Tuesday, 2 August 2016

For scatological woodcut, apply to Mr. Furnivall

The Fyrst boke of the introduction of knowledge made by Andrew Borde, an anthology about beards edited by F. J. Furnivall, was published by the Early English Text Society in 1870 as Extra Series, volume 10 (i.e., EETS ES10). I first saw this volume in 1987 or 1988, when I was browsing the library shelves at the University of Tasmania. I noticed something about the volume, which amused me greatly, something which I have thought of many times over the nearly 30-years since. Furnivall's volume contains A treatyse answerynge the boke of berdes (i.e., a treatise attacking Andrew Borde's satire on beards) with some lovely woodcuts from the original 1541 publication (STC 1465; ESTC: S109177).

Since one of the illustrations was "a scatological image drawn in a homely style" (Ruth Luborsky and Elizabeth Ingram, A Guide to English Illustrated Books, 1536–1603, Volume 1 (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1998), 55–56 [no. 1465]), Furnivall (or the EETS editors or publishers) omitted the image. But, rather than pretend that the omitted image simply did not exist in the original text, a rectangle was printed with the following caption inside it: "Coarse woodcut of a man stooping down and exposing himself, with the legend Testiculos Habet. Any member wanting the cut must apply to Mr. Furnivall."

I assume that—had any member "applied to Mr. Furnivall" and been supplied with the omitted image—it would have been pasted over the caption, within the rectangular border printed on page 306. (A form of post-press cancellation.) I have never seen a copy of ES10 containing this image. The University of Tasmania copy lacks it, as do the six copies on Google Books and the Internet Archive, and the five copies presently for sale online.** The omited image is below, reproduced from the poor-quality scan (on EBBO) of a poor-quality microfilm, of a poor-quality printing held by the British Library—the only copy known.

** The libraries are: Bavarian State Library, National Library of the Netherlands, Pennsylvania State University Library, Stanford University Library, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Santa Cruz. Thank you to all of the booksellers who replied to my query about this!

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The caption reads from left to bottom "TESTICVLOS HABET" (He has testicles), an allusion to the Latin phrase "Habet duos testiculos et bene pendentes" [He has two testicles, they hang well]. Apparently, from the ninth century until at least the fifteenth—and possibly longer—the "final test" of a prospective Pope was an examination of his testicles: to make sure that he was neither a woman nor a eunuch. (The biblical injunctions against eunuchs are not as well known as those against women, so I reproduce a few below.) The fear of a woman becoming Pope is evident in the popular legend of Pope John VII aka Pope Joan.

The testicular test involved a type of commode (a chair that holds a chamber-pot), which was designed in such a way that when the newly-elected Pope sat on it, his testicles would descend through a specially placed hole, where their existence could be verified by a cardinal specially chosen for the task. (A collegue informs me that "testiculos" also means witness, so the balls in question—and the cardinal holding them—are witnesses to the Pope's manhood.) There are two such chairs extant, it seems, one each in the Vatican and the Louvre, carved from the same block of red marble, with woodwork dating to the ninth century.

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There is no obvious link between the scatological image, which appears on the verso of the title leaf of "A treatyse answerynge the boke of berdes," and the text of the poem. But the folk connection is clearly represented in Chaucer's The Miller's Tale—the story of a carpenter, his lovely wife (Alisoun), and the two university students who are eager to have sex with her. Alisoun and "hende" [handy, noble] Nicholas play a trick on Absolon, who is singing love songs under her window. Absolon begs for a kiss, Alisoun agrees, but sticks her backside out the window:

Derk was the nyght as pich, or as a cole,
And at the wyndow out she putte hir hole,
And Absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
Ful savorly, er he were war of this.
Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys,
For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd.
He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd.

[Dark was the night as pitch, aye dark as coal,
And through the window she put out her hole.
And Absalom no better felt nor worse,
But with his mouth he kissed her naked arse
Right greedily, before he knew of this.
Aback he leapt—it seemed somehow amiss,
For well he knew a woman has no beard;
He'd felt a thing all rough and longish haired.

So, it seems, that the character in this image is showing off his nether-beard ("al rough and long yherd"), proving his manhood and mooning Andrew Borde.

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Deuteronomy 23:1 explains that "He that is wounded in the stones [=testicles], or hath his privy member [=penis] cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord"; Leviticus 21:16–20 has a wider scope: "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying … that [Whosoever] hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken."

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