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Cambridge University Library


The sixty-five volumes shelved at CCA-E.8 form a significant collection of works by and about King Charles I.  The majority of the collection consists of copies of Eikon Basilike (hereafter, Eikon), which claimed to be the King’s spiritual autobiography.  Purported to have been written by the King shortly before his execution on 30th January 1649, printed copies may have been available on (or just before) the day of the King’s execution and by the end of the year about thirty five editions had appeared (see note 1 below).  Controversy over the King’s authorship raged for some time before the connection with John Gauden, Restoration Bishop of Exeter, was made at the end of the seventeenth century.  It is now generally agreed that Gauden is likely to have compiled the text using some authentic writings of the King as a foundation. 

The majority of the collection (fifty nine volumes) was given to the Library by Francis Falconer Madan (1886-1961) over a period of more than three decades, between 1923 and 1956 (some carry a dated donation label, but others have only the dated library stamp).  A civil servant, Madan was the son of Falconer Madan (1851-1935), Bodley’s Librarian from 1912 to 1919.  The younger Madan was the author of what remains the most extensive study of the Eikon, based on his own collection (begun by his father) and published by the Oxford Bibliographical Society in 1950.  His work built upon that of Edward Almack (1852-1917), whose Bibliography of the King’s Book (1896) pioneered the study of the book.  At the core of the collection is around fifty copies of the Eikon printed in England or on the continent in 1649 or 1650, of which thirty seven edition are in English.  Editions also appeared in Latin, French, German and Dutch.  There are further copies of the text scattered throughout the library in other distinct collections, including the Royal Library (the collection of Bishop John Moore, presented by King George I in 1715), the library of Sir Geoffrey Keynes (acquired in 1982) and that of the Rousseau scholar R. A. Leigh (acquired between 1982 and 1985).  At least one copy has been in the library since the seventeenth century and belonged to John Hacket (it is inscribed ‘J.H.’), chaplain to Charles I and Charles II who was appointed Bishop of Lichfield at the Restoration. 

The text was suppressed by Parliament, so it was illegal for printers to print it and for booksellers to sell it.  Most editions therefore give very little information about their production on the title page, where one would usually expect to see the place of printing, the printer’s (and occasionally publisher’s) name and address.  Given the secrecy with which copies of the text had to be produced, establishing the order in which the various editions appeared and by whom they were printed is not an easy task.  Consequently the identification of printers with particular anonymous editions has often been achieved by comparing their decorative initials and type with those produced by known printers.  Many copies are pocket-sized, which allowed them to be easily concealed by their owners.  

Regarded by many of the original owners as a poignant memento of the King, the book has long been attractive to collectors, and some of our copies were previously part of large private libraries.  A copy of the 1687 folio edition of the Works of King Charles the Martyr was previously owned by Professor Edward Solly (1819-1886), whose library was sold at Sotheby’s over six days in 1886 (from 2nd November).  It contained around sixty-five copies of the Eikon, in addition to multiple copies of other seventeenth-century works by or about the King, but the 1687 edition of the Works is not listed in the sale catalogue (lots 442-489 concern Charles I, with 442-477 being editions of the Eikon; most lots contain more than one volume).  Solly wrote a short article on the Eikon, published in the Bibliographer in 1883, but his hopes of compiling a more detailed study were cut short by his death three years later; many of his copies would pass to Madan (see Almack, 1896, p. 1).  A copy of the Eikon itself (with the imprint ‘Reprinted in R.M. for James Young, 1648’) was owned by the wonderfully named Frederick Adolphus Philbrick (1835-1910), a philatelist and judge.  His library - which contained incunabula and fine bindings - was sold by Sotheby’s on 29th-31st May 1905 and contained more than eighty copies of the Eikon.  Several volumes in our collection once belonged to Charles Edward Doble (1847-1914), Assistant Secretary to the Oxford University Press, and two contain the bookplate of Edward Almack himself.  Another was given to the Library by Sir Henry Francis Herbert Thompson (1859-1944) of Trinity College.  After training to be a barrister, then turning to medicine, he became an Egyptologist and left many of his rare books to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.  Several volumes in the collection contain dated inscriptions of the seventeenth century: ‘Liber Jacobi Maddocke…1692’, ‘Anthony Lechmere 1690’ (possibly of the Lechmeres of Hanley Castle, Worcestershire), ‘Tho[mas] Edgar 1669’ and ‘Launcelott Fleeminge 1668’ (possibly the Lancelot Fleming born c.1634 in Kippax, Yorkshire, who died in 1717).  A number of the volumes were owned by women.  One copy contains the inscriptions ‘Sarah Needham 1712’ and ‘Eliza Fay’ (of the late-seventeenth or early-eighteenth century) and another is inscribed ‘Eliza Moore’ (of a similar date). 

