Rare Books

Marlborough College’s Rare Books bear witness to the reigns of many British monarchs extending back to the time of Edward IV. Among our holdings are numerous volumes from the reigns of the seventeenth-century Stuart kings, Charles I and Charles II. In honour of this country’s third King Charles, we bring together here some notable images of books from that first Caroline era that began almost 400 years ago.

Title-page of Edward Symmons, A Vindication of King Charles, or a Loyal Subjects Duty (London, 1648). Edward Symmons (1607-1649) was a clergyman in the Church of England deeply loyal to King Charles and his Archbishop, William Laud. In this pamphlet he compares the ordeals experienced by the king during the Civil War to the sufferings and persecution of Christ. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was suspended by the new leaders of the Church of England for blasphemy. Such was Symmons’ devotion to Charles, he became involved in the publication of Eikon Basilike, a book of spiritual confessions supposedly written by Charles himself. Deprived of his livelihood, Symmons fell upon hard times and died in 1649, aged 42.

Headpiece from Edward Symmons, A Vindication of King Charles, or a Loyal Subjects Duty (London, 1648). This woodblock print was set at the top of an inner title within Symmons’s pamphlet and shows the gartered Royal Arms of the Stuart dynasty with the charges of the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland (the Plantagenet lions quartered with the French fleur-de-lis; the Scottish Lion Rampant; and the Irish harp) supported by the English lion and Scottish unicorn amidst decorative foliage of roses and thistles.

Tailpiece from Edward Symmons, A True Parallel betwixt the Sufferings of our Saviour and our Soveraigne in Divers Parallels (London, 1648). This woodcut closes a variant printing of Symmons’ work, and shows the Royal Arms with the supporting beasts of England and Scotland and the royal cipher of King Charles, ‘C.R.’ (‘Carolus Rex’).

Title-page of William Sanderson, A Compleat History of the Life and Raigne of King Charles from his Cradle to his Grave (London, 1658). William Sanderson (c.1586-1676) lost property during the Civil War, and became fiercely partisan in favour of the royal cause. His biography of Charles was originally published in 1656, and was one of the first books to defend the late king openly during the Interregnum. Sanderson was awarded an annual pension by Charles II for his loyalty.
The College’s copy of the second, 1658, edition carries an interesting early dedication, noting the book to be ‘gift of Frances Paulet to Susana Wharton’. Frances Paulet (1674-1715), a woman from Bolton in Lancashire, was niece to Susana Wharton (1651-1737), who lived in Beverley in Yorkshire’s East Riding. The dedication in the College book provides early testimony of female readers engaging with books of political controversy.

Title-page of James Heath, A Chronicle of the Late Intestine War in the Three Kingdoms (London, 1675). This is the second edition of a book first published in 1661. Heath (1629-1664), a student at Oxford, was among the first to write a revisionist history of the Civil War. In 1663, he published a biography of Cromwell; its title, Flagellum (‘Whip’), gives some idea of Heath’s view of Charles’ nemesis. The College’s book carries a handsome portrait gallery of Charles and his key supporters, among them the Earl of Strafford and Archbishop Laud.

Title-page of Basilika: The Works of Charles I with his Life and Martyrdome (London, 1687). This sumptuous folio volume shows Stuart royal power through its handsome double-page copper-engraved plates. The image on the right shows a portrait of Charles I framed in laurel and upheld by two putti. The setting is a notional mausoleum with the symbols of Church and State, the mitre and crown, recurring on the architectural entablature behind. Published in 1687, this book enjoyed royal imprimatur from King James II, Charles’ younger son.

Fold-out engraved broadsheet of Charles I as martyr (Antwerp, 1662). This broadsheet is the most sophisticated of the many images of King Charles I as a martyr that stemmed from a modest engraving originally cut by William Marshall in 1650. Following Marshall’s conception, the engraver, Abraham Hertochs (1626-1672), shows the king relinquishing his earthly crown in exchange for a heavenly diadem. His ordeals in life are represented by emblems in the background, one of a rock lashed by winds and waves, and the other of the king battling to steer the ship of state through stormy seas.

Abraham Hertochs, Portrait of Charles II, Dabidēs Emmetros, sive Metaphrasis libri Psalmorum (Cambridge, 1666). This handsome portrait of Charles II was made by the Amsterdam engraver Abraham Hertochs. It stands at the head of a book of Psalms translated into Homeric Greek by Jacob Dupont, a clergyman and scholar who rose to become Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1669.