Exe-libris: gleanings from the shelves of Exeter Libraries
3. Devon's ship of fools
The second edition of The ship of fooles, (London: John Cawood, 1570. STC 3456) translated from the Latin Stultifera navis by Sebastian Brandt with commentaries by Alexander Barclay, priest of Ottery St. Mary in Devon, was acquired by Devon Library services in 1999 with the assistance of a substantial grant by the Kent Kingdon Trust. The series of 116 woodcuts was first used in the edition of 1509 (London: Richard Pynson. STC 3545) and they were reused in this, the second edition of Barclay's translation, published in 1570. They derive from those in the original edition of Brandt's work, printed in Basle by Johann Bergmann in 1494, many of which have been attributed to Dürer. In his translation Barclay introduces a number of comments based on his experiences in Devon, making this the first printed work of Devon literature. A two volume type facsimile was published in Edinburgh by William Patterson in 1874 (WSL s821/BRA).
The first edition states: “This present boke named the Shyp of folys of the worlde was translated i[n] the College of saynt mary Otery in the counte of Deuonshyre: out of Laten, Frenche, and Doche into Englysshe tonge by Alexander Barclay preste: and at that tyme chaplen in the sayde College.” Barclay (c1476-1552) was probably born in Scotland. His early life was spent in Croydon and he may have visited Europe. He was appointed chaplain of the College of Ottery St. Mary and later moved to Ely where he became a monk in the Benedictine monastery, later becoming a Franciscan at Canterbury. After the dissolution of the monasteries he acquired in 1546 the living of Great Baddow, Essex and Wookey, Somerset,obtaining the living of Allhallows Lombard Street, in the city of London in 1552, shortly before his death.
Sebastian Brandt (1457-1521) was a German humanist, born in Strasburg, who studied law in Basel where he later taught. He wrote Latin verse and edited legal works but is best known for his Narrenschiff. In 1500 he returned to Strasburg where he made several petitions to the Emperor Maximilian urging him to drive back the Turks.
The work was published in German and Latin editions by Johann Bergmann de Olpe in 1494 and immediately became extremely popular, with at least six authorised and seven pirated editions published before 1521. Brant did not support the Reformation movement, but many of the criticisms of the church expressed in his work mirrored themes which the reformers would pick up on.
The book was translated into Latin by Jacob Locher in 1497, into French by Paul Riviere in 1497 (Paris: for Geoffroy de Marnef, 1497) and by Jehan Droyn in 1498 (Lyon: Guillaume Balsarin, 1498), into Dutch (Paris: Guy Marchant, 1500) into English by Alexander Barclay in 1509 and by Henry Watson also in 1509.
2. Of unprofitable bookes (fo. 1r)
Lo in likewise of bookes I have store
But fewe I reade, and fewer understande,
I folowe not their doctrine nor their lore,
It is ynough to beare a booke in hande:
It were to muche to be in such a bande,
For to be bounde to loke within the booke,
I am content on the fayre covering to looke.
According to the instructions of the College's founder, John Grandisson, the chaplain had care and custody of the books. Barclay adds stanzas to this section on the vices of the clergy:
But if I durst truth plainely utter and expresse,
This is the speciall cause in this inconvenience,
That greatest fooles, and fullest of lewdnes,
Having least wit and simplest science,
Are first promoted, and have greatest reverence.
For if one can flatter and beare a hauke on his fist,
He shalbe made parson of Honington or Clist.
Rev. Henry Ferman was incumbent of Honiton 1505-17 (folio 2v).
3. Of evill counsailers, judges, and men of lawe (fo. 3v)
He that office hath and high aucthoritie
To rule a Realme, as Judge or counsellor,
Which seeing Justice, playne right and equitie,
Them falsely binding by favour or rigour,
Condempning wretches giltlesse: and to a Transgressour
For mede shewing favour: Such is as wise a man,
As he would seeth a quick sowe in a pan.
4. Of avarice, or covetise, and prodigalitie (fo. 5v)
He that is busy every day and houre,
Without measure, maner, or moderation,
To gather riches and great store of treasure,
Thereof no ioy taking, comfort nor consolation:
He is a foole, and of blinde and mad opinion.
