Prof. Carol Ann Johnston

Category: Adopted Book–Afterlives

Topsell’s “History of the Beasts”. A collective work seen from contemporary eyes

The Historie of foure footed beastes and The Historie of serpents were compiled by Edward Topsell in the 17th century in his effort to give the English language a treatise on animal biology (this kind of book is also known as a bestiary, and moreover Topsell’s work is more similar to renaissance bestiaries than to scientific works of the 17th century due to its inclussion of fantastic creatures and constant references to classic works) that dignified the vernacular language as no other had done before, according to Topsell himself; scientific works were, at that time, still published in Latin.

The readers of the book were probably university students, as indicated by the presence of marks in the margins with which one could more easily search for the desired information about each creature, natural remedy or reference in some classic author to these animals in his works. In addition to the fascinating content and Topsell’s ambition of wanting to translate four creature treatises into English (although he was prevented from doing so by his death), this book is known for its stunning illustrations, including a version of the rhinoceros that is very reminiscent of Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut engraving dating from 1515.

Nowadays we have a stricter understanding of scientific and academic works, in the sense that they are the result of a process that follows a method through experimentation, verification of theories by means of objectivity, and the possibility of repeating experiments given the circumstances described in the study’s presentation. This being so, Topsell’s work, seen through today’s eyes, does not fall within the same framework and comes as a great surprise to us because of the collective (and fantastic) nature of its creation. This was already explored, in part, when discussing Topsell’s expectation that his contemporary readers would help him continue to complete this ambitious endeavor in the English language. Helen Westhrop, Rare Books Library Assistant at University of Reading, talks about how Gesner’s original “work was made possible by the network of leading naturalists throughout Europe who sent him ideas, plants, gems and animals” (Featured Item). In other words, its origin was already a collaboration of voices.

However, when considering it a collective work, this also applies to another more important part of the book: the illustrations. The reality is that Topsell “borrowed heavily (and directly) from earlier treatises” (University Libraries). To further reinforce this point, Susan Isaac, Information Services Manager at the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s Library, reflects on the case of the rhinoceros. According to her, the illustrations chosen by Topsell, and specifically the one dedicated to the rhinoceros, were “an example of how [he] acknowledged his sources and reused material from them in his book” (The familiar and the fantastic). Isaac also makes it a point that Gesner –the main source of our 17th-century beast compiler– learned of the existence of a rhinoceros from the visit of a German contemporary to Lisbon, which at the same time was the one that inspired Albert Dürer to create his famous woodcut engraving of the exotic animal (it’s even known that it was called Ulysse!).

Albert Dürer’s woodcut of a rhinoceros, 1515

Topsell’s Historie of foure footed beastes’ woodcut of a rhinoceros, 1607

As for the other illustrations in Topsell’s Historie of Beastes, it is believed that already Gesner’s work contained woodblocks from a certain Lucas Schan of Strasbourg, and not all of them belonged to him but mostly the ones referring to birds (S. Kusukawa). It is possible that Topsell collaborated with other artists for his compilation as well, but more accurate information wasn’t found.

The importance of these other illustrations lies in the fact that Topsell may have directly collaborated in their creation, influencing them with his moral and religious ideas. It should not be forgotten that this is a bestiary compiled in English for readers to contemplate the divine creation. For this reason, I am especially interested in Helen Westhrop’s ideas, who even talks about illustrations of animals in this book that resemble human qualities. “The lion has a human expression with a carefully dressed mane and demonstrates Topsell’s belief that his animals have human intrinsic worth and moral qualities as well as a hatred of mankind” (H. Westhrop). This is the kind of content that neither Gesner originally introduced in his work nor could be found in other bestiaries, since Topsell was a man of the church and imprinted this religious morality in all his work. It is, therefore, one more element that makes it a unique work, and thus a rare book.


