Frontispiece to Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society, 1667

Frontispiece to Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society, 1667

Frontispiece to The history of the Royal-Society of London, for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, by Thomas Sprat (printed by T.R. for J.Martyn, London, 1667).

Creator: See inscription below: “Evelyn. Inv. DCC. Wencellaus Hollar f.1667”.  Engraved by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677), after a design by John Evelyn (1620-1706). Technique: copperplate engraving. Dimensions (print): height 238mm, width 175mm

Description. At the centre, a bust of Charles II: the plinth supporting it reads ‘CAROLUS II. SOCIETATIS REGALIS AUTHOR & PATRONUS’.  Behind him, an angel is placing on his head a laurel wreath, a symbol sacred to the god Apollo, the personification of harmony, order, and reason, bestowed as an honour on heroes, scholars, and poets.

To the left, inscribed ‘SOCIETATIS PRAESES’, is the first President of the Royal Society, William, 2nd Viscount Brouncker (1620-1684), who points to the inscription on the plinth. To the right, identified as ‘ARTIUM INSTAVRATOR’ (‘restorer of the arts’), is Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (1561-1626). Above them, a coat of arms with the Society’s motto, ‘Nullius in verba’.  To the left, on a ledge in front of the bookcase, is the Society’s charters (anomalously called a ‘DIPLOMA’), with the silver-gilt mace, given to the Society in 1663 by Charles II, which also describes him as  'founder and patron', and a book entitled ‘STAT. REG. SOC.’, evidently the Society’s statutes. Notice the orientation of the books: with titles written on the fore-edges, which remain turned outward, as in the Bodleian Library at the beginning of the century.

Further resources. Page images and a machine-readable text of Spratt's History are available on Early English Books Online.