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Spelman, Henry. De sepultura. London: Printed by Robert Young, 1641. 4to (19 cm, 7.5’’). , 38 pp., lacking first and last blank as usual. $400.00
The first edition of Sir Henry Spelman’s famous condemnation of the financial contributions demanded of mourners by their churches for burials — an influence on several pamphlets by John Milton. Spelman (1562–1641), one of the most important English antiquaries of the early modern period, was acquainted with Robert Cotton and a great collector of medieval documents and records; published in the year of his death, his De sepultura deprecates the act of requesting money for burial rites because, as the pamphlet's first sentence says, "It is a worke of the Law of Nature and of Nations, of humane and divine Law, to bury the Dead" (p.1). The "selling of graves and the duty [tax] of buriall" he sees as Christian customs, "not heard of [. . .] among the Barbarians" (p. 2); he cites numerous medieval ecclesiastical and state sources from England and sometimes France that forbid the exaction of money for burial and blessings to the dead, as well as the opinions of major English canonists. He also quotes from church constitutions of his time, with citation of prices (separate for children under 7) requested by parsons and church-wardens for interment. Very interesting is a paragraph printed in Anglo-Saxon type, Spelman being knowledgeable in that language, which reproduces => a law from the reign of Cnut.
Provenance: 17th-century autograph of "William (?)ram (?)" and three early pen trials on title-page; large 20th-century armorial bookplate of Edward Jackson Barron, member of the Society of Antiquaries to front pastedown; even larger 20th-century engraved bookplate of Moses H. Grossman, designed by Henri Bérengier (1881–1943), laid in; modern manuscript date to lower blank margin of last verso.
ESTC R19887; Kress 606; Goldsmiths’-Kress 766.1; Wing (rev. ed.) S4924. Early 20th-century half calf over marbled paper boards with author/title/date blind-stamped to spine; rubbed. Title-page and last verso dust-soiled and text generally with significant age-toning but paper yet good; one small pinehole-type wormhole through lower margins. => A sound, readable copy of an important text on a once vexed subject. (41335) Please RESHELVE This.
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