The Catalogue of (Dis)Honor

[Ed. note: This is the second guest post by Rachel Stevenson, my intrepid undergraduate researcher, who has been spending the summer as an ICRU Fellow surveying the STC collection here at Iowa. A few weeks ago Rachel found a page in a book that the ESTC describes as "mutilated" -- but, as you'll see, it's anything but: it is actually a page with a remarkably precise piece cut out of it. Finding out exactly why and how this piece was cut out -- and, more importantly, what it means -- took longer than you might think, with several surprising turns. It's a great example of the contextual work it takes to explain a seemingly simple, yet puzzling, artifact. It's also a timely reminder that, alas, national politics have always been intextricably intertwined with sexual intrigue.]

In my six months of research looking through the University of Iowa’s books between 1540 and 1640, I have seen pages in various stages of disrepair and damage. I have seen greasy fingerprints, tears repaired with sewing, and copies that look like they were thrown in a mud puddle, stomped on and then stored in a damp basement (and some of them actually were stored in a damp basement!).  But I had not come across a page like this. 

The page is located in a folio copy of The catalogue of honor; or, Tresvry of trve nobility, pecvliar and proper to the Isle of Great Britaine: that is to say: a collection historicall of all the free monarches as well kinges of England as Scotland (nowe vnited togither) with the princes of Walles, dvkes, marqvisses and erles; their wives, children, alliances, families, descentes & achievementes of honor ... Whervnto is properly prefixed: A speciall treatise of that kind of nobility which soverayne grace, and fauor, and contryes customes, haue made meerly politicall and peculiarly civill (neuer so distinctly handled before) Translated out of Latyne into English (1610; InfoHawk catalog record here).

This book was originally written by Robert Glover (1543-1588) and compiled by his nephew Thomas Milles (1550-1626).  Both men were fastidious in their work as heralds. Their lifelong work chronicling the lines of nobility in England resulted in The Catalogue of Honor. In his lifetime, Robert Glover accumulated 15,000 coats of arms. He also was the first to use the rectilinear form to lay out a family line, instead of the medieval form of circles and radiating lines. Thomas Milles worked as a spy for Queen Elizabeth and wrote tracts on the importance of free trade before turning to heraldry.

This book was important because England was coming into its own as a powerful nation. The people who shaped England’s national identity were the nobility. These people were the pride of the country and were its most powerful players. Therefore, this catalogue of nobility had to be filled with people with pristine reputations which set them apart from the lower classes.

The high standard of accuracy and reverence for the aristocracy upheld by Glover and Milles created a problem with the entry about Charles Blount, eighth Baron Mountjoy and Earl of Devonshire (1563-1606). His entry on page 493 (3S4r) has a neat rectangle carefully excised from the bottom of the page; a very curious and precise way to alter a book:

In an earlier post we have seen a printer’s emblem partially removed from a Bible. The purpose for removal in the case of The Catalogue of Honor is not to preserve the section of paper, though, but to destroy it. They differ because the removal is too precise and the side of the page remains intact in The Catalogue of Honor. This section of the page was removed due to a dishonorable act committed by Charles Blount.  The first section of his entry is about his career, and reads as follows:

Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy, Knight of the Noble order of the Garter, first Lord Deputy and Lieutenant (of his name) in Ireland. Out of Ireland he strongly, peaceably, and faithfully expulsed the Spaniards, and punishing the Rebels, constrained them to humble submission.  By James King of England, in the first yeare of his raigne, & 21 day of Iuly, Anno 1603. At Hampton Court, hee was created Earle of Devonshire.  He died in Anno 1606. Without any Issue lawfully begotten.”
But that is not all that the page originally said. The ESTC indicates a reason for the removal but not the contents of the entry:  “Page 3S4r is frequently mutilated to remove reference to Charles Blount’s natural progeny.”  After digging through old bibliographies (thanks Google books!), I found (what could be) the rest of the entry for Charles Blount here
“Naturall children, which he had by Penelope, daughter to Walter Devereux, Earle of Essex, and sister to Robert Earl of Essex, she being wife to Robert Baron Rich.  Charles.  Montjoy.  Saint Johns.  Elizabeth and another daughter.”
After looking through other sources, Elizabeth does not seem to be the name of either daughter of Charles Blount; they were named Penelope and Isabella. If we could examine one of the copies that have remained whole, the entry could be confirmed. Most copies of The Catalogue of Honor are missing the section referring to Blount’s family. I am also sure that something has been done to alter the Blount family coat of arms that appears at the top of his entry. The space where the coat of arms belongs is blank and looks like it has either been obscured or printed without any decoration. The coat of arms is visible in Charles Blount’s portrait, so we know that it existed. Other entries in the book are altered as such because they died without heirs. The circumstances surrounding the marriage and children caused much trepidation and consequently Charles Blount’s entry had to be altered to prevent offense to the rest of the aristocracy and the readers of the book.

Lady Penelope Rich (1563-1607) was a maid in waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Her father and brother, Walter and Robert Devereux, were both favorites at court, as was her second husband Charles Blount. She was famous in her own right for being the subject and inspiration for Sir Philip Sidney’s sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella (1591). For ten years of her marriage to Robert Baron Rich she had an affair with Blount, which resulted in the birth of five children, who were all considered illegitimate. Penelope received an ecclesiastical divorce from her first husband with whom she had six children. According to the laws of the church, remarriage was not permissible until the other spouse was deceased; the divorce was only technically a separation.

