BILLS OF MORTALITY; GREAT PLAGUE OF LONDON - COMPANY OF PARISH CLERKS OF LONDON.

London's Dreadful Visitation:

Or, A collection of all the bills of mortality for this present year: beginning the 20th. of December 1664. and ending the 19th. of December following: as also, the general or whole years bill: according to the report made to the King's most Excellent Majesty, by the Company of Parish-Clerks of London, &c.

London: printed and are to be sold by E. Cotes, 1665 Stock Code: 148683
£37,500.00
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The Plague of 1665

First edition, the rarer "20th of December" issue, complete with the folding table. This weekly register of deaths and burials for the year 1665 provides a "valuable and vivid record" of the great plague of London (Norman); the summary bill records that of the 97,306 persons buried in the parishes of London at this time, 68,596 (roughly 70) died of the plague. It is also notable for opening with a most striking woodcut-decorated title page.

Occasioned by a contemporary outbreak of plague, England's bills of mortality were instituted in 1592. The responsibility of the Parish Clerks' Company, this new body of literature provided the material for John Graunt's Natural and political observations made upon the bills of mortality (1662), now regarded as the foundation of medical statistics, which had gone through two editions (with a third forthcoming) at the time of the publication of London's Dreadful Visitation. In 1665 the printer for the Parish Clerks' Company was Ellen (variants: Ellinor, Eleanor) Cotes (active 1652-1670), the widow and executor of Richard Cotes, official printer to the City of London. The Hearth Tax Roll for the following year notes that she oversaw three presses, two apprentices, and nine pressmen - a reasonably large enterprise (British Book Trade Index). Both she and her husband had published medical works now praised for their large, fine anatomical illustrations (translations of texts by French surgeon Ambrose Paré and Dutch anatomist Adriaan van de Spiegel, for example). She provided the preface to the present work ("The Printer to the Reader" - "I am a Printer no Preacher").

Wing erroneously attributes this work to one John Graunt of Bucklersbury, who wrote a number of works on religious subjects but nothing in any way similar to the present work. Yale suggests a more likely attribution, the statistician John Graunt (1629-1674). Graunt was a member of the Common Council of London and had for several years paid attention to the mortality statistics before the publication of his Observations on the bills of Mortality in 1662. Most sources cite the work without attribution. The two issues are distinguished by a date variation on the title page; one, as in the present copy, reads "beginning the 20th. of December", while the other reads "beginning the 27th. of December". Though the folding table is unquestionably called for (it is mentioned on the title page), Goldsmiths' also lists it as a separate broadside (Goldsmiths' 1759 and 1760, the latter a variant with a mourning border).

Although not ostensibly a scarce title, when copies of London's Dreadful Visitation surface they are almost always in poor condition, torn, cropped or defective, and the folding table is often missing. In recent times, only the Richard Green-Wellcome Library copy (27th), which made 25,000 at Christie's New York in 2008, was remarked to be in particularly good condition.

Bound up with the present work are two scarce related broadsides and another 17th-century work, as follows:

I: A general bill of all the christenings and burials, from the 19 December, 1665 to the 18 of December, 1666. According to the report made to the Kings most excellent Majesty: by the company of parish-clerks of London. London: 1666.

Broadside (333 x 202 mm), folded to fit into the volume and bound between C3 and C4 of the first item above. It is not part of the collation of that work, is not called for, and is clearly a separate broadside printed a year later than the book. It is very similar in typography to the 'General Bill', mentioned above, and uses the same woodcuts.

Not in Wing (But see G491B-494G for a nearly complete annual series of a bill of this title from 1679-1693). Goldsmiths' has three of these; 1682, 1683, 1684. Our copy therefore appears to be possibly the first and certainly the earliest recorded in an annual series of broadsides that continued into the eighteenth century.

II: Londons sic Lord Have Mercy Upon Us. A true relation of seven modern plagues, or visitations in London, with the number of those that were buried of all diseases; viz. The first in the year of the Queen Elizabeth, Anno 1592. The second in the year 1603 the third in (that never to be forgotten year) 1625. The fourth in Anno 1630. The fift in the year 1636. The sixt in the year 1637. and 1638. The seventh this present year, 1665. London, Francis Coles, Thomas Vere, and John Wright, 1665.

Broadside (434 x 325 mm), folded; drop-head title; text partly in seven columns. The main text is a poem in two columns under a large central woodcut with London in the background showing death with hourglass and arrow and coffins being drawn by horse and cart. With black memento mori border showing sculls, skeletons and spades. A magnificent illustrated woodcut, folded to fit into the 4to volume, in very fine condition.

The text prints the mortality statistics for the years mentioned in the title i.e. 1593, 1603, 1625, 1630, 1636, 1637, 1638, 1665. The figures stop at June 27 1664 though the weekly dates continue in a column down to September 5 without any figures against them. This suggests that the broadside was printed between 27 June and 4 July. Two short columns contain specific remedies to ward off the plague; for example "A Possett to remove the Plague from the Heart." In the central part of the broadside, surrounded by the mortality statistics is the large wood cut and a poem of 66 lines which concludes:

"Let all infected Houses be thy Text,

And make this Use, that thine may be the next.

The Red Crosse still is us'd, as it hath bin,

To shew that Christians are that are within:

And Lord have mercy on us on the door,

Puts thee in mind, to pray for them therefore.

The Watchman that attends the house of sorrow,

He may attend upon thy house to morrow.

Oh where's the vows we to our God have made!

When death and sickness came with axe and spade,

And hurle'd our Bretheren up in heaps apace,

Even forty thousand in a little space:

The Plague amongst us is not yet removed,

Because that sin of us is still beloved,

Each spectacle of Death and Funerall,

Puts thee and I in mind, We must die all."

Wing L2937 L, LGH, LU, HH. There are three other issues London, 1665? (L only); London, 1665 (MIU only) and Edinburgh, Society of Stationers, 1665 (EN only). Goldsmiths' 1788. Not in Kress.

III: DRAKE, Roger. Sacred Chronologie, drawn by Scripture evidence al-long that vast body of time, (containing the space of almost four thousand years) From the creation of the world, to the passion of our blessed saviour. By the help of which alone, sundry difficult places of scripture are unfolded: and the meanest capacity may improve that holy record with abundance of delight and profit: being enabled thereby to refer each several Historie and material passage therein contained to its proper time and date. By R.D. M.D. London, printed by James and Joseph Moxon, for Stephen Bowtell, at the Sign of the Bible in Popes-head-Alley, 1648.

4to, pp. 44, A2, B-T4, V2. Part numbered, part foliated: last page numbered '74'. A fine, wide-margined copy.

ESTC R206239.



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Description

Small quarto (222 x 172 mm). Bound with 3 other items (see below) in late 18th century continental half parchment binding with marbled boards, labelled 'Pot Pourri' and numbered in black '2'.

Illustrations

Folding table at rear, titled "A general Bill for this present year ending the 19th of December 1665…". Title page text set within a thick black woodcut border decorated with memento mori motifs, including a skull-and-crossbones crowned with a winged hour

Condition

Spine ends lightly rubbed, front joint largely cracked but board still holding firmly; blank upper margin of title a little creased, very occasional light spotting or rust marks; an excellent copy, with several uncut edges.

Bibliography

Garrison-Morton 5119 (27th issue); Goldsmiths' 1761 (27th); Kress 1160 (27th); Norman 1386 (27th); Wing G-1598A (issue not differentiated).

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