Works consulted:

Isaac, S. (2018, March 16). The familiar and the fantastic: The Historie of Foure-Footed beastes by Edward Topsell, 1607. Royal College of Surgeons. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from

Kusukawa, S. (2010, July). The sources of Gessner’s pictures for the Historia animalium. Annals of Science. 67 (3): 303–328. Retrieved 12th May, 2023, from

University of Washington. University Libraries. “The Historie of Serpents.” Edward Topsell, 1608. Retrieved May 9th, 2023, from

Westhrop, H. (2007, March). Edward Topsell, The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents, 1658. Special Collections featured item for March 2006 by Helen Westhrop, Rare Books Library Assistant. University of Reading. Retrieved May 10th, 2023, from

Ralph Brooke’s Catalogue: Origins and Afterlife

For those readers just joining me now, this is the second in a series of three blog posts about Dickinson College’s 1619 copy of the Catalogue and Succession of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, and Viscounts of England. (I’ve had to abridge the rather unwieldy title, which can be found in part one.) My first post was a general overview of the material book, and here I turn to the origins and the afterlife of this deceptively straightforward text. 

The existence of the Catalogue is inextricably linked to one man: Ralph Brooke. Brooke rose from the son of a shoemaker to York Herald in the College of Arms, where his combined desire to fight corruption in the College and his short temper regularly put him at odds with other heralds—and made him no stranger to fines and suspensions. The story of Brooke’s personality and career shines through best in the following anecdote: in 1602, he formally challenged (among 22 others) the heraldry that Garter King of Arms William Dethick had granted to John Shakespeare, the father of William Shakespeare, on the basis both of low social rank and of similarity to those of another lord (fig. 1). Brooke soon found his challenge defeated, though, by a group which included his arch-nemesis (and coworker) William Camden. Brooke’s general discontent with the College’s output, particularly Camden’s survey of the British Isles, Britannia, led him to author his own Catalogue and Succession to correct the perceived errors made by his colleagues. 

Fig. 1: The arms challenged by Ralph Brooke. Shakespeare’s arms can be seen in the top row, second to the right.

He chose William Jaggard to print it. A former apprentice of the great Henry Denham, Jaggard had by 1619 become a leading London printer and bookseller with a Crown commission for copies of the Ten Commandments. But he was hardly a paragon of honest business, and coincidentally, his own dealings with Shakespeare best establish his complicated personality. In 1599 Jaggard printed a collection of poems called The Passionate Pilgrim. The second edition, published the same year, is attributed to “W. Shakespeare”—who had written only five short poems in the entire twenty-poem volume. Jaggard also credited the 1612 expanded edition solely to Shakespeare though the only new additions were poems by Thomas Heywood; it took Heywood’s publication of his (and Shakespeare’s) disapproval to get Jaggard to remove “By W. Shakespeare” from the title page (fig. 2 depicts the title page of Heywood’s “Apology for actors”). In 1619, Jaggard falsified the dates of several Shakespeare plays so it appeared he had the rights to them; the resultant compilation has become known as the False Folio. But even after a long career spent wading in the muck of unethical business, Jaggard also printed the legitimate First Folio. William Jaggard’s dealings with Shakespeare thus reveal something of a Janus with a print shop: a man simultaneously reputable and prone to unethical action in order to make money. 

Fig. 2: The title page of Heywood’s Apology for Actors.

A conflict between the personalities of Brooke and Jaggard seems almost inevitable. Dickinson’s copy, which is a mess, bears the scars of the two men’s conflict. In order to determine this book’s physical origins, particularly its fraught printing process, one must consider its afterlife. We must look to the published words of Brooke and Jaggard. 

Two editions of this book exist: the 1619 edition and a corrected 1622 edition in which Ralph Brooke appears more incensed than before. The title page, while it does contain much the same text as in 1619, also features this addition: “Collected by RALPH BROOKE, Eſquire, Yorke Herauld, and by him inlarged, with amendment of diuers faults, committed by the Printer, in the time of the Authors ſickneſſe” (Brooke). No printer’s name appears, but according to the catalogue entry from Duke University, Brooke has jettisoned Jaggard and enlisted the services of William Stansby, printer of Ben Jonson’s 1616 Workes. 

