LONDON CEREMONIES AND PUBLIC MORES OF THE 17TH CENTURY
The Order of My Lord Mayor, The Aldermen and the Sheriffes, for their meetings.
London, R. Young, 1629.
Small 8vo. pp. (iv) 32 (ii), without first blank. Mostly large black letter, small woodcut arms of the City of London at head of title page, a couple of decorative headpieces. Light age browning or yellowing, upper margin cut a bit short, generally a good copy in modern vellum.
An extremely rare publication of the orders and regulations governing meetings of the high officers of the City of London on special, public and ceremonial occasions. Most of these were annual events fixed by the liturgical calendar though some, such as a coronation, occurred only very occasionally. The orders do not regulate the conduct of business, or the administration of the meetings, but provide instructions on roles and duties, timings, and in particular dress codes. It is a sort of secular ‘ceremonialum’ for what was rapidly becoming the grandest and richest corporate government in the world which often provided a splendid show for the local populace.
The entertainment was not a mere matter of ‘panem et circenses’ but had a serious underlying social and political purpose. It is easy to forget today just how significant the symbolism of clothes and gestures was in the C17th (viz Malvolio) and how vitally important were the rules of precedence and procedure. This little work seems to have been designed principally for participants in these ceremonies, by the study of which deeply embarrassing (and perhaps worse) solecisms could be avoided. It opens with a paginated table of the principal ceremonies and closes with a list of the City corporations. Copies were discarded when the office holder retired or the regulations changed, and there were doubtless few to begin with, almost none of which survived to our day.
The earliest recorded edition of this sort was printed in 1568 and is known by a single copy at the Huntington; the Guildhall Library has the only recorded copy of an edition of 1604 and the Bodleian the unique 1610 as well as the only surviving quire of “c.1625?”. Then follows this title of which two copies are now known (apart from the present), at the British Library and Guildhall respectively; a different issue, partly reset, survives uniquely at Harvard.