History of England

A double image. On the top there is a brown leather book with a red and gold spine. Under there is a close up page from the book.
History of England

Country of Origin: Likely England
Year: ca. 1600s
Materials: Paper, ink, leather 

The Eldon House book collection has many volumes of English History. One of the oldest and rarest books in the collection is a volume of history that is printed on rag paper and likely has been rebound in its long history, adopting the hand-tooled leather binding and venetian paper front plates.

The earliest books do not have copyright information that might give the modern reader a sense of the age or edition, but closer examination may reveal clues to assist in pinpointing its age.  In this case, the style of text resembles some of the earliest known to “modern” printing, introduced by the famous Johannes Gutenberg in his 1455 Bible. The Gutenberg bible is printed in a type style called “black letter,” so called because of the darkness of the ink. Black letter is characterized by tight spacing and condensed lettering, which helped to reduce the amount of materials required to produce a book – his bible had 42 lines per page, where the History of England has 44. Black letter, also known as “Gothic”, “Old English”, or “Textura”, became the first model for printer’s type. The content and language of the book is, as the tile suggests a “Briefe Decription of England, Scotland VVales, and Cornwall” utilizing old English spelling and characters (i.e. an “S” is written with an “F” etc.). The content of the book is chronological, from the rule of the ancient “Romanes” [sic] to that of “Queene Elizabeth” whose reign ended in 1603.  We know then that the dating of this particular volume must be after the early 1600s. In the margins of the book, several handwritten notes have been made by a past reader.  On page one, the writing is partially cut off, likely dating from when the book was rebound and trimmed, but it appears that the identification of what may refer to the Anglo Saxon “Chronical” being a compilation of several manuscripts that outline the history of the British Isles.