“Endlesse fame shall crowne thy well-ment actions with applause”: An Olimpick Curiosity, 400 Years On

Michael Drayton, et al. Annalia Dubrensia: vpon the yearly celebration of Mr. Robert Dovers Olimpick Games vpon Cotswold-Hills. London: Robert Raworth, for Mathewe Walbancke [i.e. Printed for Dr. Thomas Dover], 1636 [i.e. 1720?]

While working on a project to create detailed catalog records for items of interesting provenance, I came across an 18th-century type-facsimile of a charming collection of poetry from 1636 called the Annalia Dubrensia (“Annals of Dover”), one of only two documented copies in this country. The poems are dedicated to Robert Dover (1582-1652) and were contributed by more than thirty poets, among whom are such luminaries as Ben Jonson, Thomas Randolph, Michael Drayton, and Thomas Heywood. The volume includes a humble response in verse by Dover himself. An attorney and former scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, Dover is most famous as the founder, or more likely the resuscitator, of the Cotswold Games, a two-day sporting festival held in a valley (sometimes called a “natural amphitheater”) in the Cotswold Hills near Chipping Camden in Gloucestershire, England, starting around 1612. This was only one of many such regular events which are documented from this period, but it became distinguished under the management of Dover, who saw the rise of Puritanism in England as standing in opposition to the freer and more playful spirit which seemed to be in the nature of the English people. Dover believed that physical strength gained through exercise was necessary for the defense of the realm, but he also wished to unite rich and poor in a sporting atmosphere. The games were quite popular and received the approval of King James I. Some scholars believe that Shakespeare (who may have known Dover) makes reference to them in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The frontispiece illustration from the 1636 edition reprinted in our copy shows an assortment of the activities which went on during the games. At middle-ground in the center of this woodcut is a curious edifice known as Dover Castle, a portable wooden structure balanced on a single pedestal, from which a standard bearing the motto “Heigh for Cotswold!” was flown and cannon were fired during the events. Across the landscape, participants are depicted engaged in several of the events, including sword fighting, wrestling, leaping, coursing with hounds, quarterstaff, casting the hammer, and spear throwing. One man even stands on his head. In the upper left-hand corner of the woodcut, three women in ruffs and long dresses dance, accompanied by a piper.

The games were as famous for their accommodations and refreshments as for their activitie. Poet Nicholas Wallington writes in this work that “None ever hungry from these games come home, / or ere made plaint of viands, or of roome.” At the foot of the hill on which the castle stood (or teetered) are tents set up for competitors, in front of which a group of men are having a meal at a long table. From the style of the illustration, it is hard to tell whether this party are seating on a mat or other covering on the ground as if at a picnic, or if a hole was dug into the ground, at the edge of which they sat enjoying their meal. The square ornamental device at the middle-right may be one of the yellow “ribbands” which Dover famously awarded to all participants. In the midst of all of this revelry and sport rides Dover himself, whose importance is indicated by his size in relation to the other figures. He is elaborately dressed in a feathered hat, ruff, coat, and boots which were a gift from King James out of his personal wardrobe.

Dover’s games continued annually, with the support of the Royal Family, until it was suppressed during the English Civil War in 1642. After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the games were revived and continued on and off until 1852. In 1966, they returned as a regular event under the patronage of the Robert Dover’s Games Society, and are still enacted today in the same location as the original games, near what has come to be called Dover’s Hill, featuring such popular events as shin-kicking and tug-of-war.

The rediscovery of this work in the vault of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library is a timely one, considering the start of the 2012 Olympics in late July. In fact, Dover’s Cotswold Games themselves came to be known as “Olimpick” – a term which was the product of the age’s renewed interest in Classical mythology and culture. The British Olympic Association has acknowledged these games as the “first stirrings” of the British Olympic heritage. Furthermore, it seems that the first Cotswold Games celebrated under Dover’s administration were probably held in June, 1612, exactly 400 years ago. Sources say that the Games took place on the Thursday and Friday after Whitsunday (a traditional name for the festival of Pentecost), which is the seventh Sunday after Easter. This would place the date of the inaugural games on the 14th and 15th of June, 1612.

