“An ill cook cannot lick his own fingers”. Proverbs, Sir Thomas More’s witticisms, & The Lord’s Prayer in Anglo Saxon

Camden, William (1551-1623)

Remaines Concerning Britaine: Their Languages. Names. Surnames. Allusions. Anagrammes. Armories. Monies. Empreses. Apparell. Artillarie. Wise Speeches. Proverbs. Poesies. Epitaphes. Written by William Camden Esquire, Glarenceux, King of Armes, Surnamed the Learned. The fift Impression, with many rare Antiquities never before imprinted. By the industry and care of Iohn Philipot, Somerset Herald.

London: Thomas Harper for John Waterson, 1637


Quarto: 18.2 x 13.5 cm. A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Hhh4 (lacking final blank Hhh4)


Bound in contemporary English blind-ruled calf, rebacked. The edges of the text block are sprinkled red. Internally, this copy is in fine condition with crisp leaves and just the occasional marginal note or small ink spot. The added, engraved portrait of the author is bound facing the title page. Provenance: Samuel Stillingfleet (armorial bookplate), Cecil Stillingfleet (inscription on title), Earls of Cowper (bookplate), Brocket Hall (bookplate.)

Camden originally collected this information for inclusion in an edition of his "Britannia" that never materialized.

The "Remaines" is full of curious riches that cover all manner of topic: descriptions of the climates, topography, and inhabitants of the British Isles; names (of both men and women) and their derivations; the development of the surname; various aspects of language and specific points of dialect; poetry; anagrams; acrostics; and proverbs (of which there are nearly 400 and these are quite delightful). In the chapter on languages, Camden demonstrates the development of English from the Anglo-Saxon tongue by reproducing five renderings of the Lord’s Prayer, the first written "about the yeare of Christ 700 found in ancient Saxon glossed Evangelists, written by Eadfride, eighth bishop of Lindisfarne." And the last version "as it is in the translation of Wickeliffe".

In the chapter "Wise Speeches", we find quotations from such notable figures as William the Conqueror, Richard III, the epigrammist John Heywood, and Sir Thomas More, including the latter’s famous remarks on the scaffold. In the section "Poems", Camden mentions William Shakespeare (along with Sidney and Jonson) as one of the "most pregnant wits of these our times, whom succeeding ages may justly admire." (p.319) 

The "Remaines" is also of interest for Camden’s description of 136 unillustrated emblems under the heading "imprese", a word that he defines as "a device in a picture with his Motto, or Word, borne by noble and learned personages to notify some particular conceit of their own."

STC 4526; The English Emblem Tradition, Vol. 4, Edited by Peter M. Daly and Mary V. Silcox (1999)