The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Expurgation with decoration: type ornaments as replacement text

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.

Half page of printed text
Most of the lower half of 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 Folger call number 148- 834f. Photo by Erin Blake.

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.

Paragraph obscured by overprinting
Overprinted paragraph on page 8 of the Ohio State University copy (Thompson Rare Books DA463 1689 .F8). Image from Hathi Trust.
Paragraph obscured by overprinting
Overprinted paragraph on page 8 of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign copy (Rare Book and Manuscript Library Stacks Non-circulating IUQ01053). Image from EEBO.

Paragraph obscured by overprinting
Overprinted paragraph on page 8 of a British Library copy (General Reference Collection T.100*[179]). Image from EEBO.
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.

Title page of the Ohio State University copy (Thompson Rare Books DA463 1689 .F8). Image from Hathi Trust.

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

Replacement paragraph on page 8 of the Folger copy (Folger Shakespeare Library 148- 834f). Photo by Erin Blake.

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.

Excerpt of printed text
End of page 21 and beginning of page 22 of 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 [&c.]. [London], 1711 (Bodleian Library Firth e.67 (7)). Image from Google Books.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Many thanks to Elisabeth Chaghafi for providing this likely transcription in last week’s comments.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.


  • Possibly a bit of a silly question, but why exactly was the pamphlet reissued in 1711? The original date of 1689 obviously makes sense in the context of legitimising the Prince of Wales’ exclusion from the succession (plus it wasn’t too long after his birth), but it seems a bit odd to rehash all of these half-baked rumours more than 20 years later… Had there been any recent uprisings on his behalf, so the printer thought there was potentially money to be made from reminding people that he was just an old pretender? Or was this in response to some sort of rumour after the prince had reached the age of majority that the Act of Settlement might be overturned and the succession might still be settled in his favour (provided he were willing to convert, presumably)?

    • Not a silly question at all! The issue of the Prince of Wales’s legitimacy was sort of a long 18th c game of wack-a-mole. After James II fled and he and Mary went into exile in the French courts, the spectre of a legitimate, Catholic line of succession -terrified- the very Protestant William and Mary. The French certainly had reason to support James Francis Edward’s claim to the English throne, and attempts were made in 1715 and 1719 (after the death of Anne) to restore him. There was yet another attempt in 1745 by JFE’s son Charles Edward (Bonnie Prince Charlie) to reclaim the throne. So the English throne -knew- these attempts were coming. The issue of JFE’s legitimacy was resurrected to try to get ahead of just these attempts. You can read more about this whole situation here:

  • Yes, I’ve heard of those Jacobite risings (vaguely; the 18th century is a bit late for me), but nothing as early as 1710 or 1711, so I was wondering if this might have been published in response to a specific event.

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