on exhibit November 13, 2002 through March 1, 2003


Sir Edward Dering (1598-1644)
a most compleate gentleman…

Sir Edward Dering was "a most compleate gentleman in all respects, and an excellent Antiquarye" according to Sir William Dugdale. He was certainly one of the most important collectors of the 17th century. His library included English and Continental books in many languages and disciplines from both Protestant and Catholic presses. Dering obtained a warrant from the Privy Council in 1627 that permitted him access to public records without the customary fee. Country history and genealogy were among his special interests, going to great lengths to reconstruct a family lineage that, he argued, preceded the battle of Hastings. Dering wasn't above "improving" documents he found in public repositories to make a point regarding his ancestry and coat of arms, or helping himself to manuscripts in Dover Castle, where he was an unhappy Lieutenant for six years. In the cause of advancing Dering's scholarship, it seems more than one public records office unknowingly became a lending institution. John Pym, a pamphleteer, classified Dering's accomplishments as "both innate and acquired."*

A Collection of Speeches (1642) may be more important for its binding and association value than its contents. Though the M.P. from Kent in the early years of the Long Parliament, Dering was not a particularly gifted statesman. But Dering preserved his speeches in this handsome vellum binding with a galloping Kentish horse on the cover surrounded by fleurs-de-lis and gilt decoration.

* Nati H. Krivatsy and Laetitia Yeandle, "Sir Edward Dering" in Private Libraries in Renaissance England…. Vol. 1. Robert J. Fehrenbach, gen ed., E.S. Leedham-Green, U.K. ed. (Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies; Marlborough, England: Adam Matthew Publications, 1992), 138,139.


Frontis portrait in Dering,'s Colleciton of Speeches

Frontis portrait in Dering, Collection of Speeches, 1642. (D1104)

Blow-up of Rodolphus Hospinianus entry in Dering's Book Catalogue
Blow-up of Rodolphus Hospinianus entry, V.b. 297 ©

Dering's Book Catalogue
Sir Edward Dering, Bart. Catalogue of his books, compiled ca. 1640 - ca.1642

What we know of Dering's 2,000+ volume library comes from an incomplete manuscript catalogue of 18 leaves, his Booke of Expences for the years 1617, 1619-1628, and a pocket-book of brief entries covering the years 1637-1639. The opening from Dering's manuscript catalogue points to the entry at the bottom of the page for Rodolphus Hospinianus...1587, with the shelfmark (11. 9) and price (5s.) carefully recorded. The Folger acquired the catalogue in the sale of Sir Thomas Phillipps' (1792-1872) manuscripts at Sotheby's in 1965.

Archbishop William King

John Nalson. The Project of Peace, or Unity of Faith and Government. London, Jonathan Edwin, 1678.

Image: Title page signature and pastedown with King's shelf marks in N113
William King (1650-1729) amassed one of the finest private libraries in the history of Ireland. "The folly of books," as he called his passion, resulted in a library of over 7,100 volumes.

The Project of Peace bears King's signature on the title page, a rare example since King did not normally sign his books. He usually identified his books with an elaborate system of shelf marks. Z:285, an early shelfmark, was replaced by his more familiar box and item number notation: Bx 16 No 263. The Cashel Cathedral Library shelfmark follows, Q.2 28, giving us the complete history of the book's shelf marks before it became N113 at the Folger, proving a book is where you find it.

John Dee and his Bibliotheca Mortlacensis

John Dee (1527-1608), renowned scientist, astrologer, and mathematician, had the largest library in Elizabethan England, with nearly 4,000 titles. He was an inspired interpreter of human knowledge and argued that the power of numbers lay behind our understanding of a range of subjects, including architecture, optics, music, astronomy and navigation. His interests were encyclopedic, and included a taste for alchemy, the occult, and magic. Queen Elizabeth I's coronation day in January 1559 was chosen by Dee on astrological grounds, and at his height he was "the reincarnation of Merlin at the Tudor court."*

* William H. Sherman, John Dee: the politics of reading and writing in the English Renaissance (Amherst: U. of Massachusetts P, 1995), xii.

Portrait of Dee holidng a compass

Portrait of Dee holding a compass from Meric Casaubon, A true and faithful relation, London, 1659.

Exhibition Highlights

| Writers' Books | Markings | Signatures | Henry VIII | Actors' Books | Ordinary Books Made Famous | Bindings | Manuscript Book Lists | Women Collectors | Inscriptions | 18th Century | Alexander Pope | Quiet Lives | Myne? |

Curator's Notes | Visiting the Folger

This page updated March 10, 2003