Skip to main content
The Collation

A new copy of Foxe's Actes and Monuments

The Folger Shakespeare Library already has two copies of John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, published in 1570, so why would we want another, especially as it is only volume 1, of a two-volume set? The answer provides a good example of how we decide what rare items to add to the collection.

We purchased this volume in June from Bonham’s auction house in London. Two things about it piqued our interest. One is the binding of beautiful stamped leather dating from the period of the book. My colleague, Frank Mowery, Rare Bindings Specialist, has had a close look at the volume and describes it as having a 1570 London decorative roll binding. A roll was a hand tool rather like a pizza cutter, but with a design on the roll which could be embossed into leather. Several medallion head rolls are used on the binding of this volume, that is, there is a design of a head within a circular medallion, rather like the profile portraits on classical coins. For those of you who are binding junkies, Frank has identified the rolls as Oldham, Plate XLVII, HM. a (6) #775; Oldham, Plate XLVII, HM. a (3) #772; and Oldham, Plate XLVII, HM. a (6) #775. (Oldham refers to James Basil Oldham’s English Blind-stamped Bindings.) The book had two clasps, hinging from the front cover and catching on the back. The leather straps are gone but the brass catch plates are still in place. 

  1. Bonhams’s catalog provides some information about the two men as well.
  2. More information about the Pytt family can be found through the Kyre Park charters.
  3. As recorded in David Cressy, Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997), 159. See also The Business and Household Accounts of Joyce Jeffreys, ed. Judith M. Spicksley (Oxford: Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 2012).
  4. David Loades, “The Early Reception,” in The Unabridged Acts and Monuments Online or TAMO (HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011). (HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011). Available from: http// (accessed 08. 30.12).


What a great article on such an interesting book. Goes to show that the historical value of a text is tangled up with individual copies of it. A library like the Folger can’t have too many of them.

Lee Piepho — October 23, 2012


That certainly was Mr and Mrs Folger’s attitude about the first folio.

Deborah J. Leslie — November 3, 2012


Wonderful and thoughtful article. Thank you.

Carole Levin — November 19, 2012


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *