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Tipped-in Frontispiece Portraits in the Early Modern Sermon

Dr Hannah Yip is a Visiting Early Career Research Fellow for 2020/21. Her project, ‘The Clergy and Artistic Recreation in Early Modern Britain’, investigates, for the first time, the diverse artistic and musical endeavours of Protestant churchmen and their cultural influence upon their respective parishes in the English Reformation, an era of history in which there were complex attitudes towards the visual arts and music in worship.

Many researchers have had to pause their archive visits on multiple occasions in 2020 and 2021, subsequently relying upon digitised sources. Those who specialise in the early modern period have turned principally towards digital platforms such as Early English Books Online (EEBO) and digitised manuscripts. Yet, despite the existence of invaluable digital collections such as ‘Early Modern Annotated Books from UCLA’s Clark Library’, book historians in particular have often found that digital resources do not constitute a fully adequate substitute for the physical text.[1] To provide just one example of the shortcomings of digital resources, it is often difficult to ascertain, from the black-and-white images provided by EEBO, whether a frontispiece emblem or portrait formed part of the original publication or whether it had been pasted onto a blank page. It seems fitting, therefore, to celebrate a return to archives by making some preliminary observations on ‘tipped-in’ pictures in early modern books. This research was made possible by the award of a Visiting Early Career Research Fellowship at the John Rylands Research Institute & Library, which was open for in-person visits from May 2021.

Amongst the rich and varied secondary literature which interrogates the manner in which individuals engaged with the flyleaves, endpapers and margins of their books in the early modern era, little attention has been paid to the practice of tipping in images.[2] A tipped-in page or plate was created separately from the book, and could often be inserted by its owner after the book had been purchased. The variety of visual media which could be tipped in, in addition to the significance of its subject matter, bears further scrutiny. Just as pamphlets bound together thematically could provide evidence of a reader’s religio-political partisanship, so it is the case that the tipped-in image was no mere afterthought, but could betray a reader’s or collector’s personal allegiances.[3] These additions prompt a number of crucial questions. How is the text transformed by the presence of the image, if at all? In what ways does the image give the impression that the book was of personal value to the owner? What kind of books received this treatment? While it would take a longer study to address the latter question, this blogpost will focus on the early modern English sermon. As one of the most prominent genres of literature in this period, the sermon is an appropriate case study for looking at the range of possible motives for tipping in frontispieces. 

Multiple instances have been found in early modern books where readers have corrected the text and supplied missing words on damaged pages. Missing visual materials, including portraits, could also be inserted by diligent readers and collectors. Although the fifth edition of Deaths Advantage Little Regarded, a bestselling work comprising two funeral sermons by William Harrison and William Leigh in addition to a spiritual biography, was not originally issued with the portrait of its godly subject, Mrs Katherine Brettergh, earlier editions of this work had been published with her image. In the John Rylands copy of the fifth edition of this work, a pencil portrait of Brettergh has been pasted onto one of the opening flyleaves of the text (see Figure 1). The nineteenth-century historian George Ormerod has written a note underneath the portrait, stating its origins as a copy of the line engraving from The Second Part of the Marrow of Ecclesiastical History, a Protestant hagiography published by the clergyman Samuel Clarke in the mid-seventeenth century.[4] It is uncertain whether Ormerod inserted the portrait himself or whether it was added at an earlier date. In any case, the addition speaks to the concern towards the historical preservation of this text, and perhaps a wish to replicate an earlier edition of it.

Figure 1. William Harrison and William Leigh, Deaths Advantage Little Regarded, &c., 5th edn (London, 1617). 8o. Portrait: graphite. John Rylands Library, R198829.
Figure 2. Unknown artist, line engraving of Katherine Brettergh, likely taken from Samuel Clarke, The Second Part of the Marrow of Ecclesiastical History, &c. (London, 1650). National Portrait Gallery, D25596

