Introduction: Select dedications and epistles

A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603. Originally published by Clarendon, Oxford, 1908.

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John Stow, 'Introduction: Select dedications and epistles', A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908), pp. lxxiv-lxxxi. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

John Stow. "Introduction: Select dedications and epistles", in A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908) lxxiv-lxxxi. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

Stow, John. "Introduction: Select dedications and epistles", A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908). lxxiv-lxxxi. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,

In this section


[The Dedications and Epistles prefixed by Stow to his books have a double interest both as giving in their simple way his Canon of historical writing and for their incidental allusions to events in his own life. Much of the matter in them was used again and again. Thus the Dedication of the Summary Abridged for 1573 appeared with slight modifications not only in later editions of that work but as an address 'To the Reader' in the Summary for 1575, in the Chronicles, and in both editions of the Annales; its final appearance in the Summary Abridged for 1604 was Stow's last word, and as such it is printed here. Of the others now given the Dedication and Epistle from the Summary for 1565 have a special interest as the first of Stow's writings (the edition of Chaucer had no preface of his). The Dedication of 1567, and Epistle of 1573, deal with the quarrel with Grafton; they illustrate, and are illustrated by, the document on pp. xlviii to liii above. The dedication of the Annales for 1592 (repeated with little change in 1601 and 1605) practically completes the series; it explains how Stow's hopes for his larger volume were frustrated.]

Dedication and Epistle prefixed to the Summary for 1565.

To the Right Honourable and my very good Lord, the Lorde Robert Dudley Earle of Leicester, Baron of Dynghly, knyght of the honourable order of the Garter, one of the Queenes most honourable priuie counsell and Maister of hir maiesties horse.

Because bothe by the vniuersall reporte of all men, I heare and allso by myne owne experience I perfectly know (right honourable and my very goode lorde) how honorably and cherefully diuers workes presented to your lordship haue ben accepted: I (though of al others most simple) was thereby encouraged, to offer to your honour this my simple worke, in token of my bounden duty. The exaumple also of that famous monarche Artaxerxes, who so wel accepted the simple handfull of water, that the poore Persian Sinetas brought him from the riuer Cyrus, putteth me in good hope, that youre honour, who geue place to no man in humanitie and curtesie, wil not mislike this simple signifieng of my good wylle. For, like as the mite of that poore widowe that is mencioned in the Gospell, whiche she gaue in all her penurie, is accompted a greater gifte then those huge sommes that great men layde out of their greate stoare: so ought this my simple pamphlet be adiudged to procede, though not from greater, yet from as great good will as the best and learnedst writers beare to your honour. For, they of their abundant stoare, haue laied oute somewhat: But I of my meane knowledge, haue presented these few first frutes to your honor: knowing that your wisedome can in this small present right well see my good wyll. My gift is a short briefe or summarie of the chiefest chances and accidentes, that haue happened in this Realme, frome the tyme of Brutus to this our age. Whiche I haue done by the conference of many avthors, both old and new, those I meanes, that commonly are called Chroniclers, ovt of whom I haue gathered many notable thinges, moste worthy of remembrance, whiche no man heretofore hath noted, whiche worke also I was the bolder to dedicate to yovr honour, because I know your lordships good inclination to al sortes of good knowledges: and especially the great loue that you beare to the olde Recordes of dedes doone by famous and noble worthies: whiche my boldnes, like as I truste, your honor will not only pardon, but also accept in good part: so I besech all the readers hereof that folowyng your honourable example, they will iudge the best of this my trauaile, whiche I toke in hand, onely for the respecte that I had to their profite. Whereby they shall both shew the goodnes of theer owne natures, and also encourage me willingly to go forwarde in this my enterprise. Which doubting not, but that I shall the rather obtaine of them, because of your lordeships fauourable acceptance hereof, I wil now cesse any longer to trouble your honor, beseching almightie god long to preserue you to the commoditie of this our natiue countrie.
Your L. most humble
Iohn Stowe.

To the Reader.