This circa 1720 edition of the Annalia Dubrensia is differentiated from the 1636 version by the addition of an anonymous poem and the inclusion of a note at the end of the dedicatory epistle on leaf A2 verso, stating that this new edition was undertaken because “Dr. Dover [i.e. John Dover, d. 1725] thought it his Duty to perpetuate the Memory of that Good Man his Grandfather.” An armorial bookplate, with the motto “Do ever good,” was pasted onto one of the fly-leaves, with the name of Dover’s father, John Dover of Norfolk, written in what may be a nineteenth-century hand. Below this is a coat-of-arms incorporating the above crest, drawn in pen and accompanied by notes in the same hand, indicating that “These Supporters and other Additions were granted to Robert Dover his Son the Institutor of the Cotswold Games, who died 1652.” It is believed that King James I himself may have been the grantor of these arms. A nineteenth- or early twentieth-century owner of this volume (perhaps Ernest E. Baker, F.S.A., whose bookplate appears on the front paste-down) pasted clippings and copied several quotations related to the games or the Annalia Dubrensia onto the rear fly-leaves. This copy was acquired by the Library in January of 1941. TB

Heads Will Roll! Echoes of the French Revolution in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library

A visit to our library by the Urbana High School French Club this past spring sent me to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library vault in search of materials from the French Revolution era. On this Bastille Day week-end, let’s take a look at some of my (re)discoveries.

 Official documents

Acte constitutionnel : précédé de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen présenté au peuple françois par la Convention nationale, le 24 juin 1793, l’an deuxième de la République. A Strasbourg : Chez J.G. Treuttel, libraire, [1793]. 24 p.

This slim publication, also known as Constitution de l’An I (Constitution of the Year I) contains an expanded Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen that adds several rights to the text from 1789, such as the right to work and to public assistance, the right to public education, the right to rebel, the duty to do so when the government violates the right of the people, and the abolition of slavery. Although it was ratified, the Constitution of 1793 was never put into effect as the National Convention set it aside in October 1793, until exterior and interior wars ceased and peace came. Two years later, the Constitution of the Year III (1795) marked the beginning of the Directory. While it was never implemented, this seminal document inspired subsequent generations of revolutionaries and legislators, well into the 20th century.  It can be found under call number 342.442F83521793.

Rapport fait au nom du Comité de salut public par Maximilien Robespierre; sur les rapports des idées religieuses et morales avec les principes républicains, et sur les fêtes nationales. Séance du 18 floréal, l’an second de la République française, une et indivisible. [Paris? : S.n., 1794?]. 48 p.

Rapport fait au nom du Comité de salut public par Maximilien RobespierreThis report on the relationship between religious and moral ideas and republican principles, and on national celebrations, which was immediately adopted by the National Convention, opens with the statement that “the French people recognize the existence of the Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul”. It establishes a series of republican virtues to be celebrated on each “Décadi”, the last day of each decade or ten-day period, which had replaced the seven-day week in the revolutionary calendar that went into effect in October 1793. In addition to the “weekly” celebration, the report establishes four national celebrations to commemorate 14 July 1789 (Bastille Day), 10 August 1792 (end of the Bourbon monarchy), 21 January 1793 (execution of Louis XVI), and 31 May 1793 (fall of the Girondist faction), as well as a national celebration of the Supreme Being. Jacques Louis David, the politician and painter, wrote a detailed and very enthusiastic plan for the first celebration which is appended to the report.

Excerpt from Robespierre’s report. Item VII lists several republican virtues to be celebrated each ‘décadi’.

Instruction sur les mesures déduites de la grandeur de la terre, uniformes pour toute la République, et sur les calculs relatifs à leur division décimale; par la Commission temporaire des poids & mesures républicaines, en exécution des décrets de la Convention nationale. Paris: Imprimerie nationale exécutive du Louvre, an IIe. de la République [1794] xxxii, 224, [27] p.

Instruction sur les mesures déduites de la grandeur de la terre - title pageThis volume introduces a stable, simple and uniform system of measures to be used across the French Republic, established by a Temporary Committee of Republican Weights and Measures, presided at the time by René Just Hauÿ (whose works on crystallography were highlighted in a recent exhibition in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library: Crystallography—Defining the Shape of Our Modern World. (Curators: Gregory S. Girolami and Vera V. Mainz) 30 April through 13 July, 2012.). This decimal metric system was to be applied to all areas of measurement, including time. Days were to be divided in 10 hours of 100 minutes, and each minutes divided in 100 seconds. While the length, volume and weight measures spread throughout Europe during the 19th century, the proposed division of time was never implemented.

