Daily (Captain) Cox–“Arthur’s Booke”

This is the first in a series of (hopefully) links to online editions of as many works as possible, from a sixteenth-century list.     The book I describe below is a valuable secondary / tertiary source for anyone interested in sixteenth century English books, stories, ballads, or other pre-1600 sources for performance.


In 1576, Queen Elizabeth I visited Kenilworth / Killingworth castle, the seat of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.    Many of the entertainments arranged for the weeks of her visit were set down in a letter by Robert Langham / Laneham.

Among the minstrels and players, Langham particularly mentions one Captain Cox, and singles him out as being familiar with / owning copies of  a long list of tales, jests and collections:

“But aware, keep bak, make room noow, heer they cum.    And fyrst captain Cox, an od man I promiz you: by profession a mason, and that  right skilfull; very cunning in fens, and hardy az Gawyn, for his  tonsword hangs at his tablz eend;  great oversight hath he in matters of story: For az for King Arthurz book,  Huon of Burdeaus,  The foour  suns of Aymon,   Beavys of Hampton,   The squyre of lo degree, the knight  of curteyzy, and the Lady Faguell,  Frederik of Gene,  Syr Eglamoour,  Syr Tryamoour, Syr Lamwell, Syr Isenbras, Syr Gawyn, Olyver of the Castl,  Lucres and Eurialus, Virgyls life, the Castle of Ladyez, The wydo Edith,  the king and the tanner, Fryar Rous, Howleglas, Gargantua,  Robin Hood, Adambel,  Clym of the Clough and Wylliam a cloudsley, the churl and the Burd, The Seaven wyse Masters, The wyfe lapt in a  Morrels skyn, The sak ful of nuez, The sargeaunt that becam a Fryar,  Skogan, Collyn cloout, the Fryar and the boy, Elynor Rumming, and the  Nutbrooun maid, with many mo then I rehearz heer:   I beleeve he have
them all at hiz fingers ends.

“Then, in Philosophy both morall and naturall, I think he be as natrually ouverseen: beside poetrie and Astronomie, and oother hid sciences, as I may guese by the omberty of hiz books:  whear-of part as I remember, The Shepherz kalender, The Ship of Fools, Danielz dreamz, The booke of Fortune, Stane puer ad mensam, The hy way to the Spitl-house, Iulian of Brainfords Testament, The castle of Love, the booget of Demaunds, the hundred Mery tales, the book of Riddels, The Seaven sororz ov wemon, The prooud wiues Pater noster, The Chapman of a peniwoorth of Wit.

“Beside his auncient plays, Yooth & charitee, Hikskorner, Nugize, Impacient pouerty.    And heerwith, Doctor Boords breviary of health.

“What shoold I rehearz heer, what a bunch of ballets & songs, all auncient:  Broom broom on hil, So wo iz me begon, troly lo, Ouer a whinny Meg, Hey ding a ding, Bony lass vpon a green, My bony on gaue me a bek, By a bank as I lay, and a hundred more, he hath, fair wrapt vp in Parchment, and bound with a whipcord.

“And as for allmansks of antiquitee (a point for Ephemerides) I weene hee can sheaw from Iasper Lact of Antwarp vnto, Nostradam of Frauns, and thens vnto oour John Securiz of Salsbury.   To stay ye no longer heerin (Ed.–TOO LATE!), I dare say hee hath as fair a library for theez sciencez, & as many goodly monuments both in proze & poetry, & at afternoonz can talk as much without book, as ony Inholder betwixt Brainford and Bagshot, what degree soeuer he be.”

This library reminds me of many of my bibliophile friends  8)


During a search for an online version of Langham’s “Letter”, I came across a nineteenth-century treatise, “Captain Cox, His Ballads and Books” by Frederick J. Furnivall.   Furnivall was so taken with the breadth of works listed, he tracked down sources for as many works as had known copies, as possible.   His sources range from the late fifteenth century (often printings by William Caxton) to the mid-to-late seventeenth century (where printings known to have been licensed before 1600 have no surviving copies).

Furnivall believed “Arthur’s Booke”, the first item on the list, was Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, first printed by William Caxton in the late fifteenth century.

Although I realize Morte d’Arthur isn’t particularly hard to find,  here are two links to online editions, one by Project Gutenberg, one…not  8)



When a work may not be as well known, I plan to include some of Furnivall’s text,  which is sometimes a summary of his own, sometimes a direct quote from the primary.


One comment

  1. Wow that’s a lot of stuff. Sounds like a guy who you might run into at an SCA feast though. 🙂

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