Brand's popular antiquities of Great Britain- PDF book by John Brand

Brand's popular antiquities of Great Britain

Brand's popular antiquities of Great Britain


Faiths and folklore; a dictionary of national beliefs, superstitions and popular customs, past and current, with their classical and foreign analogues, described and illustrated


From Introduction:

It is very rare indeed that a book on Popular Antiquities or any other analogous topic so commends itself to the public, and so maintains its rank and estimation, as to continue to be the recognised source of reference in successive editions during more than a century and a half. 

The present work, from its first appearance under the auspices of the Rev. Henry Bourne in 1725, and under the title of Antiquitates Vulgates, has so largely and essentially partaken of the anecdotal character, and so much depends on detail, not only for the confirmation of statements but for the maintenance of interest, that an Editor, whatever he may do in the withdrawal of positive redundancies, is scarcely able to emulate the judicial conciseness of Buckle in his History of Civilization or the rhetorical and imposing periods of Macaulay. 

A compiler of a picture of Ancient Manners and Opinions on a documentary and lexicographical principle or basis, besides a bare statement of facts, has, as it were, to call witnesses, and record their depositions for the benefit of the reader. His personal views and experience are apt to be of service in the chief measure in the choice of authorities and in the arrangement of evidence. Much of the charm in a book of the present class must necessarily lie in more or less copious and varied illustration, and its value and use would be impaired by lending to it the character of a summary or digest. 

The reader in this case prefers to form his own conclusions and to linger over descriptive passages. John Brand, as Secretary to the London Society of Antiquaries, and as a zealous collector of old and curious books during a long series of years, while such things remained within the reach of persons of moderate resources, enjoyed the opportunity of selecting extracts illustrative of the subject, which he had made his own in the character of the successor to the author of Antiquitates Vulgares; and so far as an amplified republication of Bourne went, he lived to bring out in 1777 a more complete edition, yet on the same narrow and imperfect lines. 

During the latter years of his life, however, he proceeded to accumulate material for an undertaking on a larger and more comprehensive scale, and at the time of his death was in possession of a large body of MSB. collectanea of unequal value, eventually secured by a firm of publishers and placed for editorial purposes in the hands of Sir Henry Ellis, of the British Museum. Ellis found, no doubt, amid the pressure of official work, considerable difficulty in reducing the whole to anything like method and form; but he accomplished what he could, and presented the world with the result in two large quarto volumes in 18 13. 

When I in 1869 entered on an examination of this text, I was disposed to exercise a free hand in every way; but I remember that I was dissuaded from going so far as my own feeling prompted me by the idea on the part of some of my advisers that to interfere with the work of such eminent antiquaries too drastically was little less than sacrilege.

 I have only once regretted the course, which I actually took thirty-five years ago — and that is ever since. As material Brand's extracts had, and have their undoubted worth, nor is the text of Ellis much more than rough copy; but it was found requisite on the former occasion to rearrange and collate the whole, and in once more re-editing the volumes on a new principle certain matter, from the discovery of better information and other causes, proved superfluous or undesirable.

The sectional arrangement, which has hitherto prevailed in regard to the book, unavoidably interfered with its use as a ready means of acquiring the desired particulars about any given subject, more especially as it constituted one of the exigencies of such a method to repeat in substance, even in the laboriously revised text of 1870, certain statements and, which was yet more inconvenient, to make it necessary for the referrer to collect the full detail, of which he might be in search, from two or three divisions of the three-volume work, under which they were perhaps not inappropriately ranged. 

The new plan has been one of Disintegration and Redistribution and will have, it is trusted, the effect of bringing more promptly and handily within reach the details connected with the enormous number of subjects, with which the Dictionary deals. At the same time, an excess in the way of subdivisions of matter or entries has been, so far as possible, avoided, as such a course has a necessary tendency to scatter references up and down the volume and to interfere with the view of a subject in all its bearings. By reason of the new lexicographical form, which the Popular Aniiquitus takes, a very considerable body of additional matter has been introduced from a wide variety of sources, sometimes, injustice to those authorities, in an abbreviated form with a reference. But, as a rule, the accounts of customs and other topics, 

the book details :
  • Author: John Brand
  • Publication date: 1905
  • Editors: Henry Ellis and William Carew Hazlitt/

  • Download 16.3 MB

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