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Aidan Norrie

Thanks to the Newberry Library, and the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and the Humanities Research Centre at the University of Warwick, I was able to spend two weeks at the Newberry as a Visiting Scholar during the 2018/19 Easter Vacation. My project, ‘The Memory of Elizabeth I in the Seventeenth Century’, brought together several things I’m working on: mainly my PhD thesis and my book project (Elizabeth I and the Old Testament: Biblical Analogies and Providential Rule), but also a conference paper on Elizabeth I and Anti-Popery, and a future book project on Elizabeth I and the Exclusion Crisis. The Newberry has an incredible range of printed material on seventeenth-century England, and I enjoyed consulting the library’s range of rare books—many of which cannot be viewed in the UK.

In addition to some much-needed writing time, one of the best parts of my visit to the Newberry was physically handling books I had only consulted via EEBO, or in the British Library. Many of the books I called up were inscribed with a date, which provides a much clearer idea of when a text was published. It was particularly helpful, for instance, to discover that Merlin Reviv’d: or, An old prophecy found in a manuscript in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire (Newberry Vault Case 6A 158 no. 111) was inscribed 14 March 1680/1, meaning that it was written before the Oxford Parliament (which sat between 21 and 28 March 1681) debated the Exclusion Bill; it was not, as some have suggested, written in response to the failure of the Bill and Charles’s dissolving of the Parliament. Such annotations are often unique to a particular library’s copy of a text, and as such, are rarely included in larger catalogues, so being able to view almost 100 different texts over the two weeks of my visit allowed me to glean details I never would have found otherwise. It was also extremely enlightening to view the volumes collected by Narcissus Luttrell in person. Luttrell was deeply interested in the Popish Plot and Exclusion Crisis of the 1670s and 1680s, and many of the volumes bring together works that respond to, or were in dialogue with, each other, which allows them to be read together, rather than in isolation, giving a much clearer sense of the texts’ interplay and commentaries.

Thanks to my time at the Newberry, the conference paper I delivered at the ‘Representations of Popery in British History’ workshop contained insights that were only possible thanks to the collections at the Newberry, and I have a solid plan for my next book project. I also found some unexpected sources for my PhD thesis, and the marginal notes on some of these sources provide an unparalleled insight into contemporary thoughts on the text.

It would be remiss of me to not offer a special thanks to Lia Markey, Christopher Fletcher, Claire Ptaschinski, and Keelin Burke for making my trip such an enjoyable experience. Thanks also to Suzanne Karr Schmidt for giving me a tour of the Newberry’s Vault.

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Frontispiece of Thomas Heywood's England Elizabeth (Case E 5 .E43235), where the cherubs crowning Elizabeth pronounce 'Many daughters have don[e] well but thou surpassest them all'

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Merlin Reviv’d: or, An old prophecy found in a manuscript in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire (Vault Case 6A 158 no. 111)