Gabriel Harvey

Old Library L.26

This bound collection of publications in the Old library features handwritten notes and poetry in the distinctive hand of Gabriel Harvey (1552/3–1631), writer, scholar and friend of Edmund Spenser.

Although the plain leather binding of this book has been repaired at a later stage, the four items within this volume are cross-referenced by Harvey, suggesting that he had them bound together not long after he acquired them in the early 1590s. The group comprises of two publications by King James VI of Scotland and I of England (who in addition to overseeing the new English translation of the Bible, was a keen poet and sought to promote Scottish literature) and two by Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, the French Huguenot poet and diplomat. For a full list of the Volume’s contents owned by Harvey, please see the bibliography at the end of the blog post.

James I, King of England, 1566-1625. Essayes of a prentise, in the diuine art of poesie. Imprinted at Edinburgh : By Thomas Vautroullier, 1585.

James I, King of England, 1566-1625. Essayes of a prentise, in the diuine art of poesie. Imprinted at Edinburgh : By Thomas Vautroullier, 1585.  Annotations by Gabriel Harvey.  Old Library L. 26(1)

It is no accident that the works of James VI and Guillaume du Bartas were selected to be bound together. James VI’s Essayes of a prentise, the first item in this collection, contains his translation of a poem by Du Bartas’, and Du Bartas was sent on a diplomatic mission to James VI in 1587. Du Bartas’ epic poem ‘La Semaine’ was published a year later, and was influential amongst English poets such as Edmund Spenser and John Milton. Du Bartas also translated James VI’s poem ‘Lepanto’ into French, which appears with its own title page as part of His Maiesties poeticall exercises, item number two in this volume. James VI was brought up in the Protestant church, and Du Bartas’ Protestant faith was no doubt a good match for his literary interests also.

Commentary by Harvey, sig. L., Old Library L. 26(1)

Commentary by Harvey, sig. L., Old Library L. 26(1)

Harvey offers a glimpse into the world of 16th century literary scholarship by heavily annotating these four works. In Essayes of a prentise, Harvey offers his opinions upon James VI’s treatise upon the characteristics of Scottish poetry ; ‘Sum points singular : manie notable : all considerable’ and ‘short & sweet’.

Poetry by Gabriel Harvey in his own hand: 'A charme for a mad wooman', rear flyleaf, Old Library L. 26(1)

Poetry by Gabriel Harvey in his own hand: ‘A charme for a mad wooman’, rear flyleaf, Old Library L. 26(1)

On the rear flyleaf, Harvey adds some poetry of his own:

‘A charme for a mad wooman.

Ô heavenlie Medcin, panacea high,
Restore this raging wooman to her health,
More worth then hugest Summes of worldlie wealth.
Exceedingly more worth than any wealth.
Ô light of grace, & reason from the skie,
Illuminate her madd-conceited mind,
And melancholie cease her witts to blinde.
Cease fearfull melancholie her witts to blinde.

Raving /     Axiophilus.’

Harvey has signed off as ‘Axophilus’, his nom de plume given to his private writings. Eleanor Relle notes that ‘raving’ has been inserted as a possible replacement for the word ‘fearfull’ in the last line of the poem, and questions whether, given Harvey’s interest in medicine in the latter years of his life, whether this charme was meant to be put into practise or whether it is merely a study upon ‘melancholy’.

Scott-Warren comments that ‘Harvey was one the most assiduous annotators in an age of annotation. His books are instantly recognizable from the sheer density of his marginal commentary, which sometimes tells of several readings conducted across the course of decades’.  This is certainly evident in Magdalene’s collection of books owned by Harvey, as shown by references to Machiavelli, Dante and Barnabe Barnes amongst many others. These annotations are a rich source of research into material texts scholarship, history and English literature, as well as being highly entertaining and rendered in beautiful handwriting.

By Catherine Sutherland

Deputy Librarian, Pepys Library and Special Collections

Bibliography

List of publications in Old Library L. 26 owned by Harvey:

James I, King of England, 1566-1625. Essayes of a prentise, in the diuine art of poesie. Imprinted at Edinburgh : By Thomas Vautroullier, 1585.

James I, King of England, 1566-1625. His Maiesties poeticall exercises at vacant houres. At Edinburgh : printed by Robert Walde-graue printer to the Kings Maiestie. Cum priuilegio regali, [1591]

Du Bartas, Guillaume de Salluste, seigneur, 1544-1590. Triumph of faith. The sacrifice of Isaac. The ship-wracke of Ionas. With a song of the victorie obtained by the French king, at Yvry. Written in French, by W. Salustius lord of Bartas, and translated by Iosuah Siluester, marchant aduenturer. [London] : Printed by Richard Yardley, and Peter Short, and are to be sold at the Starre on Bredstreet hill, 1592.

Du Bartas, Guillaume de Salluste, seigneur, 1544-1590. Canticle of the victorie obteined by the French king, Henrie the fourth. at Yvry. Written in French by the noble, learned, and deuine poet, William Salustius; Lord of Bartas, and counsailor of estate vnto his Maiestie. Translated by Iosuah Siluester marchant- aduenturer. At London : Printed by Richard Yardley, on Bredstreete hill, at the signe of the Starre, 1590.

Other literature consulted:

Richards, Jennifer. ‘Gabriel Harvey, James VI, and the Politics of Reading Early Modern Poetry.’ Huntington Library Quarterly 71, no. 2 (1 June 2008): 303–21. doi:10.1525/hlq.2008.71.2.303.

Relle, Eleanor, and Gabriel Harvey. ‘Some New Marginalia and Poems of Gabriel Harvey.’ The Review of English Studies, New Series, 23, no. 92 (1 November 1972): 401–16.

Rickard, Jane. Authorship and Authority: The Writings of James VI and I. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007.

Scott-Warren, Jason. : ‘Harvey, Gabriel.’ [Oxford DNB Article] Accessed 5 August 2015. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12517.

‘Guillaume de Salluste, Seigneur Du Bartas | Biography – French Poet.’ Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed 5 August 2015. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Guillaume-de-Salluste-seigneur-du-Bartas.

‘Guillaume Du Bartas (1544-1590) | Musée Virtuel Du Protestantisme.’ Accessed 5 August 2015. http://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/guillaume-du-bartas-1544-1590/.

‘James I | King of England and Scotland.’ Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed 5 August 2015. http://www.britannica.com/biography/James-I-king-of-England-and-Scotland.

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