The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 10, No. 286, December 8, 1827 online

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VOL. 10, NO. 286.] SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8, 1827. [PRICE 2d.

* * * * *

[Illustration: Caxton's House in the Almonry, Westminster.]

To expatiate on the advantages of printing, at this time of day, would
be "wasteful and ridiculous excess." We content ourselves with the
comparison of Dryden's

"Long trails of light descending down."

In a retrospective glance at our previous volumes (for can the
phrenologists tell us of a head capacious enough to contain their
exhaustless variety?) our readers will perceive that, from time to
time, sundry "accounts" of the origin and progress of printing have
been inserted in the MIRROR;[1] and though we are not vain enough to
consider our sheet as the "refined gold, the lily, the violet, the
ice, or the rainbow," of the poet's perfection, yet in specimens of
the general _economy of the art_, the long-extended patronage of the
public gives us an early place.

With an outline of the life of CAXTON our readers must be already
familiar; but we wish them to consider the above accurate
representation of the FIRST ENGLISH PRINTER'S RESIDENCE as antecedent
to a _Memoir of Caxton_, in which it will be our aim to concentrate,
in addition to biographical details, many important facts from the
testimony of antiquarians; for scarcely a volume of the _Archaeologia_
has appeared without some valuable communication on Caxton and his

In the meantime we proceed with the _locale_ of Caxton's house,
situate on the south-west of Westminster Abbey, where was formerly the
eleemosynary, or almonry, where the alms of the abbots were
distributed. Howell in his _Londinopolis_, describes this as "the spot
where the abbot of Westminster permitted Caxton to set up his press in
the _Almonry_, or Ambry," the former of which names is still retained.
This is confirmed by Newcourt, in his _Repertorium_, who says, "St.
Anne's, an old chapel, over against which the Lady Margaret, mother to
king Henry VII., erected an alms-house for poor women, which is now
turned into lodgings for singing-men of the college. The place wherein
this chapel and alms-house stood was called the Eleemosinary, or
Almonry, now corruptly called the Ambry, (Aumbry,) for that the alms
of the abbey were there distributed to the poor; in which the abbot of
Westminster erected the first press for book-printing that was in
England, about the year of Christ 1471, and where WILLIAM CAXTON,
citizen and mercer of London, who first brought it into England,
practised it." Here he printed _The Game and Play of the Chesse_, said
to be the first book that issued from the press in this country.

Hence, according to Mr. M'Creery, the intelligent author of "The
Press," a poem, "the title of _chapel_ to the internal regulations of
a printing-office originated in Caxton's exercising the profession in
one of the chapels in Westminster Abbey, and may be considered as an
additional proof, from the antiquity of the custom, of his being the
first English printer."[2]

Every lover of science, on approaching this spot, will feel himself on
holy ground, however the idle and incurious of our metropolis may
neglect the scite, or be ignorant of its identity. We are there led
into an eternity of reflection and association of ideas; but lest
human pride should be too fondly feasted in the retrospect, the
hallowed towers of the abbey, seen in the distance, serve to remind us
of the imperial maxim, that "art is long, and life but short."

[Footnote 1: See MIRROR, vol 3, p 194 - vol 5. p 311.]

[Footnote 2: We requote this passage from Mr. M'Creery, as it has
already appeared in vol. 5; and in vol. 3, a correspondent denies that
the first English book was printed at Westminster; but we are disposed
to think that an impartial examination of the testimonies on each side
of the controversy will decide in favour of Caxton.]

* * * * *


(A correspondent, who signs _M.M.M._ informs us that the article sent
to us by _P.T.W_. and inserted in No. 280 of the MIRROR, was copied
verbatim from the _Imperial Magazine_, a work which we seldom see, and
consequently we had no opportunity of ascertaining the origin of our
correspondent's paper. It seemed to us a good _cyclopaedian_ article
on the subject, and we accordingly admitted it. We now subjoin
_M.M.M.'s_ communication.)

In addition to what has been said in the article upon tea, (by
_P.T.W._) allow me to remark (and which I do not recollect ever to
have seen noticed in any work upon the subject) that the seed is
contained in _two_ vessels, the outer one varying in shape,
triangular, long, and round, according to the number which it contains
of what may be termed inner vessels. The outer vessel of a triangular
shape, measures, from the base to the apex about three quarters of an
inch, and is of a dark brown colour, approaching to black, and thick,
strong, and rough in texture; within this is another vessel,
containing the kernel; this inner vessel is of a light brown colour,
thin, and brittle, in shape, seldom perfectly round, but mostly flat
on one side: there are three of them in a triangular seed vessel, two
in a long one, and one in that which is round. The kernel is of a
brown colour, and in taste very bitter. In no other species of teas
than Bohea, is the large kind of seed found, which is probably owing
to that species being gathered last or in autumn. There is a _small_
seed found mixed with the Congou kind of teas, about the size of a
pea, which is in every respect similar to the large, except in size.
This seed was evidently not permitted to ripen, but the calyx of the
flower connected with the peduncle is quite perfect. The Twankey
species are of the same appearance, all of which I have had ample
opportunity of inspecting.

