The Notebook of John Penry, 1593

The Notebook of John Penry, 1593

The Notebook of John Penry, 1593

The Notebook of John Penry, 1593


On 29 May 1593 John Penry, a young Welshman thirty years of age, and 'one of the finest spirits of an age exceptionally rich in spiritual and intellectual achievement', was executed at St. Thomas a Watering, London. The notebook he used during the last months of his life now has its home 6,000 miles away in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. The answer to the question how it comes to be there is simple. The Huntington Library purchased the Ellesmere MSS., and Thomas Egerton, the first Baron Ellesmere--in succession master of the rolls, solicitor-general, attorney-general, lord keeper and lord chancellor--was attorney- general at the time of Penry's trial.

Ellesmere MS. 2146 contains the account of Penry's examination on 15 May, an examination which seems to have escaped the notice of biographers and historians. The depositions are signed by William Aubery, Thomas Egerton, Richard Cosin, Edward Coke, Richard Young, and another (probably Thomas Fanshawe, though the signature is difficult to read). Shown various books in print and manuscript, Penry was asked to acknowledge their authorship:

He sayeth that the other booke bounden in fforrell conteyninge a collection of dyvers things, havinge these words first written in the first leaffe, viz. Jesu Crist declare a diwed was written by hym within these twoo or three yeares paste, some parte of yt in Scotlande, and some parte in Englande.

This clearly identifies the notebook, and makes it probable that the other exhibits described in these depositions may be in the Ellesmere Collection. The Huntington Library copy of Penry's Treatise wherein is manifestly proved that Reformation and those that sincerely fauor the same, are unjustly charged to be enemies unto hir Maiestie, and the state (1590) is the actual copy, judged by the marginal markings, from the preface of which extracts were taken in preparing the case against him. These extracts are collected in Ellesmere MS. 2150b and are incorporated in the record inCoke Booke of entries (1614).

Els. 2154 contains a half-page of writing only, endorsed on verso: 'Certeyne wordes of Penryes owt of the book D'. It reads:

Penryes Wordes owt of the book D.

There are of us allmost fowre score in prison: men and women younge and olde in the prisons about London. Of which number there were 56 taken the last lordes day being the 4 of March, hearinge the Worde of god trulye taught etc. We were taken in the place etc. [fo. 34 ]

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