Brooke explains the “faults committed by the Printer” in a letter addressed directly to the reader. While most of the letter accuses other heralds of enviously trying to defame him, Brooke states in the opening paragraph that he has fixed “many eſcapes, and miſtakings, committed by the Printer, whilſt my ſickneſſe abſented me from the Preſſe, at the first publication” (Brooke). He styles himself as someone who intended to regularly check in on his book during its printing, seeking a significant level of control over Jaggard’s press, and whose illness is what let the printer freely make errors. Our York Herald is not content to air his grievances in prose alone: he also includes a poem in heroic couplets. (Below this extended diatribe William Stansby chooses to include his own errata list.) 

It must be noted: the comic potential of Ralph Brooke’s characteristic irritability did not escape his contemporaries. In 1622, Brooke’s coworker Augustine Vincent published A discouerie of errours in the first edition of the Catalogue of nobility, published by Raphe Brooke, Yorke Herald, 1619. This book satirizes Ralph Brooke’s Catalogue and includes testimony from numerous individuals with connections to the York Herald. One of these individuals, it happens, is the printer of Vincent’s book: William Jaggard. 

In his own scathing letter, Jaggard pushes back against Brooke’s assertion that he is to blame for the errors in the 1619 edition of the Catalogue. Drawing on the original errata list, Jaggard argues that the errors are self-evidently the result of Brooke’s own mistakes in scholarship. Even the workmen at his shop “will at no hand yeelde themſelues to be fathers of those ſyllabical faults”; they too believe Brooke to be to blame (Jaggard). Here Jaggard turns Brooke’s watchfulness on its head: if he was watching the printing process so carefully, then the errors must be his, especially given that during his much-mentioned illness, “though hee came not in perſon to ouer-looke the Preſſe, yet the Proofe and Reviews duly attended him, and he peruſed them… in the maner he did before” (Jaggard). Jaggard finishes his letter pointedly with the word FAREWELL in capitals. 

What emerges from the discourse between the 1619 Catalogue, the 1622 Catalogue, and Augustine Vincent’s Discoverie is a decidedly combative printing process. One wonders whether Brooke’s meddling is why most of the engravings are missing in the 1619 edition, why the page numbers are messy, and why the title page has been glued in. It must be said, of course: the biographies of Brooke and Jaggard alike give legitimate reason to distrust both their accounts, for one was prone to bad-faith criticism, the other repeatedly conducted dishonest business, and both were openly keen to preserve their reputations. Their conflict, though, is self-evident, and the book seems to have been the main casualty. 

The afterlife of Ralph Brooke’s Catalogue is a quiet one after 1622. Brooke and Jaggard were both dead by the middle of the decade. From the 1640s to 1660, the Civil War and Interregnum resulted in the death or exile of countless nobles and lasting changes to the English governmental structure, rapidly making Brooke’s text—either edition—obsolete. It is telling, I think, that Dickinson’s 1619 edition bears the marks of a single early modern reader, one Sir Samuell Thomas Newman, who annotates it according to the errata list in 1640. (More on him in my upcoming “Audience” post.) The only later marks establish the book as the property of Edwin E. Willoughby and then Dickinson College (fig. 3). When Dickinson acquired the book from his sister Col. Frances Willoughby, the provenance did not come with it, so the text attests only to the ownership of Newman, Willoughby, and Dickinson College. 

Fig. 3: The bookplate in Dickinson’s copy of the Catalogue.

What seems abundantly clear, regardless of how it got from Newman to Willoughby, is that this book was rarely used. Because Brooke failed to acknowledge that his work was collaborative, its quality suffered, and his book gradually faded from memory as anything more than the ranting of an irritable herald whose printer happened to also print the First Folio. Ralph Brooke, were he alive today, would likely hate to hear that William Camden’s Britannia is considered a milestone in English literature, while the Catalogue has become obscure. 

