would show, that God does not respect kings for their titles, nor men for their riches, as we do, and therefore he named Noah after the work which he did, not after the possessions he had, a husbandman.
It seems that there was a great difference(?) between this age and ours: for if we should see now a king go to plough, a noble man to drive the team, a gentleman keep sheep, he should be scorned for his labour, more than Noah was for his drunkenness: yet when we read how this Monarch of the world thought no scorn to play the husbandman, we consider not his princely calling, nor his ancient years, nor his large possessions to commend his industry, or modesty, or lowly mind therein. Which may teach us humility, though we learn to disdain husbandry. Of whom will we learn to be humble, if kings give examples, and the son of God humbleth himself from heaven to earth, and yet we condemn(?) the example of the kings of the earth, and the king of heaven.
The time was when Adam digged and delved, when David kept sheep, and all the house of Jacob were called to be occupied about cattle: but as they for this were abominable to the Egyptians (as Moses saith in the same verse) so they which do like them, are abhorred of their brethren: and they which live by them, scorn them for their work, which would be chastened themselves because they work not.”
If I learn anything more about the book, I will let you know. I hope you enjoy the tiny extracts I have shown you. Am personally loving the thought that Adam “digged and delved”!
Thank you for reading. I’ll write again next Monday, have a great week.
Love, Anne x
Next week I’ll tell you about the mystery of the missing lighthouse…