"An Historical Description of the Tower of London and its Curiosities."
This is a fascinating little tour book which would have been handed out to the public with prices for viewing the different curiosities.
It starts with the historical account. Just the way in which this little book is written is a delight: "The Tower is perhaps the best-chosen situation for such a fortress of any in the world. It lies to the eastward of London, near enough to cover that opulent city from invasion by water, being 800 yards only from the bridge; ......Great ceremony is used at opening and shutting the principal gate night and morning. A little before in the morning in summer, and as soon as well light in winter, the yeoman porter goes to the governor's house for the keys......." much more detail is afforded to the reader over the course of eight pages.
The next section is "Of the Lions and other Wild Beasts in the Tower". There is an empathy for these captives - "That when he was two years old he was indeed a very beautiful creature, and exceedingly well educated; for, says he, upon my expressing a desire of visiting his lodgings, at a word's speaking he marched down with great condescension from his upper into his lower apartment, and gave me the opportunity of entering his den; where having satisfied my curiosity in viewing his dining room, kitchen, and bed chamber, his manner of living.....at my departure from thence he would fain have taken me by the hand, but our acquaintance being but slender, I declined accepting so great a mark of his friendship, till I had come to know him better". There are 14 pages of exquisite descriptions of various animals all, of course, having names and an history.
The next section of which there are 12 pages is "Of the Spoils of the Invincible Armada". There is too much detail to recount here but needless to say the history, details of the engagement, great detail of weaponry, persons involved, and, of course, the spoils, are all recounted in great detail. Just a small sample: "The last thing they shew of these memorable spoils, is the Spanish general's shield, not worn by but carried before him as an ensign of honour. On it are depicted, in most curious workmanship, the labours of Hercules, and other expressive allegories, which seem to throw a shade upon the skills of modern artists. The date is 1376, near 100 years before the art of printing was known in England".
The next section is "Of the Small Armory". "You behold arms for 80,000 men all bright and shining, and fit for service at a moment's warning; a sight that none ever beheld without astonishment, and is not to be matched perhaps in the world". (five pages).
Next we have seven pages "Of the Royal Train of Artillery", "which one cannot view without a kind of awful dread." Most interesting is the list of 20 cannon, their description, date and weight following. "1709 Hecube, weight 4090. "The ultimate reason of kings, Louis Charles of Bourbon, ...A match for many. Berenger Donicourt maker.".....
"Of the Horse Armory." 14 pages into which, curiously, number 12 has found itself. "A collar of torment, which, say your conductors, used formerly to be put about the womens necks that cuckolded their husbands, or scolded at them when they came home late; but that custom is left off now-a-days, to prevent quarreling for collars, there not being enough smiths to make them, as most married men are sure to want hem at one time or another." The rest of the chapter being devoted to the suits of armour and trappings of horses of the notable. Also, many notes of English history which one will probably not find elsewhere.
The last two sections are "Of the Jewel office " and "Of the Mint". The former recounts an exciting foiled attempt at the theft of the contents. The main perpetrator was a well known thief, Blood. "and while all men thought that some new punishment would be devised to torture so daring an offender, his majesty thought proper, not only to pardon him and his accomplices, but to grant Blood a pension, some say of 500l, a year during his life". The Mint is an accounting of the process of making money.
As you can tell from the photographs this little book is not in perfect condition. Please remember that this is a 72 page book with a paper cover. The cover has seen a lot of wear but the inside pages are in good condition which is remarkable for a 252 year old guidebook/pamphlet for the Tower.
This is a living history. Hard to find in a world where history is rewritten to suit the writer and his sponsor. It is also written with a charm not found today.
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