Thanks for the great comments on last week’s Crocodile Mystery. Everyone scores ten points, with full marks going to the two commenters who correctly identified the publication.1 It is, in fact, a block of nonsense that replaces an expurgated paragraph of text.
I wish I could show you the whole page of the Folger copy, but unfortunately, the visual note-to-self shown here is all I’ve got until the Folger re-opens after major renovations.2 It’s from page 8 of A full answer to the depositions, and to all other the pretences and arguments whatsoever, concerning the birth of the Prince of Wales…. London: Printed for Simon Burgis, 1689.
The Folger copy is special because the original text was actually removed from the already-set type and replaced by other pieces of type in the printing house. In the other copies of the pamphlet known to me, the offending paragraph is simply overprinted, obscuring the text underneath.
The large pamphlet’s full title provides a good summary of its content, A full answer to the depositions, and to all other the pretences and arguments whatsoever, concerning the birth of the Prince of Wales. The intreague thereof detected, the whole design being set forth, with the way and manner of doing it. Whereunto is annexed, a map or survey engraven of St. James’s Palace, and the convent there: describing the place wherein it is supposed the true mother was delivered: with the particular doors and passages through which the child was convey’d to the Queens bed-chamber.
In twenty-one pages of closely-printed two-column text, the author presents a damning litany of circumstantial evidence that the infant Prince of Wales, supposed son of Catholic King James II and Mary of Modena, was an imposter. In this version of the tale, the queen’s entire pregnancy was faked. A conspiracy of Catholics arranged the time and place of the “delivery” so that her imaginary labor could occur around the same time as several other women’s real, but secret, deliveries in an adjoining convent. The first healthy baby boy of the bunch in the convent would be whisked away. He would then re-appear in the queen’s bed as the newborn heir to the throne, displacing his Protestant half-sisters, Mary and Anne, in the line of succession.3
The expurgated passage describes the route from the convent to the queen’s bed-chamber, and names three of the people involved: the queen, the king, and Pellegrina Turini, the queen’s woman of the bedchamber.
And as they had this convenient place for her delivery, so
there is as convenient a conveyance for the Child after it to the
great Bed-chamber and other Rooms thereunto belonging ad-
joyn to the Court, are near the Chamber, to which from the
Chappel and Rooms there are several passages, there is like-
wise a range of Dormitories exactly corresponding to the back
of the Chamber, where the Queens pretended labour was,
through which Dormitories belonging to the same Convent a
Child might be brought through the Rooms between the
Queens Chamber and the Dormitories, which Chambers, that
they might be cleared, the King went to his own side, drew
after him all the Company, and the Queen sent all hers away,
so that there was not one soul but the Confederate Turini in or
near such Chambers.4
Why is this particular paragraph the only one blotted out? It’s not because of the verbal description of the route through the corridors of St. James’s Palace, since that same information appears visually as a dotted line on the accompanying engraved floorplan.5 Is it because the king himself is implicated? Presumably not, since he’s named elsewhere, and a passage on page 3 states outright that “our present King not only forwarded it [that is, the deception] all along, but at the pinch was more busie and industrious than the rest.” Likewise, Pellegrina Turini, named as a “Confederate” in the last phrase, is implicated elsewhere in the text. The only thing that seems to make this reference to Turini different from others is that it gives her involvement as a fact. Elsewhere, her involvement is only hypothesized or implied, albeit in an unflattering where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire sort of way.6
What might the Folger copy reveal about self-censorship during publication? We now know that the expurgation happened before all copies of page 8 (and its conjugate, page 5) had been printed.7 At first glance, it looks like the same block of type used to cancel the already-printed text was used to fill in the blank in the Folger copy, but they’re slightly different. The inserted type in the Folger copy is more symmetrically arranged, beginning flush left at the top, and containing a full line of the letter m fourth from the bottom instead of a mix of four different elements. Lines nine through eleven of the overprinting are a continuous series of the same size of italic letter m, but lines ten and eleven of the Folger version have slightly larger type (larger enough that the tenth line has to end with an italic n instead of an m). The first five lines of the overprinting contain nothing but fleurs-de-lis, but each line of fleurs-de-lis in the Folger version has an italic colon towards the middle. Moreover, the entire previous paragraph was re-set (same words, different spacing and line endings). What’s the significance of this variation? Probably nothing. One thing we do know: when it was re-issued as a 58-page octavo in 1711, this section of the text (now on pages 21 and 22) seamlessly omits the paragraph in question.
- Plus a happy-face sticker on Philip’s comment for the tongue-in-cheek description of the apparent cartoon swear words as “A graphic representation of the graphic language the Queen used on the birth of the Prince of Wales” and a gold star on Elisabeth Chaghafi’s comment for the painstaking transcription of the blotted-out text. In addition, ten bonus points to Peter Criddle for expanding my vocabulary to include etaoinshrdlu. I’m embarrassed that I wasn’t familiar with the concept, but comfort myself with the knowledge that linotype printing is out-of-scope for my work.
- Before the pandemic, quick snapshots of a detail, with the call number visible somewhere in the shot, appeared regularly in my phone photos. For a thoughtful examination of the phenomenon, see Heather Wolfe’s recent Collation post Pre-pandemic phone photo fails.
- You can read the entire text freely online as Hathi Trust images of the OSU copy and as an EEBO-TCP transcription of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign copy.
- Many thanks to Elisabeth Chaghafi for providing this likely transcription in last week’s comments.
- Or is it? Maybe there’s something about verbal information that carries different legal weight than visual information? Please note that this is not scholarly speculation, just an honest question from a non-specialist.
- A delightfully nasty passage on page 5 states that Mrs. Turini is a “busie, rigid, bigotted, villanous” person who has “the Cunning and Conscience for such a wickednesss.” Therefore, says the pamphlet, the mere fact of her presence argues that something shady had to be going on. Why else would someone “most fit for such a purpose” be present?
- At least, that’s where page 5 landed when I folded and stapled my scrap paper to match the pagination in the digital images with the folio volume’s signatures as recorded in ESTC: [A]² B-F² [G]1.