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A discourse concerning prodigies: wherein the vanity of presages by them is reprehended, and their true and proper ends asserted and vindicated. The second edition corrected and inlarged. To which is added a short treatise concerning vulgar prophecies. By John Spencer, B.D. Fellow of Corpus Christi Colledg in Cambridge.

Spencer, John. London: Printed for J. Field for Will. Graves over against Great S. Maries Church in Cambridge, 1665. Sm. 8vo, (32), 408; (8), 136, (8, contents, errata, and blank) pp. (Collation: A8, a8, B-Cc8, Dd4, A-I8, K4.) Later half calf with marbled paper boards, expertly rebacked with dyed tissue. First three leaves remounted, others with gutter repairs. Ownership inscriptions on title and front pastedown. A good copy of interest for the numerous annotations and other marks of readership in several hands throughout, including two full pages of notes in an early hand on the final blanks. § An interesting copy of the second edition of Spencer's work on monstrous births and other omens with a manuscript list of books on related subjects made by an early reader on an endpaper and other marginal marks and notes throughout.Spencer's book challenged the prevailing belief that medical abnormalities or "prodigies" were divine omens and insisted that most had mundane causes. Although his premise seems science-minded, his chief concern was to insist that only the Church could identify and interpret omens and that ordinary people should not speculate on God's will. The second edition was enlarged and includes A Discourse Concerning Vulgar Prophecies by the same author with a separate title page, imprint (London: J. Field for Timothy Garthwait, 1665), register, and pagination.The marks of former readers are extensive and appear to span at least 150 years. The earliest may be the two full pages of notes on the final blank in a late 17th century hand in which the writer records an omen described by "Mr Danniell in his Antidote Against Popery" and goes on to list the title, author, and imprint of three other contemporary books on the theme of prophecy: The Prophetical Warnings of Elias Marion (1707), William Wooton's Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning (1697), and Francis Castrell's The Certainty of Revelation and the Necessity of Believing It (1699). We have not been able to identify the book by Danniell: the omen described is that in 1619 "when the Protestant name began in Germany" a stone fell on the statue of St Peter in Rome smashing it utterly save for a fragment of the inscription reading "Aedificabo Eclesiam."The most recent mark of provenance is that of "G.B.B." who bought the book at the sale of Captain Richard Barrow's effects 6 December 1845. Captain Barrow's name appears on the title page dated 1788. These two men are presumably responsible for many of the underlinings, marginal marks, Biblical citations and other notes (some legible, some faded) throughout. Wing S4948, ESTC R38268.
  • $475