Diuers wryters of Hystories write dyuersly. Some penne their hystories plentifully at large. Some contrary wyse, briefly and shortly doo but (as it were) touche by the way, the remembraunce and accidents of those tymes, of which they write. Some do with a large compasse discouer as wel the affaires done in foreyn partes, as those that hapned in that countrey, of whiche especially they write. And some content to let alone other matters, pvt in memory only such thyngs, as they them selues haue had experience of, in their own countreis. Amongs whom, good Reader, I craue to haue place, and desyre roome in the lower part of this table. For I vse thee in this my booke as some symple feaster, that beynge not able of his owne coste to feast his guestes sufficientely, is fayne to bee frended of his neyghboures, and to sette before them suche dishes as he hath gotten of others. For I acknowledge, that many of the hystories, that thou shalte reade here abridged, are taken, partely out of Robert Fabian, sometyme Alderman of London, Edwarde Halle gentylman of Greyes Inne, John Hardynge, a great trauailer bothe in foreyne countreis, and also in all writynges of antiquitie: and other, who reaped great abundance of knowledge and filled their bookes full therwith, to the great profite and pleasure of all posteritie, and to their own great fame and glory. So that of their great plenty I might wel take somewhat to hyde my pouertie. Howbe it, I haue not so doone it, as if they should clayme theyr own, I should forthwith be left naked. For somwhat I haue noted, which I my selfe, partly by paynfull searche, and partly by diligent experience, haue found out. Wherefore, both the smalnesse of the volume whiche comprehendeth gret matters in effect, also the noueltie of som matters vttred therin, ought to cause yt it should not be altogeither vnwelcome to thee. For though it be written homely, yet it is not (as I trust) writen vntruly. And in hystories the chiefe thyng that is to be desyred is truthe. Wherfore, if thou fynde that in it, I beseche thee, wynke at small faultes, or at the least, let the consyderacion of my well meanynge, drowne them. So shalt thou both encourage me to farther diligence, and also vlter thyne owne frendlynesse, in that thou doest rather further, then condemne a weak wryter.

Of smoothe and flatterynge speache remember to take hede:
For Trouthe in playn wordes may be tolde, of craft a lye hath nede.

Epistle Dedicatory (to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen) prefixed to the Summary abridged, for 1567.

In the second edition of the abridgement.; In the Epistle Dedicatory.

Although, ryght honorable and worshipful, I was my selfe verye redy to dedicate this my small trauayle of Englysh Chronicles vnto you to thentent that throught your protection it might passe the snarlynges of the malicyous, which are alwayes redy to hinder the good meanyngs of laborious men and studious: yet consyderynge the occasyons necessaryly vnto me offered, and dutyfully to be considered, I thought good to begyn with the ryghte honorable Therle of Leicester. For speakyng nothyng of my own duetie, the commoditie of my owne countreyemen moued mee hereunto, seynge they were deceyued through hys authorytye by the furnyshyng of a friuolous abridgement in the fronture with his noble name, I thought good, and that after amendement promised and not performed, at vacante times, to take to my olde delectable studies, and after a defence of that wherin another had both abused hys Lordshype, and deceaued the expectacion of the common people. But nowe at the requeste of the Printer and other of my louing frends, hauyng brought the same into a newe forme, such as may both ease the purse and the caryage, and yet nothing omitted conuenyent to be knowne; and besydes all thys hauyng example before my face to chaunge my Patron (reseruynge styll my Printer, as carefull of his aduantage rather thenne myne owne) I am bold to submyt it vnto your honoure and worshyppes protectyons together, that thorough the thundryng noyse of empty tonnes and vnfruitful graftes of Momus' offsprynge it be not (as it is pretended) defaced and ouerthrowne. Truthes quarrell it is, I laye before you, the whyche hath bene (of not hitherto wholly pretermitted) truelye myserable handled, mangled I should saye, and such an hotchepotte made of truthe and lyes together, that of thingnorante in hystoryes thone coulde not be discernde from thother. A strange case it is and neglygence shall I call it, or ignorance that hee that was moued to wryte euen for pytyes sake to restore the truthe to her integritye shoulde commytte so great errors, and so many, that he himself had nede of a correcter, and truth of a newe laborer. For me a heape of old monumentes, wytnesses of tymes, and bright beames of the truth can testyfye that I haue not swarued from the truthe: the whyche as I am redy at all tymes to shew for mine owne safe conducte agaynst thaduersaryes, so am I most certaine that he that pretendeth most hath had very smale store of aucthors for hym selfe before tyme, and now hath fraughte hys manerly Manuell wyth such merchandyse (as to you it shall be most manyfest at your conference) that by the byinge of my summarye he scoured newlye, or cleanly altered his old Abridgment. What preoccupation or what insolence is it then to transfer that vnto me that am fartheste from such dealing? And yet hauing muche better precedents before myne eyes (euen that excellent learned Dr. Coeper, that I name no ancyenter, whose order and deuyse priuatly he condemneth, and yet openly transformeth into his own Abridgement) he accuseth of counterfeatyng his volume and order, whereas it might be well sayde vnto hym: What hast thou yt thou hast not receaued of me?