5. Of new fassions and disguised garmentes (fo. 7v)
Some their neckes charged with colers and chaynes,
As golden withes, their fingers full of ringes:
Their neckes naked, almost unto the raynes,
Their sleves blasing like to a Cranes winges.
Thus by this devising such counterfaited thinges,
They diffourme that figure that God himselfe hath made,
On pride and abusion thus are their mindes layde.
6. Of olde fooles, that is to say, the longer they live, the more they are given to foly (fo. 10v)
The madnes of my youth rooted in my age,
And the blinde foly of my iniquities,
Will me not suffer to leave mine olde usage,
Nor my fore living full of enormitie.
Lame are my limmes, and also I can not see,
I am a childe, and yet lived have I
An hundreth winters, encreasing my foly.
7. Of the erudition of negligent fathers towarde their children (fo. 12r)
Correct thy childe while he is like a twigge,
Supple and pliant, apt to correction:
It will be harde forsooth when he is bigge,
To bring his stubborn heart to subiection,
What hurteth punishment with moderation
Unto young children, certainly nothing,
It voydeth vice, getting vertue and cunning.
8. Of tale bearers, false reporters, and promoters of strifes (fo. 15v)
Within his mouth is venim jeopardous and vile,
His tongue still laboureth leasings to contrive:
His mind still museth on falshood and on gile,
Therewith to trouble such as gladly would not strive.
Sometimes his words as dartes he doth drive
Against good men, for onely his delite,
Is set to slaunder, to defame and backbite.
9. Of him that will not followe nor ensue good counsayle and necessary (fo. 17r)
He is a foole that doth covet and desire,
To have the name of wisedom and prudence:
And yet of one sought through a citie or a shire,
None could be found of lesse wisedome nor science.
But while he thiketh him full of sapience,
Craftie and wise, doubtlesse he is more blinde,
Then is that foole which is out of his minde.
10. Of disordered and ungodly maners (fo. 19r)
In this our time small is the company,
That have good maners woorthy of reverence;
But many thousandes folowe villany,
Prone to all sinne and inconvenience,
Striving who soonest may come to all offence.
Of lewde conditions and unlawfulnes,
Blindnes of evill, and defiled foolishnes.
11. Of breaking and hurting of amitie and friendship (fo. 20v)
It is not lawfull to any excellent
Or mightie man, eyther lawyer or estate,
By cruelnes to oppresse an innocent:
Ne by pride and malice Justice to violate,
The law transporting after a frowarde rate,
With proude wordes defending his offence,
God wot oft such have simple conscience
O that he cursed is and reprovable,
Which day and night studieth busily,
To finde some meanes false and detestable,
To put his frende to losse or hurt thereby,
12. Of contempt or despising of holy scripture (fo. 23r)
The holy Bible grounde of truth and of lawe,
Is nowe of many abiect and nought set by,
Nor godly scripture is not woorth an hawe:
But tales are loved ground of ribaudry,
And many are so blinded with their foly,
That no scripture thinke they so true nor good,
As is the foolish iest of Robin Hood.
13. Of fooles without provision (fo. 24v)
14. Of disordered love and venerious (fo. 26v)
15. Of them that sinne trusting upon the mercy of God (fo. 28v)
16. Of the foolish beginning of great buildings without sufficient provision (fo. 30v)
Who ever beginneth any worke or dede
Of building, or of other thing chargeable,
And to his costes before taketh no hede,
Nor time not counteth to his worke agreable:
Suche is a foole and well worthy a bable.
For he that is wise will nothing assay,
Without he knowe howe he well ende it may.
What would Brant and Barclay have thought of the Dome and other millennial enterprises?
