Roger Ascham


Ryan, Roger Ascham

Lawrence V. Ryan, Roger Ascham (Stanford & London, 1963).


Only two autograph manuscripts of literary works by Roger Ascham are known to survive — both Latin translations of Greek commentaries on St Paul (AsR 1-2) — though there is also an early scribal copy of part of his most famous work, The Schoolmaster (AsR 3). In addition, one printed book is known to bear his autograph annotations (*AsR 4).

Various other volumes contain his autograph presentation epistles or inscriptions (AsR 3.3-5). The majority of these are presentation exempla of the first edition of his treatise on archery, Toxophilus (London, 1545) (see Ryan, Roger Ascham, p. 49).

Ascham's generally beautiful calligraphic hand is otherwise to be found in his numerous personal letters and in the state letters and documents which he copied out as a professional scribe. Examples include those in the British Library (Additional, Cotton, Lansdowne, and Royal MSS, and Loan MS 29/240, ff. 22r-31r); National Archives, Kew; Cambridge University Library (MS Add. 40); Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (MS 106, pp. 477-8); St John's College, Cambridge (MSS L3 and W. 1); Folger (MS X. d. 138); and University of Texas, (Pforzheimer MS 1c), Ascham's letterbook as Latin secretary to Queen Mary in 1554-8 is British Library, Add. MS 35840. Its continuation until 1568, chiefly in the hands of other scribes, is Royal MS 13 B. I. A facsimile of Add. MS 35840, f. 22r, appears in Shakespeare's England (Oxford, 1917), I, facing p. 288. Facsimile examples of three letters in Lansdowne MS 2, f. 44, National Archives, Kew, SP.1/214, f. 54, and St John's College, Cambridge, MS W. 1, appear in Fairbank and Dickins, op. cit., Plates 4 & 5. Two letters to Cecil, 12 July 1552 and 24 March 1553, in Lansdown MS 3, are edited in Original Letters of Eminent Literary Men, ed. Sir Henry Ellis, Camden Society 23 (London, 1843), pp. 11-18, and a facsimile example of the first of these appears in Petti, English Literary Hands (1977), No. 24. A reproduction of Cotton MS Titus B. II, f. 184 (a state letter in Ascham's hand signed by Queen Elizabeth) was published by the British Museum some years ago in postcard form. A letter to Catherine de Medici written by Ascham for Queen Elizabeth and once owned by Alfred Morrison (1821-97) is reproduced in the printed catalogue of the Morrison Collection, II (1885), Plate 70.

Early transcripts of letters of Ascham are found in various sources, including Bradford Archives (2D86/18), British Library (Add. MSS 33271, 35841), Cambridge University Library (MSS Dd. 9. 14, ff. 39-45; Ee. 5. 23, pp. 455-9; Mm. 1. 43 (Baker 32), pp. 495-510, 535-7; Mm. 2. 24 (Baker 100), pp. 60-2), Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (MS 110, pp. 359-419), East Sussex Record Office (RAF/F/13/1, ff. 82-95), and Meisei University (MR 0840, pp. 855-904, 968-74, 1036-9).

A number of Ascham's letters were printed in Familiarium epistolarum libri tres (London, [1576]; enlarged edition, ed. William Elstob, Oxford, 1703). Two letters once in the public archives at Strasbourg (but at present unlocated) are printed in The Zurich Letters (second series), ed. Hastings Robinson, Parker Society 18 (Cambridge, 1845), pp. 64-72, 90-3. Two hundred and ninety-five letters written by or to Ascham are printed in The Whole Works of Roger Ascham, ed. J.A. Giles, 4 vols in 3 (London, 1864-5). A useful supplement to this edition is Maurice A. Hatch, The Ascham Letters: An Annotated Translation of the Latin Correspondence contained in the Giles Edition of Ascham's Works (Cornell University, 1948; published by Kentucky University Press, Microcards, Series A, No. 19). Numerous letters of Ascham and other documents relating to him are cited in Ryan, Roger Ascham. Some letters are discussed in John Hazel Smith, ‘Roger Ascham's Troubled Years’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 65 (1966), 36-46. Three letters written to Ascham by John Hales (d.1571) are printed from transcripts (Cambridge University Library, MS Dd. 9. 14) in Jean Rott and Robert Faerber, ‘Un anglais à Strasbourg au milieu du XVIe siècle: John Hales, Roger Ascham et Jean Sturm’, Études Anglaises, 21 (1968), 381-94.

Peter Beal