Category Archives: Curiosities

Curiosities Handwriting Household


Over the past few years I’ve been slowly training myself to read 17th Century handwriting. The task is frustrated by a lack of regulated spelling and a tendency towards punctuation and abbreviation. Some hands are very easy to read, while others prove more challenging. I’ve been working today with the above – it’s a note written by a woman to her parents regarding a hat. Below is my attempt at deciphering it – some of it proved easy, but as you will see, some words still remain illegible to me. Anyone with a far better trained eye than my own is welcome to leave suggestions in the comments. Click on the image to open a larger version.

Loving Father and mother with my hartie commendations unto you. Remembered this is to desire you to send me word what fashion my mother will have her hat and whether she will have a double ? Band or a double? or single? with roose(?). I pray send me word unto which(?) order she will have it. And in haste I commit you to the protection of the almighty God whom I beseech to bless you both in body and spirit from London the eighth of May 1603.

Your loving daughter

Francis Woodall.

Update: Suggestion from Stanley Wells that ‘bless you both’ is in fact ‘bless us both’ – thanks Stanley!
And a comment from Sharky deciphers a double ‘tassle’ – ‘whether she will have a double tassle’.
I think ‘frypan’ might be ‘ribbon’…

New suggestion – from Sarah at The Folger – it’s not tassle but ‘Rowle’ band. Thanks Sarah!
The scypere/scyperd has everyone, well, baffled. A trawl through the OED has proved fruitless. Closest I found was ‘scye’ – the opening of a coat for a sleeve to be inserted, which dates from 1830.

Thanks to Simon Leake for pointing out Cypress was used on hats. OED: ‘1612.W. Fennor Cornu-copiæ 55   His hat‥With treble Sypers, and with veluet lin’d.’ ‘Sypers’ refers to Cypress, used on hats during mourning.

So, thanks to all the kind suggestions, the deciphered version now reads:

Loving father and mother with my hartie commendations unto you. Remembered this is to desire you to send me word what fashion my mother will have her hatt and whether she will have a dowble Rowle Band or a dowble syper or single syper with a Roose. I praye send me word in what order she will have it and in hast I committ you to the protection of the almightie god whom I beseech to bless us both in boddy and spiritt from London the eighth of may 1603.

Your Loving Dawyter
Franncis Wooddall

Thanks to on Twitter who helped me decipher it @Wynkenhimself, @Stanley_Wells, @SimonLeake, @rediculusT, @AdeTinniswood, @prattrarebooks, @pbabnet and @light_n_shade

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

Crime Curiosities Death Murder Vice Witchcraft

In his Wolvish shape he would run among them

This curious account of a Werewolf comes from Germany in the 1590s. With a ravenous appetite for lust and murder, Stubbe Peeter eventually meets his own rather gory end.

In the townes of Cperadt and Bedbur neer unto Collin in high Germany, there was continually brought up and nourished one Stubbe Peeter, who from his youth was greatly inclined to evill, and the practising of wicked Artes even from twelve years of age till twentye, and so forwardes till his dying daye, insomuch that surfeiting in the Damnable desire of magick, necromancye, and sorcery, acquainting him selfe with many infernall spirites and fiends. The Devill who saw him a fit instrument to perform mischeefe as a wicked fiend pleased with the desire of wrong and destruction, gave unto him a girdle, which being put about him, he was straight transformed into the likeness of a greedy devouring Wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like unto brandes of fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharpe and cruell teeth, A huge body, and mightye pawes: And no sooner should he put off the same girdle, but presently he should appeare in his former shape, according to the proportion of a man, as if he had never beene changed.

Stubbe Peeter hearwith was exceedingly well pleased, and the shape fitted his fancye and agreed best with his nature. If any person displeased him, he would incontinent thirst for revenge, and no sooner should they or any of theirs walke abroad in the fields or about the Cittie, but in the shape of a Woolfe he would presentlye encounter them, and never rest till he had pluckt out their throates and teare their joyntes a sunder: And after he had gotten a taste hereof, he tooke such pleasure and delight in shedding of blood, that he would night and day walke the Fields, and work extreme cruelties. And sundry times he would go through the Streetes of Collin, Bedbur, and Cperadt, in comely habit, and very civilly as one well knowen to all the inhabitants therabout, & oftentimes was he saluted of those whose friendes and children he had buchered, though nothing suspected for the same.