In an attempt to legitimize their children, Charles Blount and Penelope Rich persuaded their friend William Laud to marry them on December 26, 1605. Throughout his career William Laud found himself embroiled in controversy. The first of these was his claim that the church did not exist without bishops or any sort of clerical hierarchy. Because of this view, he was branded a papist. His most staunch adversary was George Abbot, whose A Treatise of Perpetual Visibilitie: and Succession of the Church in All Ages was a direct refutation of William Laud’s statements (we have a copy here at the University of Iowa, InfoHawk catalog record here). Laud’s stance on church issues vacillated throughout his career. In 1603, he became Charles Blount’s chaplain. Laud was in deep trouble with King James I after performing the marriage between Blount and Penelope Rich. When Charles Blount issued a public letter in defense of his marriage William Laud assisted Blount with ecclesiastical proof to further the argument. But, after much criticism from court, Laud issued his own letter apologizing for presiding over the marriage.

The marriage after the affair between these two nobles greatly offended the religious beliefs and social mores that were held so dearly by the aristocracy, and the offenses were magnified because of Charles Blount and Penelope Rich’s close relationship with Queen Elizabeth.  This ignoble behavior caused a scandal, the Mountjoy line ended with Charles Blount, and any reference to his descendants was removed from The Catalogue of Honor.

It is also worth noting that due to the removal of this section of the page, it also mutilated the verso, damaging the entry for Thomas Cecil (1542-1623), First Earl of Exeter. 

Thomas Cecil died one of the wealthiest men in England, leaving behind his famous estate at Wimbledon. His career entry in The Catalogue of Honor reads as follows:
Thomas Cecill, Baron Burghley, Knight of the Noble order of the Garter, Sonne and heire to William Cecill, Baron Burghley, Lord Treasurour of England, and Mary his wife, Daughter to Peter Cheek, and sister to John Cheek, Knight: was created Earle of Exeter at Greenwich.”
His brother was Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, secretary of state who took over for their father. Thomas Cecil’s daughter Elizabeth married Sir Edward Coke, attorney general, making his a very prominent family.This fame and high standing did not protect him from his own scandal. When Cecil remarried Frances Smith, a widow thirty years his junior, she tested the bounds of society and caused a strain on their family’s very close relationship with King James I. Frances was accused of plotting to poison Lady Lake, wife to one of the secretaries of state. In the case, there were 17,000 sheets of evidence against her. The trial was so high profile that King James I presided in Star Chamber and examined all of the witnesses himself. Frances was found innocent (most likely due to King James’ influence) and Lady Lake and her husband were sent to the Tower of London for life. 

It is indeed interesting that two such scandalous aristocrats would be on the recto and verso of the same page.  Although Charles Blount’s misdeeds led to a harsher reaction in The Catalogue of Honor, Thomas Cecil was also a casualty of the reprimand in the book, and he too may have deserved some of the backlash.  

Finally, we should take note that this book was produced by one of the most well-known printer/publishers of the time, William Jaggard (1568-1623). Printer of the Shakespeare First Folio, Jaggard also took on other large works, including his own book containing certain aspects of heraldry in 1601, entitled:

A view of all the right honourable the Lord Mayors of this honorable citty of London With the personages, and also such chiefe occasions as happened in euery seuerall mayors time, as also their charitable gifts are set downe, and the places of their burials. Beginning at the first yeare of her maiesties happy raigne, and continued vnto this present yeare 1601. by W.I. of London printer.
This book was in collaboration with Thomas Pavier. William Jaggard wrote the book himself and it was a summary history of the Lord Mayors of London from Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne through 1601.  Work on this book seems an apt preparation to print our book. In relation to The Catalogue of Honor, it seems likely that William Jaggard, as printer and publisher of the book, would bear the responsibility to take action in removing the section of the page referring to Charles Blount’s illegitimate children. Also, it seems that the mutilation of the page was done at the printing/bookselling stage because the many copies listed on the ESTC have an almost uniform alteration of the book. Because he was rising in the ranks, gaining more important printing jobs (such as the monopoly to print the Ten Commandments), it seems very likely that he would want to make sure that The Catalogue of Honor did not bring up any distasteful memories of these events. In December of 1610, William Jaggard became printer to the city of London, after printing The Catalogue of Honor. Perhaps it was because of his success and care with this book that he earned that honor.

The scandal surrounding Charles Blount caused much shame throughout the realm because it offended the religious and societal rules the nobility was expected to demonstrate for the lower classes. The copies of The Catalogue of Honor were precisely and frequently altered to remove any reminders of the shameful events.  Readers were not completely deterred by the removal of the section, though. Some copies have manuscript entries written in by readers containing the original entry. Though it is interesting that many readers simply rewrote the entry, issues concerning censorship abound. Perhaps the readers did not find Blount’s actions as repugnant as the court did. But, censorship seems to especially occur when the people involved are closely related to the royalty, most likely to keep their name from being brought into the scandal. When the nobility is held to a more public and higher standard and their deeds are recorded for posterity, their example is deeply scrutinized and it is understandable why this drastic course of action was taken in the book The Catalogue of Honor.