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A collection of over 1400 English political and literary pamphlets and broadsides, published 1660-1695. It was acquired by the Library in 1987 at the Sotheby's sale of 23-24 July. Sotheby's estimated that 200 of the items were not recorded in Wing's Short-title catalogue ... 1641-1700. The collection is largely concerned with the Popish Plot of 1678 (and reactions to it from the period up to 1685), in which Titus Oates pretended to reveal a plot by the Jesuits and leading Catholic laymen to kill the King. The works are bound together in thirteen volumes, placed at classmark Sel.2.114-126. They were collected and annotated by the Verney family of Claydon, Bucks, principally by John Verney (1640-1717), then a merchant in London, who succeeded to the family title in 1696. This greatly enhances their interest for scholars, as extensive family correspondence for the Verneys survives (available at The British Library on microfilm). John Verney's annotations include the addition or expansion of the publication date of the items, so providing valuable evidence for their printing history, and notes on prices written on the endpapers or fly-leaves of each bound volume. He also identified persons referred to in the pamphlets - of particular help in the satires and Trials, where individuals are often noted cryptically or by first name only. 

The most important item in the collection, however, is not connected with the Popish Plot. Two of the volumes contain a number of works reflecting Verney's literary tastes, including a libretto for An opera perform'd before the King. Afterwards at Mr Josias Priest's boarding school at Chelsey. By young gentlewomen. This work is the only recorded copy of the libretto for John Blow's masque Venus and Adonis, an obvious predecessor to Purcell's later Dido and Aeneas. Its great importance lies in its recording of the previously unknown performance of the work at the dancing-master Josiah Priest's school, where Purcell's Dido and Aeneas was later to be staged, in 1689. Verney's niece was a pupil at the school; he records the date of performance as 17 April 1684. He also notes the names of the three leads, including Mr Priest's daughther in the role of Adonis.

The plays, libretti, poems, songs, and prologues and epilogues to plays in the Verney collection (of which there are over 200) are complemented by the Brett-Smith collection of around 1400 English plays, dramatic literature, and poetical miscellanies from 1640-1750.

References and further reading:

  • Hopkins, P. "The Verney Collection of Popish Plot pamphlets". Bulletin of the Friends of Cambridge University Library, no. 9. Cambridge, 1988.
  • Sotheby's. English Literature and history, comprising printed books, autograph letters and manuscripts ... Thursday, 23 July 1987 ... Friday, 24 July 1987. London, 1987. [The collection was lot 262, pp. 169-171.]
  • Slater, M. Family life in the seventeenth century: the Verneys of Claydon House (London, 1984)
  • Verney, H. C. W., Sir. (Ed.). The Verneys of Claydon: a seventeenth-century English family (London, 1968) 
  • Verney, M. M. W.-H., Lady, & Verney, F. P., Lady (Eds.). Memoirs of the Verney Family during the seventeenth century: compiled from the papers and illustrated by the portraits at Claydon House, 3rd ed. (London, 1925)
  • Whyman, S. E. Sociability and power in late-Stuart England: the cultural worlds of the Verneys, 1660-1720 (Oxford, 1999)

On Venus and Adonis: