In 1951, the Clark purchased a 1701 edition of Rider’s British Merlin, an almanac compiled by Cardanus Rider that was published yearly from the mid-17th century until at least 1830. Cardanus Rider was likely a pseudonym for Richard Saunders, an English astronomer and doctor who was born in 1613 and whose actual date of death is unknown. This 1701 Merlin was sitting in our backlog until recently.
The almanac is printed in red and black and the only annotations are little circles or small notations next to some dates. Though the bookbinder attached an extra inch or so to the bottom of each page, to make room for the owner to write notes, there isn’t any writing on them. The bookbinder also added a few other things that make this book particularly interesting.
The front and back covers, which are both decorated with gold filigree and little acorns (there are a lot of cute acorns on the spine too), also have metal bosses imprinted with a floral design. When you turn the book to open it, you realize that these are attached to ring clasps that are fastened with a metal rod with a flat top…
… which isn’t actually just a metal rod, but a stylus for writing on the erasable pages within the book. Made out of specially coated paper, erasable pages and tablets were very common at the time this British Merlin was bound.
The page on the right is an erasable one and you can still see some traces of notes even though they have been erased. There are only 4 erasable pages in this volume, but you can see from traces like those above that they were used quite heavily.
All of the above features are interesting and notable, but one of the most interesting things about this item is the manuscript account book written on the book’s blank pages. Kept by what appears to be a young (or young-ish) man living somewhere outside of London, the account book often records destinations visited and the costs of renting horses or coaches to get there – you can see a number of place names on the page above. This page also records 2 shillings and sixpence “for chocolate,” 17 shillings “for a sword” and 5 shillings “lost at cards.” Unfortunately enough for the book’s owner, “lost at cards” or “lost at tables” are recorded many times and “won at cards” isn’t recorded anywhere that I could find.
The Clark owns many hybrid volumes like this one (like the winegrower’s journal/bookseller’s catalogs featured last week) and our current practice is to catalog both the printed Rider’s British Merlin and the account book separately, so researchers looking for either one will be sure to find this item.
Cardanus Rider, Riders (1701) British Merlin, London: Edw. Jones for the Company of Stationers, 1701 and [Account and memoranda book], 1700-1707, Call no. AY751 .R52 1701, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA.
From Rebecca Fenning Marschall, Manuscript & Archives Librarian