The Project

This digital census offers a comprehensive listing of all known copies of the two editions of Ralph Brooke’s A catalogue and succession of the kings, princes, dukes, marquesses, earles, and viscounts of this realme of England (London, 1619 and 1622). As with many books from the early modern period, Brooke’s Catalogue is best understood through the material evidence left by its owners and readers; yet, they have rarely been a part of its story. The project’s enumerated lists and detailed cataloguing of more than 160 copies attempts to fill this gap in the historical record.

So why Brooke? Ralph Brooke’s Catalogue first appeared in 1619. Printed in London by William Jaggard, the work was but another contribution to the ever-growing list of books on printed English heraldry. As the title of the work notes, the book catalogues the nobility of England. Tracing its lineage from the Norman conquest to the early 17th century, the book catalogues six centuries of English families. This seems straightforward enough, except that the subject of English heraldry was contentious. Indeed, Brooke, who held the title of York Herald, was famous for his cantankerous debates over genealogies and titles with other English heralds and antiquarians. In the Dedication to King James at the start of the first edition, Brooke made it clear that his work stood as a corrective to the flood of errors introduced by other writers in previous imprints (sig. A3r). In the years to follow, others would take issue with Brooke’s accusations, and when Brooke’s second edition appeared in 1622, he found himself a target.

1619 Title Page

1622 Title Page

Many of the surviving copies of Brooke’s two editions are annotated with handwritten notes, and some annotators explicitly point to errors in Brooke’s publications. By charting the annotations in these copies, we can begin to gauge how others responded to Brooke’s heraldry. Similarly, looking at signs of early and late ownership offer a wide lens on who owned Brooke’s work and how it was used over time.