Saturday, September 15, 2012

Merlin and Macbeth!

Since I last posted about Innerpeffray Library and  some of the thrilling old books it has, I have been absolutely dying to go back there and transcribe some more excerpts from the Treatise of Specters of 1658. Next weekend the library has "open days" (I'll post about that separately later) which means that owing to the high number of visitors it will not be possible to handle the books. I thought therefore that I had better try to pop over there this weekend instead and spend a bit more time on the Treatise - otherwise it could be a while before I manage to visit the library. It closes for the winter at the end of October so the more visits I can manage before then, the better! I drove over to Innerpeffray this afternoon and spent an hour there.

The library is a wonderful working environment - warm and quiet and well-lit. The problematical side of working there is that there are so many fabulous old books that it is very difficult indeed not to get sidetracked. Librarian Lara Haggerty nearly derailed my plans for the Treatise by showing me a fascinating old book about different countries of the world - it described the German court as full of men dressed in black leather, which I must say sounded very suave! I resolved to get my hands on that book at some future point and perhaps share some of the best passages on this blog - then I wrenched my attention away from it and back to the Treatise of Specters!

As I think I mentioned in a previous post, the Treatise is a kind of anthology of creepy and supernatural stories collected by Thomas Bromhall. The copy at Innerpeffray was printed in 1658. The book is divided into different sections, and today I copied out excerpts from An History of Strange Apparitions, and cunning delusions of Devils and An History of Strange Prophecies, and Predictions of Devils. 

When I transcribe passages from the book, I keep the archaic spellings (which are often quite inconsistent - the same word can be spelled in two different ways in the same paragraph), use of upper case letters and italics. The only things I can't reproduce are the archaic letters! The original version has what looks like an "f" for any "s" that occurs in the middle of a word, and very occasionally I have come across what looks like the German letter ß (a double "s"). I have put those letters into normal type to avoid confusion.

Here are the two tales from the History of Strange Prophecies, and Predictions of Devils. (I will post the others shortly.) I chose these particular excerpts because they feature characters most of us are familiar with - Merlin and Macbeth! The story about Merlin is from the works of Hector Boece (1465-1536), a Scottish academic and philosopher. The Macbeth story is from Hieronymus Cardanus (1501-1576),  an Italian scientist.

From An History of Strange Prophecies, and Predictions of Devils.

122. Hector Boethus in the Scottish affairs saith, it was a common report, that Merline was begotten by the copulation of a spirit called Incubus, and a Brittish woman of a Noble bloud, of whom Vincent. In 21. book History 30. thus telleth. King Vortiger, counsell being taken what he ought to do for defence of himself, commanded cunning workmen to be called unto him, who should build a most strong Tower. But when as the Earth swallowed up their works, they perswaded the King, that he should search out a man without a father, with whose bloud the stones and morter might be sprinkled, as if by that means the morter would be made firm. Therefore the young man Merline by name, was found, who with his Mother is brought before the King, who confesseth he was conceived by a spirit in Mans shape. This Merline revealed many dark things, and foretold things to come. For he opened that under the foundation there was a lake, under the Lake two Dragons lay hid, whereof one being red, did signify the people of the Brittains, but the other being white, of the Saxons; and he also prophesied, that Aurelius Ambrose, Hengist being overcome, and Vortiger burnt, should reign. of the Delusions of Devills.

176. Machabaeus King of the Scots, fearing Macduffus, being admonished by Soothsayers, was told by a woman a Fortune-teller, that he should not fall by the hands of any man that was born of a woman, and that he could not be overcome before the wood Bernen were carried to the Castle Donusinna, which was a great way distant. Therefore he falsly thought himself invincible, and free from strategems and deceits of his enemies, having cut down the wood Bernen, and carried every stick to the Castle; wherewith he compassed the Castle the day before he was overcome: to be short, he was slain by Macduffus, who was not born, but cut out of his Mothers belly. Cardanus de rerum varietate.Lib.16.cap.93.

...I particularly like the latinised names in the story from Cardanus. "Macduffus" is splendid! 

No comments:

Post a Comment