Friday, February 18, 2011

New titles: 18 February 2011

This week's crop of new titles include charters from the Register of Brechin Cathedral - a collection of rare documents and charters from medieval Scotland until the Reformation - and the continuation of our publication of the Historical Manuscripts Commission Manuscripts of the House of Lords Series.

  1. Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Bath, vol. 1 (1643-1795)
  2. Calendar of State Papers, Venice and Northern Italy, vol. 35 (1666-1668)
  3. Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, vol. 2 (1222-1674)
  4. Registrum Episcopatus Brechinensis, vol. 1 (1165-1553)
  5. Manuscripts of the House of Lords, New Series, vol. 8 (1708-1710)
  6. Manuscripts of the House of Lords, New Series, vol. 7 (1706-1708)

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Valentine who stole more than a heart - Early Modern Valentine's Day celebrations in England and Scotland

Many of us think that, today, holidays have become too commercialized; the focus being on the material rather than the true meaning of the day. Valentine’s Day, it would seem, is no exception. No sooner is Christmas over than the aisles of shops become awash with pink and red plastic crap.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been using MEMSO ( to find interesting tweets for Twitter (where, incidentally, you can follow us @tannerritchie). Needless to say, given the extent of our catalogue, we’ve come up with some real gems – quite literally in the case for references to Valentine’s Day.

There are over 2600 hits to the word ‘Valentine’ in MEMSO. Most references, however, are Christian or surnames (Valentine Minge and Valentine Boyles are the ones that stick in one’s mind), names of ships, or references to the feast day itself, used to date letters, events, or payment terms etc. But hidden in and amongst these are some other references about how Valentine’s Day was celebrated in the Early Modern Period. And they seem to have set the bar pretty high in terms of the ‘bling’!!

In 1522, at the court of Henry VIII, the Spanish Ambassador reports the following to Charles V:

The young Mary Tudor, shown wearing her Valentine's badge, reading 'The Emperour' (public domain image)
"After dinner, at the tournament, we were presented by the cardinal [Wolsey] to the queen [Catherine of Aragon] and the princess Mary ... Catherine asked affectionately after you majesty’s health and the prosperity of your affairs, and said that nothing in the world so rejoiced her as to hear of your health and happiness. Then, after we had saluted the princess, she continued to question me not less sweetly than prudently, about your majesty, and there was much pleasant conversation, especially about the charms of the little princess, who, it should be noticed, wore on her bosom a golden brooch ornamented with jewels forming your majesty’s name, which name she had taken on St. Valentine’s Day for her valentine, which seems a happy augury."
Princess Mary was just shy of her sixth birthday at the time.

Anne Dacre, countess of Arundel, failing to look like anyone's idea of a fun Valentine. (Public domain image)
Giving jewelry seems to be one of the longstanding traditions of celebrating Valentine’s Day at the English Royal Court – and one which is still prevalent today, although in the Early Modern Period gifts of jewelry were given to both women and men. In 1558, for example, following the death of Queen Mary, Philip II compiled an inventory ‘of the jewels that lie in a coffer at Whitehall’. One entry refers to a ‘small necklace with thirteen roses, a garter and thirteen knots, as well as a small St. George, in a black velvet case’. Philip’s elaborated that ‘This was sent to me by the Countess of Arundel as a valentine.’

Another tradition at Court was the act of picking the name of one’s Valentine.

In 1618, the Venetian Ambassador wrote at length about how Valentine’s Day was celebrated by the upper echelons of English society, including at Court.

‘Any woman soever, however noble, even if she be married, fails not to have her valentine, and the men also have their valentines. They revel changes annually thus. On St. Valentine’s eve they place in two ballot boxes sundry tickets whereon are inscribed the names of the men and women of the company, each of whom draws a ticket in turn. Those thus coupled by chance unite together much more closely than if their love were loyal; they banquet together and exchange presents, each preserving the ticket which for some days the man wears in his hat and the woman in her bosom. They even have their names engraved in gold, the invariable rule being that the Valentine do kiss his lady whenever he meets her. Nor may this appear strange to your lordships, for the like style prevails at the court also without excepting the king [James I], the prince [Charles] and the queen [Anne of Denmark], whose hand alone is generally kissed.’

The ambassador concludes by writing, ‘Were it lawful for me to consign to paper certain other peculiarities which are usual among the middle and lower classes, I should astound you’. Ah, come on!!!!

Finally, there were several references to the giving of Valentines in the Register of the Privy Council for Scotland ... but these, however, were decidedly less romantic than their English counterparts. In 1561, for example, heads of the prominent families on the Scottish Border were summoned and appeared before Mary Queen of Scots and her Council. There, they ‘ressavit their valentinis of the names culpable of thift and utheris crymes, and wer chargit to apprehend and tak the samyn personis contenit in the saidis valentinis...’ Later in the 1570s, valentines, as letters containing names of persons to be apprehended, continued to be used in this way.

Well, whatever rocks your boat. Cheaper than jewelry.

So, whether it is the giving of expensive pieces of jewelry or the apprehension of criminals, the people of Early Modern England and Scotland certainly are a hard act to follow. The pink and red plastic crap doesn’t look so bad now.

