Wednesday 29 March 2006

The title says it all

I spend a lot of time reading old books, especially theological books from the seventeenth century. And one of the most charming things about reading books from this period is the entertaining discovery of long, meandering titles. Here’s an example that I came across yesterday; it’s an anonymous book written against the sect of charismatic Quakers in 1655:

The Quakers fiery beacon: or, The shaking-ranters ghost: being a new relation, and further discovery of their strange and sudden agonies, trances, quakings, shakings, raptures, visions, apparitio[n]s, conflicts with Satan, revelations, illuminations, instructions in new divine mysteries, and seraphicall divinity; their several callings, missions, messages, orders, sects, places, and persons; their inchanted potions, ribbons, and bracelets; their declaration in Westminster-Hall, touching Heaven and Hell: and a narrative of their present actings and extasies, for the sweeping away of our good fundamental laws like so many old cobwebs. (London, 1655)

And here’s one more—this one’s also anonymous, and it’s written against the sect known as Ranters (this title was so long that I actually had to edit out several phrases—but you should get the general idea):

The Ranters declaration, with their new oath and protestation; their strange votes, and a new way to get money; their proclamation and summons; their new way of ranting, never before heard of; their dancing of the hay naked, at the white Lyon in Peticoat-lane; their mad dream…; the mad-ranters further resolution; their Christmas carol, and blaspheming song; their two pretended-abominable keyes to enter heaven, and the worshiping of his little-majesty, the late Bishop of Canterbury: a new and further discovery of their black art, with the names of those that are possest by the devil, having strange and hideous cries heard within them, to the great admiration of all those that shall read and peruse this ensuing subject. (London, 1650)

You can see why they didn’t need publishers’ blurbs in those days: the title says it all.


Anonymous said...

Now I understand where Sufjan Stevens got the titles for the songs on his last album!

And what a way to butter up your readers!
"to the great admiration of all those that shall read and peruse this ensuing subject"

guanilo said...

My personal favorite (not quite as long, but every bit as charming): The Rights of Conscience Inalienable, and, Therefore, Religious Opinions Not Cognizable By Law; or, the High-Flying Churchman, Stripped of His Legal Robe, Appears a Yahoo, John Leland 1791

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