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14 July 2012

Exe libris 4

Exeter working papers in book history ; 25
Exe-libris: gleanings from the shelves of Exeter Libraries
4. The Topsham Museum Bible box and its prints

This item is a contrast to earlier items in this series. It is not held in a library but in a museum in Exeter and the items described are at the other end of the spectrum from the massive tomes discussed earlier. Broadside literature and images were widely distributed during the 18th century and were used for a variety of purposes, being sung or recited aloud, gathered into volumes by collectors or pasted up as interior decoration in inns or private houses - they were normally only printed on one side of the paper. In this instance three prints were pasted into the interior of a box used to contain a Bible.

In June 1986 Topsham Museum purchased a Bible box and Bible (inventory no. 4026) from the Exeter antique dealer Peter Wadham. The London & Manchester Insurance Group had donated some money towards setting up the period rooms in the Museum. The box has the date 1696 and the initials I W carved on the lid but there is no information as to its further provenance. Its dimensions are given by the Museum as 22 by 12 by 6 inches. It contained what was described as a leather bound "Edward VI Bible" but this has not been examined for inscriptions. The owner in the 1760s lined it with three broadsheets. In August 2010 I photographed the broadsides that lined the Bible box which is on display in the Museum and attempted to piece them together.

All three broadsheets are from the printing office of Cluer Dicey in Aldermary Churchyard in the City of London. Cluer Dicey, who also had premises in Northampton, was active in London from 1736 until his retirement from the business in 1770, from 1764 in partnership with Richard Marshall. The broadsheets were probably acquired in the early 1760s and all can be identified in the 1764 catalogue of the firm of Dicey and Marshall:

A catalogue of maps, prints, copy-books, drawing-books, histories, old ballads, patters, collections, &c. Printed and Sold by Cluer Dicey and Richard Marshall, At the Printing Office, in Aldermary Church-Yard, LONDON. Printed in the Year M, DCC, LXIV.

The first broadsheet, which lacks an imprint is An account of the Life of Jacob and his twelve Sons with their [...]. This can be identified in the section entitled: "A Catalogue of new Pictures, extremely well Printed from off Wooden Prints, Finely Cut from the best French, Dutch, and English Copies. Each on a Sheet of Fine Royal Paper. With Verses applicable to each Print". Known as "Wood Royals" the list includes on page 63:

10. Jacob with his Twelve Sons, in One Sheet, with a large Historical Account.

The second broadsheet is listed on page 77 of the same section:

274. The Danger of yielding to Temptations: Or, the Power of Beauty.

Although it lacks the title as well as the imprint it can be identified from the incomplete verses under the woodcut:

My Glass in Hand, and Book in Lap,
Secure the Mind from a Mishap;
W[ith?] Idleness and wanton Thought,
W[hich?] by Degrees bring me to naught.

With busy Thoughts I quench that Fire,
Which often burns to lewd Desire;
I see my Duty in the Glass
How Beauty fades away as Grass.

I cultivate ...
Better ...
For Fopish ...
And show ...

The third broadsheet has only part of the title: [H]is Most Sacred Majes[ty King George the Third ... Gr]eat Britain, and Ireland, Defender of t[he Faith ... Tr]easurer of the Holy Roman Empire. It has the imprint: "[London?] Cut, Printed, Painted, and Sold, by Cluer Dicey, in Bow Church-Yard. Sold also at his Wholesale Warehouse in Northampton." It is listed in the section of "Pott Sheet Prints", on page 46:

107. King George III.

These broadsheets were not known to the English Sort Title Catalogue compilers at the British Library in 2010 and their surfacing in a collection in Exeter shows how what is known to survive of this type of popular literature is only the tip of an iceberg.

Copyright © Ian Maxted 2012
This page last updated 14 July 2012