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Title: "History from Marble": Church Notes and Epigraphy in Early Modern England
Author(s): Vine, Angus
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Editor(s): Johnsen, Emil Nicklas
Stovner, Ina Louise
Citation: Vine A (2024) "History from Marble": Church Notes and Epigraphy in Early Modern England. In: Johnsen EN & Stovner IL (eds.) <i>Early Modern Genres of History</i>. Early Modern Themes. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 54-77.
Issue Date: 2024
Date Deposited: 5-Jun-2024
Series/Report no.: Early Modern Themes
Abstract: This essay examines a new form of historical writing that emerged in seventeenth-century England. Mixing the study of inscriptions with the examination of tombs and other church monuments, this form of history came to be known as “history from marble”. Its practitioners drew upon the methods of epigraphy pioneered by sixteenth-century Italian humanists and the genealogical and heraldic research characteristic of late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century English antiquarianism. What resulted was a distinctive (and distinctly English) early modern historical innovation. This essay traces that development through scrutiny of four landmark works in this tradition by William Camden, Hugh Holland, John Weever and Thomas Dingley. Shaped by both continental classical philology and the specifically English interest in material culture post-Reformation, these works were at once genealogical, heraldic, epigraphic and preservationist. Influenced by memories of the recent past, but also by contemporary methodological innovations, they spearheaded a transformation in English historical and antiquarian culture. In their method of studying and writing about churches and their interest in monuments and inscriptions, they also promoted, perhaps for the first time (in an English context at least), a distinctly visual sense of the past.
Rights: The Open Access version of this book, available at, has been made available under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) 4.0 license.
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