Ruth Burton, Collections Assistant, introduces two interesting recently acquired books, first published in the 17th century.  The volumes are in the Brotherton Collection.

‘The Batchelor’s Directory: being a treatise of the excellence of marriage. Of its necessity, and the means to live happy in it. Together with an apology for the Women against the Calumnies of men’, was published in 1694. It was printed for Richard Cumberland, at the Angel in St Paul’s Church-Yard, and for Benjamin Bragg, at the White-Hart over against Water-Lane in Fleet-street.

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Title page of ‘The Batchelor’s Directory’. Image credit Leeds University Library.

The book is anonymously written, but is part of a cultural shift towards the end of the 17th century against the licentious behaviour of Charles II’s court. The book’s argument is divided into five chapters designed variously to frighten or coax the reader into marriage. Their subjects include ‘the infamy of incontinence’ and the more positive ‘means to marry well and live happy in marriage’.

The author acknowledges that at the current time marriage is held in low esteem. ‘[A] thousand injurious things about marriage’, are said every day, he writes, that it is ‘severe bondage’, or at best a ‘necessary evil’. Among the encouraging advice he offers is the opinion that, while not everyone is handsome, and while those who are not handsome outnumber those who are, yet ‘by a very particular Providence, in this as well as in all other things, every one has his Fancy.’

‘The Dutch Fortune-Teller’ might help you to find out whether marriage was in your immediate future. Originally published in 1650, and attributed to the astrologer John Booker, the book offers to answer questions ‘Which old and young, married men and women, batchelors and maids, delight to be resolved of ‘. Obviously popular, the book was reprinted in this edition around 1750.

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Title page of ‘The Dutch Fortune-Teller’ by John Booker. Image credit Leeds University Library.

The book begins with questions for the reader to choose, including: ‘Whether the sick body shall recover health’, ‘whether you may trust your secret to a friend, or not’, and ‘whether [the one] whom you love so dearly, and would fain have, doth likewise love you?’

The method of fortune-telling is complicated. Each question has a number, which directs the reader to a wheel. The reader must now roll two dice and add the numbers cast. These numbers in turn lead the reader to consult a globe and eventually to be directed to the resolution or answer to their question, in the form of a verse. One verse advises the following:

‘This person is a cunning one;
If hurt by her thou would’st have none,
Then do not trust her, though you know her,
No farther than thou can’st well throw her.’

Records for the books will appear on our online catalogue shortly.