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The Collation

Interleaving history: an illustrated Book of Common Prayer

In Henry Fielding’s novel Tom Jones, Partridge and his friends go to see a play. As they watch a man light the upper candles of the playhouse, the predictably inane Partridge cries out, “Look, look, madam, the very picture of the man in the end of the common-prayer book before the gunpowder treason service!”

The picture Partridge refers to is most likely this—

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes

—a widely circulated and often reproduced image of Guy Fawkes sneaking toward the House of Lords, matches and lantern in hand. (Click on any of the images in this post to enlarge them in Luna.) It’s easy to read Partridge’s bumbling analogy as a comedic misinterpretation of the seriousness of the Gunpowder Plot—after all, he seems to see no difference between a flame intended to ignite barrels of gunpowder and one used to light candles in a playhouse (!). There’s a second level to his comedy, though, lost to most modern readers: namely, that by the eighteenth century this iconic depiction of Fawkes simply was as common as lit chandeliers. Found interleaved in many (if not most) extant post-1662 copies of the Book of Common Prayer, this image, along with another showing Charles I’s execution and a third celebrating Charles II’s return, iconically punctuated the state services added to the end of the restored Prayer Book. 


Interleaving history: an illustrated Book of Common Prayer @whitneytrettien brings it once again!

@adamghooks — April 20, 2013


I really enjoyed this post. I was wondering two things. Firstly, with these pictures, do we know who was putting the images in the BCP and how ubiquitous this practice was? Secondly, I noticed that your examples were all post 1605. I work on Shakespeare and Marlowe who, I think, would have use the 1599 edition of the BCP. Do you know if images were ever added to the 1559 edition of the BCP? The edition I have been using is devoid of images, and I always assumed that this was due to iconoclasm, but now I am wondering if individual users subverted the iconoclastic nature of the BCP–and Protestantism by extension–through modifying their own prayer texts.

Jamie — April 21, 2013


Hi Jamie, thanks for reading. Great questions. Regarding how ubiquitous the practice of extra-illustrating Bibles was, it seems to have been somewhat common later in the century. A quick perusal of Darlow and Moule — a little outdated, but handily digitized! — shows that many post-Restoration Bibles include interleaved engravings; English copies of Bolswert seem especially popular. You can find some of these Bibles on EEBO (e.g. Wing B3631). From 1662 on, it seems some editions of the BCP were sold with the three engravings I mention (Guy Fawkes, Charles I’s execution, Charles II’s return) to illustrate the state services. Someone must have written about this at some point, but so far I haven’t found much in the literature. (By the way, I mention Bibles and the BCP in the same breath because they were often bound together, along with psalters and so on, throughout the period.)

As for how common the same practice was earlier, I don’t recall having come across any extra-illustrating between the third (1559) and fourth (1604) BCP, though you’ll find interleaved paper for taking notes. An interesting 1627 Bible at the BL (1411.E.6-8) is interleaved at every page with blank paper annotated in multiple hands. Still, it’s easy to overestimate the iconoclastic impulse. Most 16th-century BCPs have historiated initials; and Bill Sherman discusses a ca1560 manuscript BCP pasted with woodcuts in his book Used Books. So, yes, the impulse to modify scriptural/liturgical texts was strong throughout the period. Even where you don’t find interleaved engravings, you’ll see custom-embroidered book covers, even the occasional fore-edge painting.

Whitney Trettien — April 21, 2013


I’m so glad someone is studying this copy! It was shown in the Folger exhibition “Extending the Book: the Art of Extra-Illustration” in 2010, but I really didn’t have time to look into it very far. I kept hoping I could find a source for the Armada image, using the text on the verso, butnot enough books were full-text searchable in 2010 to reveal it, and I haven’t had time to re-check since then.

The text on the verso of the Armada print is definitely from the same book: they’re the front and back of the same page. These extra illustrations aren’t directly pasted onto the pages. Rather, they’ve been inlaid: someone cut a “window” slightly smaller than the added page into the new sheet of paper, then pasted them together. It’s fairly easy to see the show-through on some of the prints with blank versos. The sequence in LUNA was shot so that we could show a series of double-page spreads on a touch-screen in the exhibition. See for the result. Note that the double-page spreads are actually two single shots stitched together digitally. The book is too fragile to smoosh open for the camera. That’s why LUNA appears to have duplicate images: the original shots are there, and the stitched-together versions.

In case you haven’t already found it, the print of Charles I with a globe is a frontispiece taken from Peter Heylyn’s Short View of the Life and Reign of King Charles, published in 1658. I just noticed that the Folger copy of that book, call number C2070, is lacking the frontispiece, so I’m going to ask the person who catalogs pre-1831 English books if it’s possible to add a link to the LUNA image to its Hamnet record.

Erin Blake — April 25, 2013


Thanks, Erin! This is really helpful information.

I haven’t been able to identify the Armada image through searching online databases — which is yet another reason we need sophisticated image-matching technology linked to our digital archives. Soon…

Whitney Trettien — April 26, 2013


This is very interesting and significant. I wonder if you have come across evidence of Hollar’s Satirical passion of Christ being interleaved in Book of Commonprayer in the 1660s? There are some c18th references but nothing substantial. Copies of the prints are in the BM, Toronto, and they are sometimes claimed to be drawn from early example of Holbein? Any suggestions gratefully received!

Justin Champion — November 22, 2015


I’m not aware of any examples or references to the Hollar set being used that way… but now that I know to look out for them, I hope to stumble across something.

Erin Blake — November 25, 2015


Thanks, fingers crossed!

Justin — April 4, 2016


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