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February 8, 2024

Rare book restoration

The Kayton Library has planned the repair and conservation of one of our very special early books: Purchas, his Pilgrimes by Samuel Purchas, Volume IV, published 1626. This restoration has been made possible thanks to the generosity of the Old Pauline Club’s traditional Feast Service donation.

Samuel Purchas was a compiler of travel writings, a Church of England clergyman, a member of the Virginia Company and a fellow of King James’s College at Chelsea. As Vicar of a church near Leigh-on-Sea he met many sailors and collected their stories of travel in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Purchas gathered anecdotes and travel writing for over twenty years before publishing them in the first edition of Pilgrimes in 1613. At the time it was the largest book ever seen through the English press.

Volume IV deals with Asia and is notable for the passage which inspired Coleridge to write Kubla Khan. A note to Coleridge’s poem explains, “In the summer of the year 1797, the Author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farm-house between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas’s Pilgrimage: “Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall.””

St Paul’s copy is a fourth edition, published in the year Purchas died. Sadly, over the years it has lost its frontispiece, and the covers have fallen off. The text however is in surprisingly good condition, and it still has its lovely map of China. We love to show the book but its current condition makes this very difficult.

We are very grateful to the OPC for funding the restoration of this lovely book, and allowing it to be used in the future.

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