Covering Letter to Leland's Itinerary of England and Wales.
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The Laboriouse Journey and Serche of JOHAN LEYLANDE FOR Englandes Antiquitees,
Geven of hym as a Newe Yeares Gyfte to King Henry the viii. in the xxxvii Yeare of his Raygne.
To my Soveraigne Leige King Henry the eight.
WHERE as it pleasid yowr Highnes apon very juste considerations to encorage me, by the autorite of yowr moste gratius commission yn the xxv. yere of yowr prosperus regne, to peruse and diligently to serche al the libraries of monasteries and collegies of this yowre noble reaulme, to the intente that the monumentes of auncient
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writers as welle of other nations, as of this yowr owne province mighte be brought owte of deadely darkenes to lyvely lighte, and to receyve like thankes of the posterite, as they hoped for at such tyme as they emploied their long and greate studies to the publique wealthe; yea and farthermore that the holy Scripture of God might bothe be sincerely taughte and lernid, al maner of superstition and craftely coloured doctrine of a rowte of the Romaine bishopes totally expellid oute of this your moste catholique reaulme: I think it now no lesse then my very dewty brevely to declare to your Majeste what frute hath spronge of my laborius yourney and costely enterprise, booth rootid apon yowr infinite goodnes and liberalite, qualites righte highly to be estemid yn al princes, and most especially yn yow as naturally yowr owne welle knowen proprietes.
Firste I have conservid many good autors, the which other wise had beene like to have perischid to no smaul incommodite of good letters, of the whiche parte remayne yn the moste magnificent libraries of yowr royal Palacis. Parte also remayne yn my custodye. Wherby I truste right shortely so to describe your moste noble reaulme, and to publische the Majeste and the excellent actes of yowr progenitors (hitherto sore obscurid booth for lak of enprinting of such workes as lay secretely yn corners, and also bycause men of eloquence hath not enterprisid to set them forthe yn a florisching style, yn sum tymes paste not communely usid in England of wryters, otherwise welle lernid, and now yn such estimation that except truethe be delicately clothid yn purpure her written verites can scant hnde a reader;) that al the worlde shaul evidently perceyve that no particular region may justely be more extollid then yours for trewe nobilite and vertues at al pointes renoumed. 1 Farthermore parte of the examplaries curiousely sought by me, and fortunately founde in sundry places of this yowr dominion, hath beene enprinted yn Germany, and now be yn the pressis chiefly of Frobenius that not al only the Germanes, but also the Italians them self, that counte, as the Grekes did ful arrogantely, al other
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nations to be barbarus and onletterid saving their owne, shaul have a directe occasion openly of force to say that Britannia prima fuit parens, altrix, (addo hoc etiam & jure quodam optimo) conservatrix cum virorum magnorum, turn maxime ingeniorum.
And that profite hath rysen by the aforesaide journey in bringging ful many thinges to lighte as concerning the usurpid autorite of the Bishop of Rome and his complices, to the manifeste and violente derogation of kingely dignite, I referre my self moste humbly to your moste prudente, lernid and highe jugement to discerne my diligence in the longe volume wheryn I have made answer for the defence of youre supreme dignite, alonly lening to the stronge pilor of holy Scripture agayne the hole College of the Romanistes, cloking theire crafty assertions and argumentes under the name of one poore Pighius of Ultrajecte in Germayne, and standing to them as to theire only ancre-holde agayne tempestes that they know wylle rise if treuth may be by licens lette yn to have a voice in the general concile.
Yet here yn onely I have not pitchid the supreme marke of my labor whereonto yowr Grace moste like a princely l patrone of al good lerning did animate me: but also considering and expendinge with my self how greate a numbre of excellente goodly wyttes and writers, lernid with the beste, as the tymes servid, hath beene yn this your region, not only at suche tymes as the Romayne Emperours had recourse to it, but also yn those dayes that the Saxons prevailid of the Britannes, and the Normannes of the Saxons, could not but with a fervente zele and an honeste corage commend them to memory, els alas like to have beene perpetually obscurid, or to have bene lightely remembrid as oncerteine shadowes. Wherfore I, knowing by infinite variete of bookes and assiduus reading of them who hathe beene lernid, and who hath writen from tyme to tyme in this reaulme, have digestid in to foure bookes the names of them with theire lyves and monumentes of lerning, and to them addid this title, " De viris illustribus," following the profitable exemple of Hieronyme, Gennadie, Cassiodore, Severiane, and Trittemie a late writer: but alway so handeling the
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matier that I have more exspatiatid yn this campe then they did, as yn a thing that desired to be sumwhat at large, and to have ornature. The firste booke begynning at the Druides is deductid on to the tyme of the cumming of S. Augustine yn to Engelande. The secunde is from the tyme of Augustine on to the advente of the Normans. The thirde from the Normans to the ende of the most honorable reigne of the mightty, famose, and prudent Prince Henry the VII. your Father. The fourth beginnith with the name of your Majeste, whos glorie in lerning is to the worlde so clerely knowen, that though emonge the lyves of other lernid menne I have accurately celebratid the names of Bladudus, Molmutius, Costantinus Magnus, Sigebertus, Alfridus, Alfridus Magnus, AEthelstanus and Henry the firste, Kinges and your progenitors; and also Ethelwarde, secunde sunne to Alfride the Greate, Hunfride Duke of Glocestre, and Tipetote Erie of Worcester; yet conferrid withe yowr Grace they seme as smaule lighttes (if I may frely say my jugemente, yowr highe modeste not offendid,) yn respecte of the day-starre.
