Richard Knolles’ Generall Historie of the Turkes

Dr. Johnson wrote, in no.122 of The Rambler, “None of our writers can, in my opinion, justly contest the superiority of Knolles, who in his history of the Turks, has displayed all the excellencies that narrative can admit.”

One book – three stories: Richard Knolles’ Generall Historie of the Turkes - Lucy Matheson, Librarian

One book – three stories: Richard Knolles’ Generall Historie of the Turkes

Richard Knolles (died 1610) was a Fellow of Lincoln College 1565-73, after which, he became Headmaster of Sandwich School, where he spent 15 years writing his Generall Historie of the Turkes. Dr. Johnson wrote, in no.122 of The Rambler, “None of our writers can, in my opinion, justly contest the superiority of Knolles, who in his history of the Turks, has displayed all the excellencies that narrative can admit.” Byron credited his interest in the Levant and the oriental colouring of his poetry to reading Knolles. The work went through two editions in Knolles’ lifetime and we have one copy of the first edition and two of the second in the Senior Library collection.

How our copy of the first edition (1603) of this work came to Lincoln College Library is shrouded in mystery. Unusually for our collection, the binding reflects the nature of the contents of the work, with Turkish-style ornaments tooled and gilded on the covers.

One of our copies of the second edition (1610) is closely connected with the production of the work itself. Sandwich School, where Knolles was Headmaster when he was writing this work, was founded by Sir Roger Manwood c.1563. After his death, his son Sir Peter Manwood became Knolles’ patron, not just in relation to his work in the school, but in his literary work too. Manwood was well connected and may have suggested the topic because of the growing commercial and diplomatic interest in the region with the rise of the Turkey (later Levant) Company. He was also able to borrow source material for Knolles from scholars like Robert Cotton. After the author’s death, Sir Peter Manwood donated a copy of the second edition to Knolles’ alma mater.

The second copy of the second edition is a much more recent arrival. It was donated in 1999 by Mrs Edith Montford Allen Thomas of North Carolina, in memory of her relations George Madison Allen, Maud Montfort Burrus and Edith Montfort Ford Allen. Maud Monfort Burrus became the first full-time Library Director of the recently-built library in Decatur City Hall. She began the first bookmobile service in Georgia by taking books in her car to the small villages and farms of DeKalb County. In 1965, the Library was re-named the Maud M. Burrus Library in appreciation of her 32 years of service. It is unclear whether Maud Montford Burrus acquired this copy of Knolles from the Montford side of the family, the Allen side or acquired it herself. Edith Montford Allen Thomas reports that Maud “visited her Aunt Edith in the Allen home in Tennessee and was held in affectionate and respectful regard by the five Allen sons. After Maud’s death in 1972, her estate was divided among these five.” This copy was inherited by George Madison Allen, then inherited by his daughter, Edith Montford Allen Thomas. She wanted to make sure that her bibliophile relative’s book would be safely housed somewhere with more stable temperature and humidity than the Southern States and where it would be useful and appreciated. She was therefore happy for it to come to the author’s alma mater.

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