It came to passe that as he walked abroad in the fieldes, if he chanced to spye a companye of maydens playing together, or else a milking of their Kine, in his Woolvishe shape he would incontinent runne among them, and while the rest escaped by flight, he would be sure to laye holde of one, and after his filthy lust fulfilled, he would murder her presentlye, beside, if he had liked or knowne any of them, her he would pursue, whether she were before or behinde, and take her from the rest, for such was his swiftnes of foot while he continued a woolf: that he would outrunne the swiftest greyhound in that Countrye: and so muche he had practised this wickednes, that the whole Province was feared by the cruelty of this bloody and devouring Woolfe. Thus continuing his divelishe and damnable deedes within the compass of fewe yeares, he had murdered thirteene young Children, and two goodly young women bigge with Child, tearing the Children out of their wombes, in most bloody and savage sorte, and after eate their hartes panting hotte and rawe, which he accounted dainty morsells & best agreeing to his Appetite.

He had at that time living a faire young Damsell, his Daughter, after whom he also lusted most unnaturallye, and cruellye committed most wicked inceste with her. This daughter he begot when he was not altogether so wickedlye given, who was called by the name of Stubbe Bell, whose beautye and good grace was such as deserved commendations of all those that knewe her: And such was his inordinate lust and filthye desire toward her, that he begat a Childe by her, dayly using her as his Concubine, but as an insaciate and filthy beast, given over to work evil. With greedines he also lay with his owne Sister, frequenting her company long time even according as the wickednes of his hart lead him. Moreover being on a time sent for to a Gossip of his there to make merry and good cheere, ere he thence departed he so won the woman by his faire and flattering speech, and so much prevailed, yet ere he departed the house: he lay by her, and ever after had her companye at his command. This woman was Katherine Trompin, a woman of tall and comely stature of exceeding good favour and one that was well esteemed among her neighbours. But his lewde and inordinate lust being not satisfied with the company of many Concubines, nor his wicked fancye contented with the beauty of any woman, at length the devill sent unto him a wicked spirit in the similitude and likenes of a woman, so faire of face and comelye of personage, that she resembled rather some heavenly creature, so farre her beauty exceeded the chiefest sorte of women, and with her as with his harts delight, he kept company the space of seven yeeres, though in the end she proved and was found indeed no other then a she Devil

Long time he continued this wilde and villanous life, sometime in the likenes of a Woolfe, sometime in the habit of a man, sometime in the Townes and Citties, and sometimes in the Woods and thickettes to them adjoyning. Thus this damnable Stubbe Peeter lived the tearme of five and twenty yeeres, unsuspected to be Author of so many cruell and unnaturall murders, in which time he destroyed and spoyled an unknowen number of Men, Women, and Children, sheepe, Lambes, and Goates: and other Catttell. The inhabitantes of Collin, Bedbur and Cperadt, seeing themselves so greevously endangered, plagued, and molested by this greedy & cruel Woolfe, none durst travell to or from those places without good provision of defence. Oftentimes the inhabitants found the Armes & legges of dead Men, Women, and Children, scattered up and down the fields to their great greefe and vexation of heart, knowing the same to be done by that strange and cruell Woolfe. They daylye continued and sought to intrap him. In the end it pleased God that they should espye him in his woolvishe likeness, and moste circumspectlye set their Dogges upon him. He, seeing no way to escape the imminent danger, presently slipt his girdle from about him, whereby the shape of a Woolfe cleane avoided, he appeared presently in his true shape & likeness, having in his hand a staffe as one walking toward the Cittie. But the hunters came unto him, and brought him to his owne house, and finding him to be the man indeede, and no delusion or phantasticall motion, they had him before the Magistrates to be examined.

Thus being apprehended, he was shortly after put to the racke in the Towne of Bedbur, but fearing the torture, he volluntarilye confessed his whole life, and made knowen the villanies which he had committed for the space of 25 yeares, also he confessed how by Sorcery he procured of the Devill a Girdle, which beeing put on, he forthwith became a Woolfe. After he had some space beene imprisoned, the majestrates found out through due examination of the matter, that his daughter Stubbe Bell and his Gossip Katherine Trompin, were both accessory to divers murders committed, who for the same were arraigned, and with Stubbe Peeter condemned, and their severall Judgementes pronounced the 28 of October 1589· in this manner, that is to saye: Stubbe Peeter as principall mallefactor, was judged first to have his body laide on a wheele, and with red hotte burning pincers in ten several places to have the flesh pulled off from the bones, after that, his legges and Armes to be broken with a woodden Hatchet, afterward to have his head strook from his body, then to have his carkasse burned to Ashes.