Works Cited 

“Book Descriptions: Glossary of Terms.” Book Addiction UK, 2023, 

Brooke, Ralph. A CATALOGVE and Succeſsion of the Kings, Princes, Dukes, Marqueſſes, Earles, and Viſcounts of this Realme of England, ſince the Norman Conqueſt, to this preſent yeare, 1619. London, William Jaggard, 1619. 

—. A catalogve and succession of the kings, princes, dukes, marquesses, earles, and viscounts of this realme of England, since the Norman conquest, to this present yeere 1622. London, William Stansby, 1622. <> 

—. The Armes presented vnto her Maiestie with the first [..] par Garter Dethecke. 1602, . 

Bland, Mark. “Stansby, William (bap. 1572, d. 1638), printer and bookseller.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. <> 

Herendeen, Wyman H. “Brooke [Brookesmouth], Ralph (c. 1553–1625), herald.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. <> 

Heywood, Thomas. An apology for actors. 1612, 

Vincent, Augustine. A discouerie of errours in the first edition of the Catalogue of nobility, published by Raphe Brooke, Yorke Herald, 1619, and printed heerewith word for word, according to that edition. London, William Jaggard, 1622. <> 

Wells, Stanley. “Jaggard, William (c. 1568–1623), printer and bookseller.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. <> 

The Afterlife of The American Frugal Housewife

The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Child was originally published in 1829 and within the span of a decade had thirty-five editions (“The Frugal Housewife,” 1). My focus is on the twentieth edition, but I examined the fourth edition too, which will be referenced to compare the two editions. The fourth and twentieth editions did not have many noticeable variations within the text itself. There was the addition of a copyright (Figure 1) to differentiate the work from a similarly named text in England. This addition of copyright occurred sometime between the twelfth edition and the twentieth edition.  

Figure 1

Through comparing arbitrary pages between both editions, no differences in the existing shared texts were discovered aside from slight formatting differences. However, the later editions included extra sections of chapters (Figure 2), noted at the beginning of the fourth edition.  

Figure 2

There is no evidence that the twentieth edition was dismembered in any way for the purpose of sharing or selling pieces individually. Certain sections or recipes may have been cut out of other copies, as this book was popular throughout the 1830s, it is likely some readers could have shared the book or sections of it with others (Edwards, 243). If anything, there are additions to this book from previous owners. There are marginalia throughout the fourth edition I examined. I think the notes are related to a recipe’s cost or conversion of measurements, and there is also a lengthy note at the beginning of the book. The notation is about the reader’s preferences for specific recipes, such as one note expanding on preparing sausages. With the letter being at the beginning of the book, it is likely the reader has read the book at least once before and referred to it periodically for recipe ideas. Based on the marginalia, the previous owner of the book preferred easy recipes and side dishes, like sausage. There are also drawings on the back inside cover of the book in both pen and pencil.  


Figures 3 and 4

The twentieth edition is complete with a homemade cover and stitching, an attempt to personalize the book, which suggests its common use in everyday life. The patterned fabric is glued onto the boards of the book and there is loose, guitar string-like, stitching holding the cloth together at its endsThe handmade cover alludes to the sentimental value of this book; its previous owner carefully stitched and designed a handmade cover to decorate and elevate the cookbook, which implies that it was coveted.  

Figure 5

While I could not find the original cost of The American Frugal Housewife, I assume copies of the book were sold at a reasonable price, affordable to those wanting to think more economically. A low cost could also be assumed from the popularity of the book and its thirty-five editions. The editions I examined are not particularly rare or priceless as this book was reprinted a considerable amountThere are many copies of both books circulating, therefore the book is not comparatively valuable, especially the latter editions. When I looked online for copies for sale, I found that most listings of the book are inexpensive and for recently published editions. Reprintings from 1989 can be purchased on Amazon for about fifteen dollars. There is also a paperback edition published in 2017 available for under five dollars. It is interesting to note that the version being sold is the twelfth edition. (“The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy,” 1). I wonder why that one has modern popularity. However, two websites list twentieth (CHILD, 1) and twenty-seventh editions (CHILD, Mrs. [Lydia Maria], 1) being sold for $116 and $275, respectively.  

