My favorite encounter with a book is one where I think I know what I’m going to find, but then something else entirely happens. My most recent serendipitous encounter came thanks to a tweet: Sjoerd Levelt was tweeting some images for #FlyleafFriday and shared an image of one of the Folger’s books, a copy of Francis Bacon’s Advancement of Learning that has as its flyleaf the last leaf of John Selden’s Titles of Honor (STC 1166 copy 6):
That’s pretty fun in and of itself (and you can see more images of the flyleaves and binding in our digital image collection), but Sjoerd noticed something else. Among the various ownership marks on the opening is a lightly penciled annotation, “Shakespeare mentioned on page 225.”
But when he turned to the copy of this edition on EEBO, he didn’t see any mention of Shakespeare in the text.
Since this was a Folger book, and since I love excuses to run down to the reading room, I popped down to see what was on page 225. I assumed there was some sort of marginalia, but I didn’t anticipate the full extent of what I saw:
Shakespeare is indeed mentioned here. His works, along with those of Ben Jonson and Robert Cleever, and John Clavell’s Recantation of an Ill-led Life, are inscribed in the margin, apparently to illustrate Bacon’s discussion of Plato’s assertion that “vertue, if she could be seene, would moue great loue and affection.”
Other notations on this opening seem less directly connected to the text. Below the list of works on page 225 is a comment that “huntinge hawkinge fishinge” are “lawfull thinges.” On page 224, opposite, is a statement that “Mr Rosse & Mr Abett Harrye Knowles & Jhon Stanhope would play at shuuleboord [shovelboard]”—an assertion that does not seem to be responding to Bacon’s text.
The heavy marginalia can be found throughout the book, with a similar mix of personal and textual commentary. On page 182, the annotator seems to have left reminders for himself:
“Remember to pay shippe mony, & For rest lawes betwixt this & the end of Midsummer tearme when the kinge goes the Progresse”
“if you marry not Jane Cockain, then goe trauayle.”
Sometimes he notes aphorisms, as on the bottom of page 132:
“For drinke will make a man drunke & drunke will make a man drye, & drye will make a man sick, & sick will make a man dye.”
Who is our annotator? According to the Folger’s catalog, the man behind the marginalia is Charles Stanhope, the 2nd Baron Stanhope of Harrington (1593–1675). His father—John Stanhope, who apparently liked to play shovelboard with his friends—was a courtier in James I’s court and because the first Baron Stanhope of Harrington in 1605. I don’t know whether Charles did marry Jane or not, but he died without any heirs, and the title became extinct with him.
The Folger has 4 books that are annotated by Stanhope. I haven’t looked through them yet, but from the glimpses of this book, they could be full of surprises as well!