Now farther to insinuate to yowr Grace of what matiers the writers, whose lyves I have congestid ynto foure bokes, hath treatid of, I may right boldely say, that beside the cognition of the thre tunges, yn the which parte of them hath excellid, that there is no kinde of liberale science, or any feate concerning lerning, yn the which they have not shewen certeine argumentes of greate felicite of wytte; yea and concerning the interpretation of holy Scripture, booth after the auncient forme, and sins yn the scholastical trade, they have reignid as in a certeine excellency.
And as touchinge historical knowlege there hath beene to the numbre of a fulle hunderith, or mo, that from tyme to tyme hath with greate diligence, and no lesse faith, wold to God with like eloquens, perscribid the actes of yowr moste noble predecessors, and the fortunes of this your realme, so incredibly greate, that he that hath not seene and thoroughly redde theyr workes can little pronunce yn this parte. Wherfore after that I had perpendid the honest and
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profitable studies of these historiographies, I was totally enflammid with a love to see thoroughly al those partes of this your opulente and ample reaulme, that I had redde of yn the aforesaid writers : yn so muche that al my other occupations intermittid I have so travelid yn yowr dominions booth by the se costes and the midle partes, sparing nother labor nor costes, by the space of these vi. yeres paste, that there is almoste nother cape, nor bay, haven, creke or peere, river or confluence of rivers, breches, waschis, lakes, meres, fenny waters, montaynes, valleis, mores, hethes, forestes, chases, wooddes, cities, burges, castelles, principale manor placis, monasteries, and colleges, but I have seene them; and notid yn so doing a hole worlde of thinges very memorable.
Thus instructed I truste shortely to see the tyme that like as Carolus Magnus had emonge his treasours thre large and notable tables of sylver richely enamelid, one of the site and description of Constantinople, another of the site and figure of the magnificente cite of Rome, and the thirde of the description of the worlde; so shaul yowr Majestie have this yowr worlde and impery of Englande so sette forthe yn a quadrate table of silver, if God sende me life to accomplische my beginninges, that yowr grace shaul have ready knowlege at the firste sighte of many right delectable, fruteful, and necessary pleasures, by the contemplation thereof, as often as occasion shaul move yow to the sight of it.
And be cause that it may be more permanente, and farther knowen than to have it engravid in silver or brasse, I entende (by the leave of God) withyn the space of xii. monethes following, such a description to make of your reaulme yn writing, that it shaul be no mastery after for the graver or painter to make a like by a perfecte exemple. Yea and to wade farther yn this matier, wheras now almoste no man can welle gesse at the shadow of the auncient names of havens, ryvers, promontories, hilles, woddes, cities, tounes, castelles, and variete of kind[V]edes of people, that Caesar, Livie, Strabo, Diodorus, Fabius Pictor, Pomponius Mela, Plinius, Cornelius Tacitus, Ptolemaeus, Sextus Rufus, Ammianus Marcellinus, Solinus, Antoninus, and diver others
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make mention of, I truste so to open this wyndow that the lighte shall be seene so longe, that is to say, by the space of a hole thousand yeres, stoppid up, and the olde glory of your renowmid Britaine to reflorisch thorough the worlde.
This doone I have matier at plenty al ready preparid to this purpose, that is to say, to write an history, to the which I entende to adscribe this title, De Antiquitate Britannica, or els Civilis Historia. And this worke I entende to divide yn to so many bookes as there be shires yn England, and sheres and greate dominions yn Wales. So that I esteme that this volume wille enclude a fiftie bookes, wherof eche one severally shaul conteyne the beginninges, encreaces, and memorable actes of the chief tounes and castelles of the province allottid to hit.
Then I entende to distribute yn to vj. bokes such matier as I have al ready collectid concerninge the isles adjacent to your noble reaulme and under your subjection. Wherof thre shaul be of these isles, Vecta, Mona and Menauia, sumtyme kyngedoms.
And to superadde a worke as an ornament and a right comely garlande to the enterprises afore saide, I have selectid stuffe to be distributid into thre bookes, the whiche I purpose thus to entitle, De Nobilitate Britannica. Wherof the first shaul declare the names of kinges, quenes, with theyr childerne, dukes, erles, lordes, capitaines and rulers yn this reaulme to the coming of the Saxons and their conqueste. The secunde shaul be of the Saxons and Danes to the victorie of Kingre William the Greate. The thirde from the Normans to the reigne of yowr moste noble grace, descendinge lineally of the Britanne, Saxon and Norman kinges. So that al noble mene shaul clerely perceyve theyr lineal parentele.
Now if it shaul be the pleasure of Almightty God that I may live to performe these thinges that be al ready begune and in a greate forwardnes, I truste that this yowr reaulme shaul so welle be knowen, ons payntid with his natives coloures, that the renoume ther of shaul gyve place to the
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glory of no other region; and my great labors and costes, proceding from the moste abundant fonteine of yowr infinite goodnes towarde me, yowr poore scholar and moste humble servante, shaul be evidentely seene to have not al only pleasid but also profited the studius, gentil, and equale readers.
This is the briefe declaration of my laborius yorneye, taken by motion of yowr highenes, so much studiyng at al houres the fruteful praeferremente of good letters and aunciente vertues.
Christe continue your most royale estate, and the prosperite with succession in kingely dignite of your deere and worthily belovid sunne Prince Eduarde, graunting yow a numbre of princely sunnes by the moste gratius, benigne, and modeste lady your Quene.
Joannes Lelandius Antiquarius scripsit.Return to top of page