'A Miscelany of Meditations, sentences, observations, characters, and Essayes' by Robert Robinson, London, 1659

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Mike Webb

Bought with the help of the Friends of the Bodleian , All Souls College, Oxford, and the Rose Fund.

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Shelfmark(s): MS. Don. e. 252
Title: 'A Miscelany of Meditations, sentences, observations, characters, and Essayes' by Robert Robinson, London, 1659
Dates of Creation: 1659
Extent: 636 leaves
Appearance: Bound in black morocco, with gilt rule border, all edges stained black.
Language(s) of Material: English


Robert Robinson of London (born c. 1590) was aged 69 in 1659. The handwriting of the manuscript identifies him as the compiler of 'Epigrams, Epitaphs, and other observations, divine, morall, charitable, satyricall, by Robert Robinson, London, 1660,' MS. Rawl. poet. 218, acquired with the Rawlinson bequest of 1756. The poems in the Rawlinson manuscript are indexed in Crum First-Line Index of English Poetry 1500-1800 in the Manuscripts of the Bodleian Library. Crum has recorded him also as the author of MS. Ashmole 826, fol. 110, which is 'copied in a secret character' (fol. 113). The handwriting of both these documents is indeed identical with that in the two Robinson compilations, and the 'secret character' is in fact a phonetic alphabet invented by Robinson. It appears in The Art of Pronuntiation by 'Robert Robinson, Londoner' (London, 1617), which identifies Robinson as the phonetician mentioned in Wikipedia. Very little else is known about Robert Robinson, and no literature up until now has connected the author of MS. Rawl. Poet. 218 with the Art of Pronuntiation. The improbable 43-year gap between the works made a link less likely, but Robinson's age being supplied by the present manuscript shows that the Art of Pronuntiation was an early work of the same man.

Scope and Content

On a leaf before the title page is written: ‘Myne owne workes through the grace of God, being an history of my imprisoned soul, sometymes viewing the walls within, sometymes looking forth at the windowe at thinges without, and sometymes musing, by those thinges, which it doeth see, what manner of thinges they are which it doeth not see. Finished Anno Domini 1659 annoque ætatis meæ 69.’

The manuscript contains Robinson's observations, reflections and opinions on political, social, economic and theological matters in the form of brief essays and short sentences and adages, with occasional doggerel verse. Having lived through the entire Civil War and Commonwealth era, Robinson's thoughts are clearly influenced by contemporary events. There is much on the failings of the church, and the disorder and indiscipline of the sects, and he comments that monarchy regulated by law is the best of governments. Other themes include social inequality and the power of money.

Custodial History

Bookplate of William Stirling Maxwell, with his Keir library label at the end.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bought, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, Oct 2016

Preferred Form of Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Library [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Don. e. 252, pp. 1-2].

Access Point(s)

Robinson | Robert | c1590-after 1660 | phonetician

17th century

Church and state -- England -- History -- 17th century

English literature -- 17th century

Great Britain -- History -- Commonwealth and Protectorate, 1649-1660

Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 1603-1714

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04 October 2017