As an appendage to this note, we are induced to quote the following
pleasant page from _Time's Telescope_ for 1828; and we take this
opportunity of reminding our readers that our customary Supplementary
sheet, containing the spirit of this and other popular Annual Works
will be published with our next Number.

From a single sheet found in Sir Hans Sloane's library, in the British
Museum, and printed by Mr. Ellis in his Original Letters, _Second
Series_, it appears that tea was known in England in the year 1657,
though not then in general use. The author of this paper says, "That
the vertues and excellencies of this leaf and drink are many and
great, is evident and manifest by the high esteem and use of it
(especially of late years) among the physicians and knowing men in
France, Italy, Holland, and other parts of Christendom; _and in_
ENGLAND it hath been sold in the leaf for _six pounds_, and sometimes
for TEN _pounds_ the pound weight, and in respect of its former
scarceness and dearness, it hath been only used as a regalia in high
treatments and entertainments, and presents made thereof to princes
and grandees, till the year 1657."

Secretary Pepys, in his Diary, vol. i. p. 76, without saying where he
had his drink, makes the following entry: - "Sept. 25th, 1660. I did
send for a cup of tea (a China drink) of which I never had drunk
before, and went away."

In a letter from Mr. Henry Savill to his uncle, Secretary Coventry,
dated from Paris, Aug. 12, 1678, and printed by Mr. Ellis, the writer,
after acknowledging the hospitalities of his uncle's house, quaintly
observes, "These, I hope, are the charms that have prevailed with me
to remember (that is to trouble) you oftener than I am apt to do other
of my friends, whose buttery-hatch is not so open, _and who call for_
TEA instead of pipes and bottles after dinner; _a base unworthy Indian
practice_, and which I must ever admire your most Christian family for
not admitting. The truth is, all nations have grown so wicked as to
have some of these filthy customs." In 1678, the year in which the
above letter is dated, the East India Company began the importation of
tea as a branch of trade; the quantity received at that time amounting
to 4,713 lbs. The importation gradually enlarged, and the government,
in consequence, augmented the duties upon tea. By the year 1700, the
importation of tea had arrived at the quantity of 20,000 lbs. In 1721,
it exceeded a million of pounds. In 1816, it had arrived at 86,234,380
lbs. Something more than thirty millions of pounds is probably the
present average of importation: some allowance must be made for tea
damaged and spoiled upon the passage. - See more on this subject, well
worthy of perusal, in Mr. Ellis's Letters, _Second Series_, vol. iv.
pp. 57, et seq.

* * * * *



_(For the Mirror.)_

Like some lone Pilgrim in the dusky night,
Seeking, through unknown paths, his doubtful way,
While thick nocturnal vapours veil his sight
From yawning chasms, that 'neath his footsteps lay;
Sudden before him gleams the forked light!
Dispels the gloom, yet fills him with dismay.
His trembling steps he then retraces back,
And seeks again the well-known beaten track.


* * * * *


(_For the Mirror_.)

The first couple of these animals which were carried to Cuyaba sold
for a pound of gold. There was a plague of rats in the settlement, and
they were purchased as a speculation, which proved an excellent one.
Their first kittens produced thirty _oilavas_ each; the new generation
were worth twenty; and the price gradually fell as the inhabitants
were stocked with these beautiful and useful creatures. Montengro
presented to the elder Almagro the first cat which was brought to
South America, and was rewarded for it with six hundred _pesos_.

* * * * *


_Extracted from an old black-letter volume, entitled "The Abridgment
of the Acts and Monuments of Martyrs, from the earliest period of
Christian suffering to the time of Queen Elizabeth, our gracious lady,
now reigning," printed in her reign_.

(_For the Mirror_.)

