You are in Introduction. Click here to skip the navigation.
British Library
Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
 Detail from the Roman de la Rose
About Simple search Manuscript search Advanced search  Virtual exhibitions Glossaries Contact us  Main
print Print this page
home Home
site search Search British Library website
back Back

search tips  Search tips
 
 

 

 
 

Detailed record for Harley 3885

Title Alphabet book, with English or Latin phrases
Origin England, S. E. (Norwich)
Date Last quarter of the 16th century
Language English with some Latin
Script Humanistic cursive
Scribe John Scottowe
Decoration 24 full-page initials in ink with details in gold with animal heads, foliage, and figures, some with Elizabethan coats of arms and mottos (one initial on each recto).
Dimensions in mm 360 x 325
Official foliation ff. 24 ( + 4 unfoliated paper flyleaves at the beginning and 3 at the end)
Form Parchment codex
Binding Post-1600. Brown leather with gold tooling; marbled endpapers.
Provenance John Scottowe (d. 1607), calligrapher and schoolmaster, writing master of Norwich: inscribed 'per me Johannem Scottowe' on a banderolle next to the letter 'J' (f. 9) (see also Backhouse 1976).
Elizabeth and John Dawtry: inscribed with their names in the 16th century, possibly by John Scottowe (f. 1).
The Harley Collection, formed by Robert Harley (b. 1661, d. 1724), 1st earl of Oxford and Mortimer, politician, and Edward Harley (b. 1689, d. 1741), 2nd earl of Oxford and Mortimer, book collector and patron of the arts.
Edward Harley bequeathed the library to his widow, Henrietta Cavendish, née Holles (b. 1694, d. 1755) during her lifetime and thereafter to their daughter, Margaret Cavendish Bentinck (b. 1715, d. 1785), duchess of Portland; the manuscripts were sold by the Countess and the Duchess in 1753 to the nation for £10,000 (a fraction of their contemporary value) under the Act of Parliament that also established the British Museum; the Harley manuscripts form one of the foundation collections of the British Library.
Notes For a detailed analysis of the contents, see publications by Backhouse.
Inscribed 'Mr Tharlton' (inside the letter 'T') with a poem about him, beginning, 'The picture here set down, / Within this letter T, / Aright doth shew the form and shape / Of Tharlton unto thee' (f. 19). Richard Tharlton, a swineherd turned comedian, poet, and comic actor was brought to London by the Earl of Leicester. Tharlton entertained Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers and was said to cure 'her melancholy better than all her physicians.' (see Ryan 1826).
For another writing book by Scottowe dating to 1592 see Chicago, Newberry Library.
According to Backhouse 1976, the manuscript was probably intended for educational use, with short passages suitable to be set as copies for a pupil.
The earliest known printed book of this type is De Beauchesne and Baildon's Booke containing Divers Sortes of hands (1570).
Select bibliography A Catalogue of the Harleian Manuscripts in the British Museum, 4 vols (London: Eyre and Strahan, 1808-12), III (1808), no. 3885.

Richard Ryan, Poetry and Poets: Being a Collection of the Choicest Anecdotes realtive to the Poets of Every Age and Nation, together with specimens of their works and sketches of their biography, illustrated by engravings (London: Sherwood, 1826), pp. 185-190.

Cyril Ernest Wright, Fontes Harleiani: A Study of the Sources of the Harleian Collection of Manuscripts in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1972), pp. 126, 299.

Janet Backhouse, John Scottowe's Alphabet Books (London: Roxburghe Club, 1974).

'John Scottowe of Norwich: An Elizabethan Writing Master', Society of Scribes and Illuminators Newsletter, 8 (1976), 3-4.

Janet Backhouse, 'An Elizabethan Schoolboy's Exercise Book', Bodleian Library Record, 9 (1978) 323-32 (pp. 324, 331).

Jonathan J. G. Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 175 n. 37.


Images
* * *
 
Calligraphic initial

f. 1
Calligraphic initial
Calligraphic initial

f. 2
Calligraphic initial
Calligraphic initial

f. 3
Calligraphic initial
 
Calligraphic initial

f. 4
Calligraphic initial
Calligraphic initial

f. 19
Calligraphic initial

print Print this page
home Home
site search Search British Library website
back Back
top Back