Figures 6 and 7

Dickinson College received this book as a donation from Charles Coleman Sellers, former Librarian of the College (“Charles Coleman Sellers,” 1). The date and year Sellers donated the twentieth edition are unknown, as he gifted the college numerous books over the years. After his death, he left several books to the College but the accounts from his estate do not list specific titles. Due to this uncertainty, there is not much known about how Sellers acquired the book; if it was passed down within his family or as an arbitrary acquisition. There are notes in the front matter of the book which look like dates. This might suggest the book was passed down and the dates are representative of when someone owned it, however, the dates are in the same handwriting so they could also be from a bookseller.  

Figure 8

As this is a recipe and home economics book, meant to be utilized by its reader in the home, it could have been passed down through the family or shared with other friends and relatives. The fourth edition contains significant marginalia and an insert in the front matter with notes on the book’s contents, which could also suggest that it was passed down from generation to generation. However, I cannot confirm this as the records of Sellers’ donations do not contain exact dates and relevant information about each text.  

Prior to research, while I considered if this book were banned, I thought of Lydia Maria Child’s other published works, notably those commenting on gender and race, and wondered if their reception would influence this book. I had originally thought that because of the progressive nature of her previously published works, there could be a target on this book, leading to it being scrutinized and potentially, in an extreme case, banned.  It was interesting, but also not surprising, to find that The American Frugal Housewife was never banned as it was received well and rose to popularity among women. Lydia Maria Child published this book as her husband had accumulated a lot of financial debt, which led Child to consider economic solutions for a household. While she was outspoken about abolition and Women’s Rights, publishing works such as “An Appeal in Favor of Americans Called Africans” and “The History of the Condition of Women, in Various Nations and Ages,” the popularity of her guidebook did not seem to wane. It became a staple in American households, securing a spot in an unexplored market of American books geared towards women (Rushing, 1). 

 To evolve with the modern age of technology, this book has been digitalized a few times, most notably by the Library of Congress, which has a first edition available to view digitally (“The Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy,” 1). In the context of today, some of the information in the book is obsolete, especially some of the phrasing used in the book. However, most of the book is an instructional guide for preparing economical dishes, and many sections focus on preparing and harvesting various foods. While some of the recipes are not as common today, like bird’s nest pudding, the book does provide instructions and tips on creating various dishes with straightforward language that someone could easily follow today. 

Figures 9 and 10


Works Cited 

 “Charles Coleman Sellers (1903-1980).” Charles Coleman Sellers (1903-1980) | Dickinson College, Dickinson Colege , 2005, 

 CHILD, Mrs. “Abebooks.” By CHILD, Mrs. | Librera Antonio Castro, London: Thomas Tegg, 1839., 

 CHILD, Mrs. [Lydia Maria]. “Abebooks.” By CHILD, Mrs. [Lydia Maria]: Good Hardcover (1844) | Between the Covers-Rare Books, Inc. ABAA, Samuel S. & William Wood, New York, 1 Jan. 1970, 

Edwards, Herbert. “Lydia M. Child’s the Frugal Housewife.” The New England Quarterly, Inc. , vol. 26, no. 2, June 1935, pp. 243–249., 

“The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy.” Amazon, Samuel S. & William Wood, 

“The Frugal Housewife : Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy.” The Library of Congress, Library of Congress, 

“The Frugal Housewife.” Book by Lydia Maria Child | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster, Simon & Schuster,,and%20economy%20in%20the%20kitchen. 

