Henry Isaacson, Saturni Ephemerides (1633)

Known today more for its distinctive engraved title page by William Marshall (the illustrator responsible for the frontispiece in Eikon Basilike of a kneeling King Charles I) than its content, Saturni Ephemerides, sive, Tabula Historico-Chronologica was written by theologian Henry Isaacson (1581–1654) and published in 1633. It was never reprinted, but judging by the high number of surviving copies reported to the ESTC, the print run seems to have been sufficient to meet public demand.

Writes Joel Faber of the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies:

The six pages of “authorities” Isaacson references range from Ovid and Boccaccio to Bede and Holinshed. The first section offers an abridged history of the “Four Monarchies” (Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome) before moving to the chronology table which comprises most of the book. Isaacson begins this section with the biblical patriarchs and proceeds through to the time of the book’s composition with various European locations each receiving their own columns. Alongside each year Isaacson also includes noteworthy events such as the founding of cities, universities, and the births and deaths of famous figures such as Sir Philip Sidney and John Harington with notes about their accomplishments. Appended to the work is a Christian history of Britain that lists the successions of bishops and archbishops. At the end of the book is an index which organizes the “famous men” that Isaacson includes into categories such as poets, musicians, philosophers, mathematicians, painters, grammarians, and others.

This copy is noteworthy for the inscription on A1v, The Frontispiece Explained. Beneath the tailpiece, the former owner made the inscription “Wm Thompson booke / bought of mrs Susanna Pelham.” Thompson also signed the book at the foot of the title page.

Thompson’s hand appears to date from the seventeenth century. The intriguing inscription raises more questions than it answers. Neither William Thompson or Susanna Pelham can be easily identified, Thompson because his name is so common, Susanna because there are many possible permutations and spellings of her name, from Susan to Suzanne. It seems likely that she was a private seller, though how she came to signal that her book was for sale and how she attracted Thompson as a buyer is unknown. Was she a former owner and reader of the book? Or was the book one of many wares she was offering for sale, not necessarily a personal possession? At any rate, it was a transaction and not a gift, as so many books exchanged between women and men were.

Source: Book offered for sale by Forest Books in May 2021. Images used with permission.


Joel Faber (20 November, 2018). “New Acquisition: Saturni Ephemerides Sive Tabula Historico-Chronologica (1633).” Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies. https://crrs.ca/news/saturni-ephemerides/


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