Instruction sur les mesures déduites de la grandeur de la terre - plate

Foldout plate from Instruction sur les mesures… with sample decimeter (second ruler from top).

The Press

Le Publiciste Parisien: Journal Politique, Libre Et Impartial. [Paris] : Veuve Hérissant, 1789.

Le Publiciste parisien - first pageJean-Paul Marat (1743-1793), a physician and scientist turned radical journalist and politician during the French Revolution, whose assassination by Charlotte Corday was depicted by another famous revolutionary, the painter Jacques Louis David, first published on 12 September 1789 Le Publiciste parisien. The publication became most famous under the title it acquired after the first few issues: L’Ami du peuple (the Friend of the People), which came to designate both the journal and its author. The title varied, changing after some time to Journal de la République française and Le Publiciste de la République française. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library owns five hundred issues out of the nearly thousand issues published between 1789 and Marat’s death on 13 July 1793. These issues were bound in several volumes, and then disbound, except for one volume. They can be found under call numbers IUB 01044 through IUB01049.

Révolutions De France Et De Brabant. [Paris : De L’imprimerie De Laillet & Garnéry, 1789-1791].

In the fall of 1789, another young journalist and famous orator of the Revolution, Camille Desmoulins (1760-1794) started Révolutions de France et de Brabant, a weekly journal in which he shared his views on prominent political figures of the time and on many debates of the new National Assembly. This title was published in 86 issues from 28 November 1789 until July 1791. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library has issues 1-71 (call number 905REVF).

Panckoucke, Charles Joseph,eds. Gazette Nationale: Ou, Le Moniteur Universel. Paris, 1789-1901.

La Gazette nationale, ou le moniteur universel, created by Charles-Joseph Panckoucke (1736-1798), the publisher of l’Encyclopédie méthodique, which had succeeded Diderot’s famed Encyclopédie. From the first issue on 24 November 1789, the Gazette included complete transcripts of the debates of the Assembly, with the help of stenographers, making it an invaluable source for historical research. It became the official publication of the government in early 1800 and lasted until 1901.

As early as 1790, the Gazette became so popular that Agasse, an associate of Panckoucke, issued a new “historic” edition, which he had start on May 5, 1789, the opening day of the General Estates! These apocryphal issues misled some generations of historians and tarnished the reputation of the whole publication, which may explain why relatively few copies were preserved to this day. The History, Philosophy and Newspaper Library owns a copy, found under call number 905MONA, from 1789 until 1868, which includes the early apocryphal issues.

Massacre Of The French King!: View Of La Guillotine, Or The Modern Beheading Machine, At Paris, By Which The Unfortunate Louis XVI. (late King Of France) Suffered On The Scaffold, January 21st, 1793. London : Printed At The Minerva Office, For William Lane. And Sold Wholesale At One Guinea Per Hundred. And Retail By Every Bookseller, Stationer &c. In England, Scotland And Ireland, [1793].

Massacre of the French King! - broadside

Woodcut illustration from Massacre of the French King!

This British broadside, which appears to marvel at technological progress (“The Modern Beheading Machine”) at the same time that it decries the execution of Louis XVI, offers a translation of the decree of the French National Convention from 15, 17, 19, and 20 January 1793 setting forth the execution: “Louis Capet, last King of the French, having been found guilty of conspiracy against the Liberty of the Nation, and of a crime against the general Safety of the State (…) shall undergo the punishment of Death.”

The decree is followed by the report of the council who communicated the decree to Louis, Orders for the Day (“The execution shall take place Monday the 21st, at La Place de la Révolution, ci-devant Louis XV”), and a full account of the procession and the execution. A note at the bottom of the broadside indicates that “a more particular account of this machine may be seen in Twiss’s Trip to Paris, lately published”.

Richard Twiss (1747-1821) provides vivid tales of executions with the guillotine, as well as a history and description of beheading machines, in his account A Trip to Paris in July and August, 1792 (London: Minerva Press, 1793) and points his readers to several publications where illustrations can be found. His own book opens with a frontispiece depicting an execution. The execution of Louis XVI in January 1793 provided him with a unique opportunity to advertise his book…

This broadside is bound with another periodical, Mirror of the times (London, 179?-1810), and can be found under call number F. 052 MIRROR.  CS