Patrick Simson, Historie of the Church (1634)

By Daniel Woolf

Patrick Simson or Symson was a Scottish Presbyterian minister of anti-episcopalian views who nonetheless enjoyed good relations through most of his life and career as Minister at Stirling with both James VI and several Scots aristocrats. The son of Andrew Simson, himself a reformer, Simson’s life and career is discussed in a biography by G.W. Sprott for the DNB, revised in the ODNB by Duncan Shaw.

Simson’s Historie of the Church is a relatively derivative work, published after his death by his brother Archibald. Simson’s sources are indicated in one of the several “tables” that precedes the start of the book, at sig. ***4v.  His authorities include the “usual suspects” of church history at the time, most obviously Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, but Simson had also a good grasp of patristic and medieval authors, and consulted contemporary or recent writers such as William Camden (Annales) John Stow and John Speed. He also lists catholic authors such as Cardinals Baronius and Bellarmine.

The book appears to have been well received and had reached a third edition by 1634. In 1656, the volume in question, from which the images are taken, came into the hands of Elizabeth Ashe who, if her signature offers any clue, was a practiced writer. The year in which she acquired the book was of course an interesting one, witnessing the end of Cromwell’s experiment with rule by Major-Generals, the calling of the second Protectorate Parliament, and negotiations toward readmission of the Jews to England.

Subsequent owners of the book, identified by signature, included two (presumably) males, one somewhat indecipherable one in 1882, and one C[harles]. E. Gibbs  (29 Oct 1902) whose stamp also appears on the title page. There are annotations in the volume, mainly in pencil, and in a modern hand.

The book came into my hands in 2016 from the antiquarian book dealer finecopy. The binding appears to be original, was in poor shape when I acquired it, and has since been restored professionally. It is destined eventually to join the Schulich-Woolf Rare Book collection in the W.D. Jordan Special Collections Library at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Source: Privately owned book. Photos by Daniel Woolf, reproduced with permission.

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