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The New Whole Duty of Man

Posted Monday, 25th November 2013

Cataloguing of the older books in the collection has recently begun, and one of the first items to be catalogued is The New Whole Duty of Man (London, 1756). First published in 1658 at the end of the Commonwealth period, it promoted the High Anglicanism which was restored with the monarchy two years later. It caught the religious mood of the time, and rapidly became a bestseller, and could commonly be found alongside a Bible and a prayerbook in even the humblest of homes. This is a revised version which first appeared in 1741, which is considered necessary because original version was ‘designed for those unhappy times in which it was written’, and failed to mention the XXXIX Articles ‘tho’ essentially necessary to salvation’. This 14th edition of the revised version is very rare: only 5 copies are known to exist in libraries across the world. This is the only complete copy available in the UK.

In addition to its interest as a bibliographic rarity, this copy has a rather more immediate appeal in its childish drawings and doodles preserved inside the back cover, and the rough and ready brown woollen dust jacket obscuring the original leather binding. Who were the amateur portraitist and sitter? Is it a self-portrait? How much trouble was the artist in when their handiwork was discovered by their parent or guardian? The evidence we have at the moment can’t answer these questions, but the pictures can quickly take us back two hundred years to a moment in time when a child was bored in church.

  by Anna James, Antiquarian Cataloguer

Categories: News

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