A large proportion of the collection survives in contemporary bindings, the sombre style of which echo the emotion of the time; Almack spoke in 1896 of the books as ‘to this moment wearing mourning for Charles the First’ (Almack, 1896, p. 67).  Several bear the gilt monogram ‘CR’ (for Carolus Rex), which is often accompanied by a crown and skull.  One copy (the third issue of the first edition) has inside each cover two black and white silk bands, which a note inside the front cover calls ‘mourning bands’ (though they are presumably just the remains of silk ties used to secure the book and would have passed through small holes in the boards).  Interestingly, two copies of the same edition (CCC.8.1 and CCC.8.2) are in identical polished calf bindings of the seventeenth century, the pastedowns of which are from the same early sixteenth-century edition of Ludolphus de Saxonia’s Vita Christi, indicating that both copies (and probably more of the same edition) were fully bound by the publisher/printer before sale, rather than being sold in temporary cheap bindings or in sheets (see note 2 below).

This collection, largely the gift of F. F. Madan, is a resource of immeasurable wealth for those interested in the Eikon. The large number of different editions in one library allows one to study and understand the way in which the various editions were produced, and copy-specific features including bindings, bookplates and annotations allow one to find out how the books were used, received and thought of by readers from the seventeenth century through to the twentieth.

Note 1. See pp. 164-165 in Madan, A new bibliography of the Eikon Basilike of King Charles the First (Oxford Bibliographical Society, New Series, Vol. III, 1949).  The publisher Richard Royston recalled later that early in October 1648 he received an order from Charles I to prepare his press, and that he received the manuscript, via Edward Simmons (the King’s chaplain) on 23rd December.  The printing was entrusted to John Grismond and proof sheets are known to have been at Simmons’ house by 7th or 14th January 1649.  Grismond’s printing house was raided and the edition (apparently completely) destroyed, so Royston moved a press outside the city where the work was completed, selling 2000 copies through street hawkers at fifteen shillings each.  John Gauden’s wife recalled that her husband ‘could by no means get the book finished till some few days after his Majesty was destroyed’, but a letter to Dr Sheldon suggests that copies were available on the day of the King’s death.  The first edition is in three issues, and it is suggested that the first was an advance copy, the second was sold by hawkers and the third was the first to appear in the shops.  Madan records that George Thomason inscribed his copy (the third issue) with the date ‘Feb. 9’ and Almack, noted that a copy of the second issue of the first edition was inscribed ‘February 13’ (see Madan, 1949, p. 11).

Note 2. The front pastedown (there is no rear pastedown) in CCC.8.1 contains part 2, chapter 72, and the rear pastedown in CCC.8.2 contains part 1, chapter 68.  The edition has not been ascertained, but it is clearly early sixteenth century, and from a relatively large volume (there are two columns to a page, each being 89mm wide, not including printed marginalia).  It is none of the following, which have been ruled out either by the type, the arrangement of text or the page size: Paris 1502 (Ulrich Gering & Berthold Rembolt), Paris 1509 (Berthold Rembolt), Lyon 1510 (Stephan Gueynard), Paris 1517 (Berthold Rembolt), 1519 Lyon (Martin Boullion), Lyon 1522 (Giunta), Paris 1529 (Christian Wechel), Lyon 1530 (Antoine Blanchard), Paris 1534 (Chevallonium), Paris 1539 (Thielmann Kerver).

For more information and additional images, read Liam Sims's post on the Special Collections blog.

References and further reading

  • Edward Almack, A bibliography of the King’s Book or Eikon Basilike (London: Blades, East & Blades, 1896) 859.b.22 
  • H. A. Beecham, ‘John Gauden and the authorship of the Eikon Basilike’, pp. 142-144 in The Library, 5th series, vol. 20, no. 2 (1965) B990.1.1- 
  • Jason McElligott, ‘Roger Morrice and the reputation of the Eikon Basilike in the 1680s’, pp. 119-132 in The Library, 7th series, vol. 6, no. 2 (2005) B990.1.1- 
  • Francis F. Madan, A new bibliography of the Eikon Basilike of King Charles the First, with a note on the authorship (Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, New Series volume 3, 1949 [printed 1950])B990.7.8
  • Andrew Lacey, The cult of King Charles the martyr (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2003) 119:7.c.200.3