Also his Daughter and his Gossip were judged to be burned quicke to Ashes, the same time and day with the carkasse of the aforesaid Stubbe Peeter, and on the 31 of the same moneth, they suffered death accordingly in the town of Bedbur in the presence of many peeres & princes of Germany.

© 2009-2012 All Rights Reserved

The Dangers of Swearing

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Curiosities Education Entertainment

Fine feats in the water

These fragments come from a lovely 17th century guide to learning to swim. Illustrated throughout, the author provides all the instructions necessary for learning to swim like a fish in an English river.

There are fewe or none which have bestowed any paines in the explayning or publishing this Art of Swimming, it being so profitable a thing as it is, towards the preserving of mans life, when as he is at any time distressed in the greedie jawes of the swelling Sea.

The time which the temperature of this our climate affords as good to swimme in, is comprehended in foure monthes, May, June, July, and August.  In the place is two things especially to be respected, first, that the banks be not overgrowen with rank thicke grasse, where oft-times, do lie and lurke many stinging Serpents, and poisoned Toades: not full of thornes, bryers, stubbes, or thistles, which may offend the bare feete, but that the grasse be short, thinne, and greene, the banke beset with shadie trees, which may be a shelter from the winde, and a shadowe from the parching heate of the Sunne. Next that the water it selfe bee cleare, not troubled with any kinde of slimie filth, which is very infectious to the skinne, that the breadth, depth, and length therof be sufficiently knowne, that it be not muddie at the bottome, least by much treading the filth rising up from the bottome, thicken the water, and so make it unfitte for that purpose. Also that there be not in the bottome of the River any olde stakes or sharpe stones, which may greatly indanger the Swimmer, but that it be a cleare running water, not a standing corrupted poole, the bottome faire sande, where from the banks may easily be perceaved, whatsoever doth lie in the deepest place of the River.

For the manner of his going into the River, it must not be sweating, for that comming into the cold water it maketh a suddaine change in body, which is very dangerous, but rather by walking easily in some coole shade, or some such other moderate meanes, let him before he enter into the water bring his bodie into a reasonable temperature of heate and cold, and then, not as some which are more bold then wise, rudely leape into the water with their feete downwarde; or when he commeth at the side, fall in upon his right or left side. Or else leaping from the bank, and casting forth his leggs (but yet keeping of them close together) he may light upon his hips, and the hinder parts of his leggs, as you see in this picture:

When he hath perfectly learned to swim to and fro on his bellie, let him learne thus to turne upon his backe, by thrusting out his right hand as far as he can before him, and withall, turne over his left side, and still keepe out his right hand, untill he be turned upon his backe, for that it doth in turning so, support him from sinking, as in this example following:

And when he is thus layd upon his back, he must lie very straight, not bending or bowing with his bodie any way, save onely his legs, which he must easily pull out and in, as when he was on his belly, to put him forwards in the water, as thus:

There is an other kinde of turning when a man is swimming upon his belly, with his head one way, suddainly to turne himselfe, still being upon his belly, & bring about his head and all his body the other way: and for that it is to be done quickly (as oft times you may see the fishes within the water, when in the pleasant heate of Sommer they wantonly friske to and fro) it is commonly called the Koach turne, and that is done thus, if he will turne towards the right hand, hee must suddainely put the water from him with his left hand, and pull that water behinde towards him with his right hand, turning backe his head and his bodie as you see in this next figure:

There is also a turning which is called the bell turne, as when one swimming one his bellie shall suddainely pull in his feete, and in stead of striking with them as is afore sayd, he shall heaving backward with his foreparts, strike forward with his feete, which motion will turne him upon his backe: and because he may at his pleasure turne so upon his backe and belly as hee will, it is called the bell turne, resembling also a bell when it is ringing, as for example:

To swimme upon his side. This kinde of swimming, though it be more laborious, yet is it swifter then any of the rest, for that lying upon one side, striking with your feete as when you swimme on your bellie, but that the pulling in and thrusting out of his hand, which then did onely keepe him up, do now helpe to put him forward: for onely the lower hand supporteth his bodie, and the upper hand roweth, as in this example:

Some more illustrations:

To dive beneath the water:

To swim like a dogge:

To tread in the water:

To pare his toe nails in the water:

To carry anything drie over the water in his hands:

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