in other languag
ly. The variety
The first three lots were purchased by Parker & Stevens for America! It is remarkable, what madness exists at present in regard to the MSS of the Wycliffite Versions of the Bible. Yet the man who would give the absurd price of £350 for a MS of the New Testament, of no particular value in regard to the text, would grudge £4 to buy a copy of my edition of both Wycliffite versions of the entire Bible with the various readings of all the best MSS extant!Many thanks to Dr. Hunt for this additional contemporary insight into the sale. Perhaps Mr. Stevens had been swayed by the rhetoric of the catalogue note:
The extraordinary rarity of Manuscripts containing Translations of any portion of the Holy Scriptures into English is too well known to require comment, but is not to be wondered at when we consider that the mere possession of such an article, if it became known to the Priests, would have probably brought its owner to the stake. The followers of Wyclif were persecuted to the utmost as heretics, and the Transcripts of his Version seized and rigidly destroyed. Hence the difficulty to Bible-Collectors of finding any specimen to enrich their collections.
VII. CONSTITUTION. That the text of the Holy Scriptures must not be translated into the English language.
It is a dangerous thing, as Saint Jerome attests [Letter 57 to Pammachius, written in 395], to translate the text of the Holy Scriptures from one idiom into another, for in translation it is not easy to retain the original in all its senses, just as Saint Jerome, even though he had been inspired, still acknowledges frequent error; therefore we state and ordain that henceforth, nobody may by his own authority translate the text of the Holy Scriptures into the English language or any other, whether into a book, a booklet or a treatise, nor may anyone read any book, booklet or treatise recently written by John Wycliff or his associates, or any about to be written, either in part or whole, in public or in secret, under threat of major excommunication, until the translation has been approved by the local bishop, or if necessary the provincial council; whoso acts against this will be punished as a promoter of heresy and like errors.
The present copy, written in the old orthography, appears to have been purchased in May, 1576, by "Robert Ardern of Barwicke" from "Mr. Englatt the Mr of the singyng chyldren in Chryste Churche in Norwich" for "twentye shillings."
By chaunce this Holy Booke came to my view,
It's worth the keeping, for it's very true.
I haue not seene it's fellow, and believe
Nor any man, that is this day aliue.
Giue God the praise for this his auncient Work
Who hath preseru'd it both from Pope & Turk
Both wch if they might haue had their desire
Would haue exposed it vnto the fire.
But God will alwaies keep from such bad men
His holy Writt: Giue glory to him then.
12 Nouembris 1661.
The aforesaid Mr John Booker casually seeing this booke as it came from the binding forthwith composed & writ the above verses being affected with this Antient Manuscript.
It was at this point that the aforementioned John Taylor, the 'Water Poet', famous Royalist satirist and pamphleteer, stepped in on Wharton's behalf. Taylor's No Mercurius Aulicus, subtitled 'the breaking of BOOKER, the Asse-tronomical London Figure-flinger, his perfidious Prediction failing, and his great Conjunction of Saturne and Iupiter dislocated', was published on July 10th. (Mercurius Aulicus, incidentally, being an important proto-newspaper produced by the Royalist John Birkenhead.) Taylor accuses Booker of slander and disloyalty to the King, and concludes:
Thus (Master Bookerus) I have anatomized and skellitonized your railing Pamphlet and ridiculous Prediction: it is known too well, that the expectation of some mischievous events was the ladder on which your meditations mounted. You were believed amonst a company of catacoxcombrian Plebeians, as amongst the Heathen the Delphian Oracle;
But what of Booker? The astrologer ups the ante in his own reply, published on July 19th—No Mercurius Aquaticus, 'but a CABLE-ROPE Double-twisted for IOHN TAYLER, the Water-Poet, who escaping drowning in a Paper-Wherry-Voyage, is reserved for another day, as followeth'. (The reference is to Taylor's penchant for taking wacky trips on the Thames in a paper boat.)
And now thou Thames Otter, thou Malignant Dive-dapper, thou Jack Tayler, thou Motley, Sea-green, Ditch-water villain, that hast more Malignant flowings and ebbings in thy Waterish Brains, then the Thames hath Tides. . . I perceive that your language is as foggy and fulsome as your Ale, your conceits smell too much of the Malignant Onions and Garlick of Egypt, you have so much Irish and Spanish, that I cannot understand you with my Wits.
I shall goe no father than Mahomet and his Alcoran, and there I finde the word, Thorny Ailo, the wise Anagram of thy Name, to be thus Anatomized and Skellumatized. Thorny in the Arabicke, signifies a villaine, and Ailo in the Syriack a Rook, otherwise called in the Greek Abaddon, which being Englished, is a destructive Villaine; or an Antichristian Prick louse, which tacks together all sorts of Fustian, as impudent lies, Slanders, and far-fetch'd Bumbast, in the behalfe of Popery. . .
What is the reason Sir, that you spell false? Is it because your Skellumship would not have the world to thinke, that your Pedegree was derived from such a Lowsy, Snip snap Originall, as to have thy Ancestors thought to be Taylers?
As when Christopher Columbus (an Italian) first discovered some small part of the (then unknown) America, Vespusius (a Spaniard) sailing the year after, with the Chart or Card, Compasse, Mappes, and Mariners, that formerly Columbus had used, the said Vespusius discovered more Land, as the golden Peru, and other vast Continents, and at his returne (being at dinner with Columbus and others) Vespusius bragged that he had onely found that new and rich World, at which words the Italian took an Egge in his hand, asking Vespusius, if he could make the Egge stand on one end upon the Table, to which he answered, he could not do it, then the other said that he could do it, and presently he put the Egges end into the Salt, and it stood upright; then the Spaniard said, that he could do that tricke as well as he, to which the Italian replied, so you could finde America when I have shewn you the way.
It is a much-repeated story, known as Columbus' Egg, and has its own Wiki page. Taylor's telling is unusual on two accounts—first, it involves Vespucci by name, and secondly, Columbus stands up the egg by putting it in salt, rather than by breaking the bottom on the table, as is commonly recounted. The story comes from Girolamo Benzoni's 1565 History of the New World, and was itself lifted from a tale told by Vasari of Brunelleschi; it was probably known to Taylor via the 1613 Pilgrimes of Samuel Purchas—
Euen the Spaniards themselues, not only by the tale of the Pilot before mentioned [ie. Columbus], but by light esteeme of his worth haue shewed a contemptible contempt of him: some of whom obiecting to himselfe the easinesse of this Discouerie, as he sate at Table, he prayed to make an Egge, which then he gaue them, to stand on end; which when they could not, hee bruising the shell, and making the end flat, made it to stand thereon: thereby insinuating, how easie it was for them to doe that which they had seene and learned of him.Why the addition of Vespucci to Taylor's telling? Men in the 1640s—Peter Heylin, for instance—were still suggesting that America had been misnamed, and should rather be Columba, or Cabotia. Thus the name of Vespucci gave the anecdote a particular sapor, although I do not know why Taylor thought him Spanish. The sand, again, I cannot account for. Perhaps Taylor wanted to show that, unlike Vespucci, he did not need to follow others; his solution is, if anything, more elegant than that of his predecessors.