Thursday, May 11, 2017

Theatre of Cruelty, 16th C


Horribilia scelera ab Hugenotis in Gallijs perpetrata j


Horrenda inhumanitatis genera à Geusijs Belgicis peracta d


Horrenda inhumanitatis genera à Geusijs Belgicis peracta c


Horrenda inhumanitatis genera à Geusijs Belgicis peracta b


Persecutiones adversus Catholicos à Protestantibus Caluinistis excitae in Anglia a


Horribilia scelera ab Hugenotis in Gallijs perpetrata i


Horribilia scelera ab Hugenotis in Gallijs perpetrata d


Schismaticorum in Anglia crudelitas b


Schismaticorum in Anglia crudelitas a


Schismaticorum in Anglia crudelitas


Horribilia scelera ab Hugenotis in Gallijs perpetrata f


Beheading execution of Mary Queen of Scots


Persecutiones adversus Catholicos à Protestantibus Caluinistis excitae in Anglia c


Persecutiones adversus Catholicos à Protestantibus Caluinistis excitae in Anglia f


Persecutiones adversus Catholicos à Protestantibus Caluinistis excitae in Anglia e


Persecutiones adversus Catholicos à Protestantibus Caluinistis excitae in Anglia d


Horrenda inhumanitatis genera à Geusijs Belgicis peracta a


Theatrvm Crudelitatum Hæreticorum Nostri Temporis


Theatrvm Crudelitatum Hæreticorum Nostri Temporis b


Theatrvm Crudelitatum Hæreticorum Nostri Temporis a



Richard Verstegan (aka Richard Rowlands) (?1548-?1636) was a Catholic Anglo-Dutch antiquarian, goldsmith and book publisher. The first half of his life was spent in England, but his religion prevented him from obtaining a degree from Oxford University, where he is thought to have studied English history and the Anglo-Saxon language.

Either following from the prejudice he suffered at Oxford or as a response to the incarceration and treatment of Mary Queen of Scots* (her 1587 beheading is seen above), Verstegan published the first edition of his martyrologium, 'Theatrum Crudelitatum', in 1583. The book may also have been conceived as a Catholic version of the famous Protestant 'Book of Martyrs' [published in 1563 as 'Actes and Monuments'] by John Foxe.

Verstegan's book attempted to record, in gruesome detail, the cruelty, torture and murder of Catholic martyrs in Europe - including English victims under the reigns of Mary I and Elizabeth I* - at the hands of Protestant heretics. Upon publication, the author was arrested and imprisoned for libel against the Crown and all books were confiscated and destroyed (a single page has been saved). Through the intervention of friends in the clerical hierarchy, Verstegan was able to secure his release and he fled the country, ultimately settling in Antwerp.

Verstegan became a very prolific and influential author and publisher in his adopted city. One of his early works was the expanded and definitive version of 'Theatrum Crudelitatum' which was published in Latin in 1587. At least some of the engravings were produced by the author (artistic training having been acquired through his goldsmith apprenticeship). It proved to be a popular book and translated editions were released soon after for the various European markets.

Although his publishing house concentrated on the production of Catholic devotional literature, Verstegan himself was known to have worked as an intelligence agent for Roman, English and Jesuit Catholics and he penned political and satirical articles for a newspaper (making him one of the earliest known journalists), all the while operating as a book and people smuggler during the Reformation*. A question mark apparently remains over a lot of works, in terms of attribution, both because Verstegan's publishing output often lacked identification marks and also because his son, with the same name, became increasingly involved in the firm's productions.

The chapter titles from the book (seen as title tags on mouseover of the unordered images above) that are included at the top of each illustrated page [the last three images above show the layout for all illustrated pages] are:

-- Persecutiones adversus Catholicos à Protestantibus Caluinistis excitae in Anglia
-- Horribilia scelera ab Hugenotis in Gallijs perpetrata
-- Horrenda inhumanitatis genera à Geusijs Belgicis peracta
-- Schismaticorum in Anglia crudelitas

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