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The Collation

From printing house to coffee house

Last Friday a much-anticipated package arrived at the Folger, containing a series of fifteen deeds describing the successive ownership of two adjacent properties on Fleet Street (“The King’s Highway”) in London from 1543 to 1735. Deeds can be tedious to muddle through, repetitive and full of arcane terminology. And the Folger doesn’t actively acquire deeds unless they directly relate to a collection strength, 1 but when these were offered to us by a London bookseller, we couldn’t say no.

This group of deeds is remarkable for providing the exact location of Richard Tottel’s printing house, the Hand and Star, where he printed Songs and Sonnets, the first printed anthology of poetry in English (1557), now commonly referred to as Tottel’s Miscellany. The printing-house, described in Tottel’s colophons as being “at London in Fletestrete within Temple Barre at the signe of the Hand and Starre,” was previously thought to be on the north side of Fleet Street. These manuscripts reveal that it was actually located on the south side, and was carved out of two tenements that jointly abutted a wall of the Inner Temple garden (to the south), the gate of the Middle Temple (to the west), and another house (to the east).

"Richard Tottill, Cytezen and stacioner of London" (detail, line 2); click to enlarge

  1. Although we do have well over a thousand of them—in Hamnet, try a subject search for Deeds or browse “Z.c.” as a call number


Very cool! With the description of its boundaries to the south, east and west, I can picture *exactly* where it was!

Zack — September 15, 2011

What a great collection of deeds! And especially exciting for providing information that corrects what we thought we knew about this location. Who had this collection before the Folger bought it?

Sarah Werner — September 15, 2011

The Folger purchased them from a London bookdealer, who acquired them at auction earlier this year. They were originally part of the Drake of Shardeloes papers (Tottel’s granddaughter Joanna married Francis Drake, of Esher, d. 1633, and inherited her father William Tottel’s new mansion of Shardeloes, near Amersham, Bucks.). Other Shardeloes papers are on deposit at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies.

Heather Wolfe — September 16, 2011

As a Land Surveyor in New England, USA, I research deeds back into the early 19th Century and sometimes into the late 18th Century. I find the different handwriting styles to be quite fascinating, some are very ornate and beautiful, while others are simply utilitarian. I find that the scribes that are beautifully ornate tend to be more accurate in their transcription and far easier to read. Their impression seems to be less subject to fading also, this must be reflective of the great care that they take in what can only be described as their “art”.

I have been studying, with great intensity, the handwritten inscription at the very end of the 1609 imprint of Shakespeare’s Sonnets held at the John Ryland’s Library in Manchester, England (it can be viewed on-line, along with the Title page that also has a handwritten inscription). This inscription has some interesting features that suggest that the author was purposely aligning his handwritten inscription with the printed text as seen through the page from the next to the last page of the long poem ‘A Lovers Complaint’. I am wondering if you, Heather, have ever studied this inscription, and if so, do you have an opinion of it that you would consider sharing with me? It appears that this inscription: “Commendacons to my very kind and approved frrind (sic) 2/3: M:” is very carefully constructed, beyond the neatness factor.

David Ewald — October 11, 2011

I wasn’t familiar with the inscription you mention and just found it here: Without knowing anything at all about the history of this particular copy of the Sonnets, all I can really say is that I don’t think it is *that* carefully constructed (other than being centered)–it is written in a typical English secretary hand. And I differ with you slightly on the transcription. It looks to me like: “Comendac[i]ons to my very kind and approued Frind B: M:/”

Heather Wolfe — October 21, 2011

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