17. Of gluttons and dronkardes (fo. 32v)
18. Of riches unprofitable (fo. 34v)
19. Of him that together would serve two masters (fo. 36v)
20. Of too much speaking or babbling (fo. 38v)
21. Of them that correct other and yet them selves do nought, and sinne worse than they whom they so correct (fo. 39v)
22. Of him that findeth ought of another man's, not restoring it to the owner (fo. 41v)
23. Of the sermon or erudition of wisdome both to wise men and fooles. (fo 43r)
24. Of boasting or having confidence in fortune (fo. 45)
25. Of the over grewat and chargeable curiositie of men (fo. 47)
26. Of them that are alway borrowing (fo. 49)
27. Of unprofitable and vayne prayers, vowes, and petitions (fo. 50v)
28. Of unprofitable study (fo. 53)
29. Of them that foolishly speake against the workes of God (fo. 55v)
30. Of them that geve judgement on other (fo. 57) 31. Of pluralities, that is to say, of them which charge them selfe with many benefices (fo. 59)
32. Of them that prolong from day to day to amend them selves (fo. 61)
33. Of him that is gelous over his wife, and watcheth her wayes without cause or evident token of her misliving (fo. 63)
34. Of adoutrie, and especially of them that are bawdes to their wives ... (fo. 65)
35. Of him that nought can, and nought will learne (fo. 66v)
Softe fooles, softe, a little slack your pace,
Till I have space you to order by degree,
I have eyght neyghboures, that first shall have a place,
Within this my ship, for they most worthy be,
They may their learning receyve costles and free,
Their walles abutting and joyning to the scholes,
Nothing they can, yet nought will they learne nor see,
Therefore shall they guide this one ship of fooles.
36. Of great wrath proceeding of small occasion (fo. 69r)
37. Of the mutabilitie of fortune (fo. 71)
38. Of them that be diseased, and sicke, and are impacient, and unobedient to the phisitian (fo. 73)
39. Of over open takinges of counsell (fo. 75v)
40. Of fooles that can not beware by the misfortune and example of others damage (fo. 77)
41. Of them that forceth or careth for the backbiting of lewde people (fo. 79)
42. Of mockers and scorners and false accusers (fo. 81)
43. Of them that despise everlasting joye ... (fo. 83)
44. Of them that make noyses, rehearsinges of tales, and do other thinges unlawfull and dishonest in the churche of God (fo. 84v)
45. Of them that willing and knowingly put them selves in jeopardie and peril (fo. 87)
46. Of the way of felicitie amd goodnes, and of the payne to come unto sinners (fo. 88v)
47. Of the evill examples of elders geven unto youth (fo. 90v)
48. Of bodily pleasure or corporal voluptuositie (fo. 92v)
49. Of fooles that cannot keepe secrete their owne councell (f. 94v)
50. Of yonge fooles that take old women to their wives for their riches (f. 96)
51. Of envious fooles (f. 98)
52. Of impacient fools that will not abide correction (f. 100)
53. Of fooolsh phisitions and unlearned, that onely folowe paractike, knowing nought of the speculation of their facultie (f. 102)
54. Of the ende of worldly honour and power and of fooles that trust in them (f.104)
55. Of predestination (f. 106v)
56. Of fooles that forget themsele, and do another mans busines, leaving their owne undone. (f. 108v)
57. Of the vice of unkindnes, and fooles that it folowe.( f.110)
58. Of fooles that stande so well in their owne conceit, that they thinkke none so wise, stronge, fayre, nor eloquent, as they are themselvf. (f.112v)
59. Of leapings and daunces, and fooles that passe their time in such vanitie. (f.115)
60. Of night watchers and beters of the stretes, playing by night on instrumentes, and using like follies, when time is to reste. (f.117)
61. Of foolish beggers, and of their vanities (f. 119)
62. Of the yre immoderate, the wrath and great lewdnes of women. (f. 121v)
63. Of the great might and power of fooles (f. 125v)
64. Of the vaiyne care of astronomie. (f. 128)
65. Of the foolishe description and inquisition of divers countries and regions (f. 130)
66. Of him that will not see his owne foolishnes and that striveth against his stronger (f. 131v)
67. Of fooles that understande not game, and can nothing take in sport, and yet intermitte them with fooles (f. 133v)
68. Of them that wilfully offende ... (f. 136)
69. Of fooles without provision ... (f. 138)
70. Of great strivers in the lawe for things of nought (f. 139v)
He is a foole, whether it be man of wife,
Which him deliteth in iudgement or lawe,
And euer contendeth in discorde and in strife,
In small trifles and scantly worth a strawe:
Suche their owne fleshe vnto the bones granw,
And labour by their subtiltie and gyle,
To blinde iustice, and the lawes to defyle.
Brant and Barclay's comments have a bearing on our litigious age.