Suggested reading:
Register of the Privy Council, Scotland, 3 series
Calendar of State Papers, Spain
Calendar of State Papers, Venice and Northern Italy 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Henry VIII's Ecclesiastical Valuation (presented in HD)

In recent weeks, one of TannerRitchie's most popular series has been our recently published edition of the Valor Ecclesiasticus (Ecclesiastical Valuation) of Henry VIII, the huge 'Domesday of the Church' ordered by Henry VIII after his decisive break with Rome in 1534. Put together in six months by untrained commissioners, the Valor has been shown to be a surprisingly accurate summary of the wealth of the church at the Reformation, and an essential source for any historian of the Tudor age.

A Capital 'V' from the Valor Ecclesiasticus, showing Henry VIII and his council.
See full size high definition images at the National Archives website
Coincidentally, today is the 480th anniversary of Henry VIII first demanding that he be recognised as the supreme head of the Church in England. Although the Act of Supremacy, which formally instituted the English Reformation in law did not follow until November 1534, in February 1531 Henry had forced the concession from the Convocation of Canterbury that he was
"their singular protector, only and supreme lord, and, as far as the law of Christ allows, even Supreme Head".(J.R. Tanner, Tudor Constitutional Documents (CUP) p. 17)
This was the opening salvo of the Reformation, whereby Henry used an act of Richard II, the Statute of Praemunire, which denied the jurisdiction of any foreign power in England, explicitly to attack the ability of the church of England the exercise any power independently of royal authority.

While the first motivation for the break with Rome was Henry's wish to annul the 'blighted' marriage to Catherine of Aragon, this early episode also displayed two other elements that were strong motivations: power and money. Across Europe, secular princes had increasingly been demanding unchallenged 'imperial' authority in their lands for many years, while during the fifteenth century the vast accumulation of independent wealth in the hands of the clergy proved an increasingly tempting target for both royalty and nobility, especially in the long period of lower population and lower rents brought about by the Black Death.

The Valor Ecclesiasticus, then, was quite simply a way for Henry VIII to work out how much tax he could gain from his new acquisition - and the answer was 'a lot'. All the taxes that had previously gone to the papacy now came to the crown, along with a new 10% tax. Finally, the Valor Ecclesiasticus was part of the process that ended with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which would see a simply gargantuan transfer of property and wealth to the crown away from the church. It is still the greatest enforced land transfer to take place in England since the Norman Conquest.

Given the bureaucratic importance of the Valor, it therefore seems slightly  quaint that the surviving manuscripts also happen to provide some of the richest illuminated manuscripts of the reign. Why make a financial statement look pretty? The answer is that a special simplified, illustrated version was made for the king's own use, suitably visually enriched for the purposes of the king. While the king may not have wanted the entire minutiae of the Valor, he was certainly keen personally to understand the full extent of what he had taken into his hands.

Further Reading

Sunday, February 6, 2011

TannerRitchie Publishing: Helping you discover the sources you need

Searching the entire database for keywords and phrases
TannerRitchie Publishing prides itself on the service it provides to its clients around the world. Today, we are proud to introduce a new feature on our website that is designed to help researchers find the sources they need, and to discover new ones that they didn’t know they needed!

Our new integrated Search Box brings the power of MEMSO’s search engine to our homepage ( Available for all to use, free of charge, the Search Box enables visitors to search for specific book titles and for keywords and phrases in the full text of our entire catalogue. This is a truly amazing and powerful research tool that will provide users with a comprehensive list of books that contain their keywords, and the frequency with which they appear in each book. Users can then opt to purchase individual books as downloads, or on CD-ROMs.

Short Term MEMSO access - the most economical way to access our entire catalogue

But we guarantee that you will be surprised at the speed and extent of the results! This is why we would also like to feature Short-Term MEMSO – the most economical way to access our entire catalogue through MEMSO in the comfort of your own home. A Short-Term subscription to MEMSO is designed for those who don’t have access to an institutional subscription, or would like to use MEMSO for a very short period of time. You can have access for 1 day, 3 days, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months .... and get ebooks to keep forever. Alternatively, you can choose a personal subscription for one year, with unlimited access and unlimited ebooks for you to keep.

An Ebook App For Historians and Researchers

MEMSO is an advanced web application. The search engine is extremely powerful and fast. But perhaps the most useful feature for researchers is our unique window system. MEMSO users have the ability to conduct simultaneous searches, and more importantly, the ability simultaneously to open and to view as many pages of books as you would like, while storing your favourites on your customized bookshelf. MEMSO literally resembles your physical desktop (but without the coffee and phone). Because we are historians and researchers ourselves, we know how people research and cross reference ... and the ability to access and view, easily and quickly, more than one book at a time is critical!

So try out our new Search Box, play around with it and have fun! And if you are feeling research guilt about all the books you should be consulting, don’t be overwhelmed, check out our Short-Term personal subscription options for MEMSO.

And, as always, if you have any questions or book suggestions, please feel free to contact us (

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