In the yeere 1216, king John was poisoned, as most writers testify, at
Swinsted Abbey, by a monk of that abbey, of the order of Cistersians,
or S. Bernard's brethren, called Simon of Swinsted. The monk did first
consult with his abbot, shewing him what he minded to do, alleging for
himself the prophecy of Caiphas, 11th of John, saying, it is better
that one man die, than the whole people perish. I am well content,
saith he, to lose my life, and so become a martyr, that I may utterly
destroy this tyrant. With that the abbot did weep for gladness, and
much commended his fervent zeal. The monk then being absolved of his
abbot for doing this fact, went secretly into the garden, on the back
side, and finding there a most venomous toad, did so prick him and
press him with his penknife, that hee made him vomite all the poison
that was within him; this done, he conveyed it into a cup of wine, and
with a flattering and smiling countenance he sayeth to the king, "If
it shall please your princely majesty, here is such a cup of wine as
you never drank better in your lifetime. I trust this wassall shall
make all England glad," and with that he drank a great draught
thereof, and the king pledged him; the monk then went out of the house
to the back, and then died, his bowels gushing out of his belly, and
had continually from henceforth three monks to sing mass for him,
confirmed by their general charter. The king, within a short space
after, feeling great grief in his body, asked for Simon, the monk;
answer was made he was dead. "Then God have mercy on me," said the
king; so went he to Newark-upon-Trent, and there died, and was buried
in the cathedral church at Worster, in 1216, the 19th day of October,
after having been much fered with the clergy 18 years, 6 months, and a


* * * * *


(_For the Mirror_.)

Near the border between the parishes of Maxton and Ancrum is a bridge,
called Lilliard Edge, formerly Anerum moor, where a battle was fought
between the Scots and English soon after the death of king James V.,
who died in the year 1542. When the Earl of Arran was regent of
Scotland, Sir Ralph Rivers and Sir Bryan Laiton came to Jedburgh with
an army of 5,000 English to seize Merse and Teviotdale in the name of
Henry VIII., then king of England, who died not long after, in the
year 1547. The regent and the Earl of Angus came with a small body of
men to oppose them. The Earl of Angus was greatly exasperated against
the English, because some time before they had defaced the tombs of
his ancestors at Melrose, and had done much hurt to the abbey there.
The regent and the Earl of Angus, without waiting the arrival of a
greater force, which was expected, met the English at Lilliard Edge,
where the Scots obtained a great victory, considering the inequality
of their number. A young woman of the name of Lilliard fought along
with the Scots with great courage; she fell in the battle, and a
tombstone was erected upon her grave on the field where it was fought.
Some remains of this tombstone are still to be seen. It is said to
have contained the following inscription: -

"Fair maiden Lilliard lies under this stane;
Little was her stature, but great was her fame.
On the English lads she laid many thumps,
And when her legs were off she fought on her stumps."


* * * * *


(_For the Mirror_.)

Books were anciently made of plates of copper and lead, the bark of
trees, bricks, Stones, and wood. Josephus speaks of two columns, the
one of stone, the other of brick, on which the children of Seth wrote
their inventions and astronomical discoveries. Porphyry mentions some
pillars, preserved in Crete, on which the ceremonies observed by the
Corybantes in their sacrifices were recorded. The leaves of the
palm-tree were used, and the finest and thinnest part of the bark of
such trees as the lime, the ash, the maple, and the elm; from hence
comes the word _liber_, which signifies the inner bark of the trees;
and as these barks are rolled up, in order to be removed with greater
ease, these rolls were called _volumen_, a volume, a name afterwards
given to the like rolls of paper or parchment. By degrees wax, then
leather, were introduced, especially the skins of goats and sheep, of
which at length parchment was prepared; also linen, then silk, horn,
and lastly paper. The rolls or volumes of the ancients were composed
of several sheets, fastened to each other, rolled upon a stick, and
were sometimes fifty feet in length, and about a yard and a half wide.
At first the letters were only divided into lines, then into separate
words, which, by degrees, were noted with accents, and distributed by
points, and stops into periods, paragraphs, chapters, and other
divisions. In some countries, as among the orientals, the lines began
from the right, and ran to the left; in others, as in northern and
western nations, from the left to the right; others, as the Grecians,
followed both directions alternately, going in the one and returning
in the other.

In the Chinese books, the lines run from top to bottom. Again, the
page in some is entire and uniform; in others, divided into columns;
in others, distinguished into text and notes, either marginal or at
the bottom; usually it is furnished with signatures and catch-words,
also with a register to discover whether the book be complete. The
Mahometans place the name of God at the beginning of all their books.
The word _book_ is derived from the Saxon _boc_, which comes from the
northern _buech_, of _buechans_, a beech, or _service-tree_, on the
bark of which our ancestors used to write. A very large estate was
given for one on Cosmography by king Alfred. About the year 1400, they
were sold from 10_l_. to 30_l_. a piece. The first printed one was
the Vulgate edition of the Bible, 1462; the second was _Cicero de
Officiis_, 1466. Leo I. ordered 200,000 to be burnt at Constantinople.
In the suppressed monasteries of France, in 1790, there were found
4,104,412 volumes; nearly one-half were on theology. The end of the
book, now denoted by _finis_, was anciently marked with a

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Online LibraryVariousThe Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 10, No. 286, December 8, 1827 → online text (page 1 of 4)