Rushing, Erin. “Lydia Maria Child: Home Economy and Human Rights.” Smithsonian Libraries and Archives / Unbound, Smithsonian , 21 Dec. 2020, 


The Rosebud: A Final Vestige of a Dying Practice


         The Rosebud is a fascinating aspect of a practice that has been rendered  obsolete and lost to time. This book is an example of a “gift book” or “annual”, which were typically illustrated collections of poetry, fables and prose, popular in the 19th century (A 19th-Century Fad). As a point of clarification, though the terms “gift book” and “annual” are often used interchangeably, a small difference exists in that “annuals” refers to editions of any such anthology of different works or magazines with extra aspects or illustrations printed for purchase at the end of the year (Gift Books and Annuals | Encyclopedia.Com). The main draw of these gift books was that the covers were lavishly decorated, with gilt edges and ornately decorated binding. The Rosebud’s bright colors and intricately embossed cover and spine designs make it a shining example of such a book. These annuals often served as gifts for women and children, with The Rosebud likely intended as a romantic gesture, due to its name representing a flower. Flower language was a popular method of courtship in this era (The American Gift Book). Gift books also served to further political causes, with a number of abolitionist gift books being circulated between 1839-1857 (Gift Books and Annuals | Encyclopedia.Com)

Gift books hit the peak of their popularity in 1848 to 1851, with thousands of copies of certain popular annuals such as The Atlantic Souvenir being circulated throughout England, the United States, and later to Canada and South America (The American Gift Book). In the 1850’s however, the popularity of gift books began to decline. Because The Rosebud was published sometime in the 1850’s, it was one of the later gift books to be circulated. This possibly explains why there is so little information on The Rosebud itself online, as it was likely not particularly popular due to the gift book’s waning relevance as a genre. The downfall of annuals and gift books was likely caused by a number of factors. Importantly, publishers had begun to employ marketing strategies such as publishing their gift books just before the Christmas season, thus creating intense competition between publishers. Additionally, those authors that gained notoriety from their writing contributions to gift books began to publish their writing independently, both exceeding the popularity of gift books and  effectively rendering the content within them redundant and unnecessary (The American Gift Book). Ultimately, they simply grew out of fashion in the late 1850’s, with little to none still being published by the time of the Civil War. 

In terms of the fate of this edition of The Rosebud, there is some information that can be gleaned from its appearance. Firstly, the interior appears to be almost completely free of damage. This is not uncommon in gift books, as their purpose was not necessarily to be read as you would a typical book. Instead, they were similar in concept to today’s coffee table books, intended to be displayed on tables and shelves, and to be flipped through at random. The Rosebud falls in line with this purpose, as the writing and poetry segments are not in any particular order. 

 Another aspect that was common with gift books is that the engravings contained within them were often removed and displayed, due to their beauty and detail. An interesting detail to note is that  this particular edition of The Rosebud has all of its illustrations intact, perhaps lending credence to the fact that The Rosebud was not a popular or well known gift book. 

It is not readily known how many editions of The Rosebud were printed, but according to The Arsenical Books Database, at least two editions were bound with a green onlay containing a small amount of arsenic. This was a somewhat common practice in the 19th century, as the bindings and onlays containing this arsenic were a brilliant, beautiful green color, making books that utilized it stand out from others (ARSENICAL BOOKS DATABASE – Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library). According to the database, the method in which the arsenic was applied was an ornamental onlay similar to that of this edition of The Rosebud, so it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that this edition contains arsenic. It is not likely that The Rosebud was ever reprinted any later than the short time it was in circulation, as it was published at the tail end of the lifespan of the gift book. It has not been scanned online, and there are few sporadic editions available for online purchase on sites such as Etsy. 

In short, the specific details of the afterlife of this edition of The Rosebud remain mysterious. It emerged towards the downfall of the gift book’s cultural relevance, and faded quickly into obscurity. Its contents and illustrations have been seen by relatively few, and information is sparse. Ultimately, it serves as a marker of a unique cultural practice of the 19th century, and an ancestor to modern coffee table books, meant to be looked at rather than read. 


Works Cited

A 19th-Century Fad: The Illustrated Gift Annual | New-York Historical Society. Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

ARSENICAL BOOKS DATABASE – Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. Accessed 5 Mar. 2023.

Gift Books and Annuals | Encyclopedia.Com. Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

The American Gift Book. Accessed 5 Mar. 2023.

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