Some contributions could be even more elaborate. An exquisite, unsigned miniature painting of a man in full clerical dress, annotated in a seventeenth-century italic hand with the words ‘Henry Greenwood, Preacher’, has been tipped into one extremely rare copy of a sermon by Henry Greenwood (see Figure 3). No other visual record of this clergyman is extant, meaning that it is unclear whether the anonymous artist based their rendering upon a printed source or another painting or portrait miniature. It is even possible that the artist copied the portrait of another minister altogether. Nevertheless, the attention to detail which the artist has dedicated to the portrait is noteworthy, particularly in relation to the interplay of light and shadow on the cleric’s face. Henry Greenwood himself remains a fairly obscure figure. On the title page of his first published work, he is simply described as ‘Master of Arts, and Preacher of the word of God’, and within the dedicatory epistles of several other works, he indicates that he is based in Hempstead, Essex.[5] Although this modest black-letter sermon celebrating Christmas was one of hundreds to be published in this period, this painted portrait suggests that this particular work was of sufficient value to its owner to be embellished. 

As these two examples from within the collections of the John Rylands Library illustrate, frontispieces could be tipped in to commemorate godly figures. Further research may reveal more politically-orientated motives for tipping in these figures into printed sermons, in a similar manner to the tipped-in portraits within a collection of pro-Leveller tracts discovered by Christopher D’Addario at the Folger Shakespeare Library.[6]

Figure 3. Henry Greenwood, The Blessed’st Birth that euer was, &c. (London, 1628). 8o. Portrait: watercolour and graphite. John Rylands Library, R13230.

Within its introductory chapter which covers the parts of a book, New Hart’s Rules summarises briefly the process of tipping in frontispieces when publishing books. This description is accompanied with the following curt remark: ‘Note that tipping-in is a costly process and is best avoided if possible’.[7] In the early modern world, as today, this was certainly the case within the printing house.[8] But this did not stop readers tipping in their own images after having purchased the books. Later, in the nineteenth century, the term ‘to grangerize’ – meaning to illustrate a book by means of later insertion of printed material – was first coined, named after James Granger, rector of Shiplake, Oxfordshire, owing to his unprecedented enthusiasm for portrait print collecting.[9] My future research will consider Granger’s predecessors; specifically, the Protestant clergy in post-Reformation England who invested their leisure time in collecting and creating art, utilising their artistic skills to enrich the lives of their congregations and patrons. By examining tipped-in portraits in Protestant sermons, this blogpost has begun to explore how these religious texts – one of the primary literary outlets for early modern churchmen – were transformed as keepsakes with the addition of visual material. Simultaneously, this blogpost has thrown light upon one type of book-historical research which necessitates the on-site archival trip missed by so many researchers over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.


I am grateful to Dr Emily Burns (Watts Gallery) for her comments on the portraits.

[1] Early Modern Annotated Books from UCLA’s Clark Library, <> [accessed 6 July 2021].

[2] The most recent edited collection dedicated to the study of early modern marginalia is Katherine Acheson, ed., Early Modern English Marginalia (New York, NY and Abingdon: Routledge, 2019).

[3] Christopher D’Addario, ‘Echo Chambers and Paper Memorials: Mid and Late-Seventeenth-Century Book-bindings and the Practices of Early Modern Reading’, Textual Cultures, 7.2 (2012), 73–97; The Multigraph Collective (i.e. Mark Algee-Hewitt and others), Interacting with Print: Elements of Reading in the Era of Print Saturation (Chicago, IL and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2018), ch. 18.

[4] Samuel Clarke, The Second Part of the Marrow of Ecclesiastical History, &c., Book II (London, 1650), p. 107.

[5] Henry Greenwood, A Treatise of the great and generall daye of Iudgement, &c. (London, 1606).

[6] D’Addario, ‘Echo Chambers and Paper Memorials’, p. 80 n. 17.

[7] Anne Waddingham, ed., New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 4.

[8] Heather Wolfe, ‘Was early modern writing paper expensive?’, The Collation (13 February 2018), <> [accessed 6 July 2021].

[9] Lucy Peltz, Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769–1840 (San Marino, CA: The Huntington Library, 2017). See also the exhibition, ‘Illuminated Palaces: Extra-Illustrated Books from the Huntington Library’ (The Henry E. Huntington Library, 27 July 2013–19 November 2013), <> [accessed 6 July 2021].

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