71. Of fooles abhominable in foule wordes of ribaudry. (f. 141v)
72. Of the abusion of the spiritualtie (f.143v)
Here Barclay extends his attacks on the monks beyond the Augustinians as Locher had done:
O holy Benet, with God nowe glorified,
O glorious Austen, O Fraunces decorate
With meekenes the places that ye have edified,
Are now disordred, and with vices maculate,
Envy, pride, malice, gluttony and debate
Are now chiefe giders in many of your places,
Which grace and vertue utterly out chases.
In the Diocese of Exeter there were 16 Benedictine foundations, 11 Augustinian and 3 Franciscan foundations in Barclay's time.
73. Of the proude and vayne boasting of fooles (f. 146)
74. Of carde player and disers (f. 148)
75. Of fooles oppressed with their owne foly. (f. 156v)
76. Of the extortion of knightes, great officers, men of warre, scribes and practisers of the lawe (f. 152)
Good officers are good and commendable,
Any manly knightes that live in righteousnesse,
But they that do not are worthy of a bable,
Since by their pride poore people they oppresse:
My master Kyrkham for his perfite mekenes,
And supportation of men in povertie,
Out of my ship shall worthely be free.
I flatter not, I am his true servitour,
His chaplayne and bedeman, while my life shall endure,
Mansel of Oteri for powling of the poore,
Were not his great wombe here should have an ore.
77. Of foolish messengers and pursiuvantes (f. 154v)
78. Of foolish cookes and butlers, ... (f. 156v)
79. Of the arrogancie and pride of men of the countrie (f.158v)
80. Of the contempt and despising of povertie (fo. 160v)
81. Of them that begin to do well, and continue not in that purpose (f.164)
82. Of fooles that despise death, ... (f.167)
83. Of fooles that despise God. (f. 170v)
84. Of blasphemers and swearers of the name of God, and of his saintes. (f.172v)
85. Of the plague and indignation of God, and fooles that fear not the same. (f. 175v)
86. Of foolishe exchaunges, scorsings and permutations. (f.177v)
87. Of foolish children that worship not their father and mother. (f. 180)
88. Of the clatering and babling of priestes and clarkes in the queere. (f.182)
89. Of elevate pride and boasting. (f.184v)
90. Of usurers and ofkerers. (f.187v)
91. Of the vaine hope that fooles have to succeed to heritage, possession and riches. (f. 189v)
92. Of fooles that keepe not the holy day. (f.191v)
93. Of fooles that repent of that they have geven. (f.193v)
94. Of the vice of slouth. (f. 195)
95. Of straunge fooles and infidels, as Sarasins, Paynims, Turkes, and such like. (f.197)
96. Of the ruine and decay of the holy fayth Catholicke, and diminution of the empire (f.205)
97. Of flatterers and glosers (f.207v)
98. Of tale bearers and fooles of light credence unto the same. (f.209)
99. Of falsehode, gile, and disceate, and suche as folowe them. (f. 211)
100. Of the falsehode of Antichrist. (f. 213v)
101. Of him that dare not utter the truth for fear of displeasure or punishment. (f.216v)
102. Of fooles that withdrawe and let other to do good dedes. (f. 218v)
103. of the omission or leaving of good workes.(f. 220)
104. Of the reward of wisedom. (f. 222)
105. Of the despising of misfortune. (f. 224)
106. Of backbiters of good men, ... (f.225v)
107. Of immoderate vilenes in maners used at the table. (f 228v)
108. Of fooles disgised with visers and other counterfayte apparell. (f. 232)
109. The description of a wise man (f. 234v)
Here Barclay addresses John Bishop, rector of St Paul in Exeter 1504-37
Which was the first oversear of this warke
And unto his frende gave his advisement,
It not to suffer to slepe still in the darke,
But to be published abrode and put to print:
Thy name to worship and honour doth accord
As born a bishop without a benefice!
Thy living small, thy name is of a Lord
110. Of fooles that despise wisedome and philosophie, ... (f. 237v)
111. A concertation or striving betwene vertue and voluptuositie or carnall lust (f. 239v)
112. The objection of lust blaming vertue. (f. 241)
113. The answere of vertue against this objection of voluptuositie. (f. 244v)
114. The universall ship and general barke or barge, wherein thety rowe that yet have had no charge. (f. 248v)
115. The universal ship of crafty men or labourers. (f. 251)
117. Of fooles that are over worldly. (f. 252v)
116. A briefe addition of the singularitie of some newe fooles. (f 256)