Too many names for a trifle.

But yt I be not agaynst my nature angry wythe my vndeserued aduersary, I wil here surcease to trouble you anye furter at this tyme, most earnestlye requyrynge your honoure and worshyppes all ones againe to take the tuityon of this little booke vppon you. The whych, if I may perceaue to be taken thankfullye and fruitefullye used to the amendment of suche grosse erroures, as hytherto haue bene in The Great Abridgement, and presentely are in the Manuell of the Cronycles of Englande, in Thabridged Abridgemente, in The briefe Collection of Histories commytted, I shall be encouraged to perfecte that labour that I haue begun, and such worthy workes of auncyent Aucthours that I haue wyth greate peynes gathered together, and partly performed in M. Chaucer and other, I shall be much incensed by your gentlenes to publyshe to the commoditie of all the Quenes maiesties louing subiectes.
Your moste humble
Iohn Stowe.

Epistle to the Reader prefixed to the Summary abridged for 1573.

Setting (as it were) his marke on another man's vessell.

Calling to memory (gentle Reader) with what dilligence (to my great cost and charges) I haue trauayled in my late Summary of ye Chronicles: As also ye vnhonest dealings of somebody towards mee (whereof I haue long since sufficientlye written and exhibited to the learned and honourable), I persuaded with my selfe to haue surceased from this kinde of trauell wherin another hath vsed to repe the fruite of my labours. But now for diuers causes thereto mouinge me I haue once again briefely run ouer this smal abridgement, placing the yeares of our Lord, the yeres of ye Kings, wyth ye Shyriffes and Maiors of London, in a farre more perfect and plain order then heretofore hath bene published.

In the first page the 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 lines.; In the seconde page the 1 & 2 lines, 4, 5, 6. &c.; I leaue his simple and plaine dealing to the iudgment of others.; In commending mine authors; I saye not that I haue such a chronicle of I. Harding, &c.

Touching Ri. Grafton his slanderous Epistle, though the same wyth other his abusing of me was aunsweared by the learned & honourable, & by theym forbidden to be reprinted, he hath since yt time in his second empresion placed his former lying Preface, wherin he hath these woords: 'Gentle Reader, this one thinge offendeth me so much, that I am inforced to purge my selfe thereof, and showe my simple and plaine dealing therein. One Iohn Stow of whom I wil say none euil &c., hath published a Booke, and therin hath charged mee bittarlye, but chiefelye with two thinges. The one, that I haue made E. Halle's Chronicle my Chronicle, but not withoute mangelinge, and (as hee saith) withoute any ingenious, and plaine declaration thereof. The other thinge that he chargeth me withall, is that a Chronicle of Hardings which he hath, doth much differ from the Chronicle, which under the sayd Hardinges name was printed by mee, as thoughe I had falcifyed Hardings Chronicle &c.' For answeare I say the offence by mee committed, requireth no such forced purgation. I haue not so bitterlye charged him, as he hath plainly accused himselfe. My words be these. Some bodye (without any ingenious and plaine declaration therof) hath published, but not without mangling, Master Halles boke for his owne. I name not Grafton. This is the firste. The second is this:—Iohn Hardinge &c. exhibited a Chronicle of England, with a Mappe or description of Scotland, to King Henry the sixt, which Chronicle doth almost altogether differ from that which under his name was imprinted by Ri. Grafton.

Ri. Grafton neuer saw Robert de Auesberye, Tho. Walsingham, H. of Leicester, Register of Berye, and many other which he alledgeth for that he findeth them alledged in my Summarye.

After this in ye same preface he braggeth to haue a Chronicle of Iohn Hardings written in the latine tongue, which he assureth himself I neuer sawe, and doubteth whether I vnderstand. If he haue any such booke, it is like that he would allege it, as he hath done manye other Authors, whereof I am better assured he hath neuer seene so muche as the outsyde of their books. If ther be no such Chronicle of Iohn Hardings, as he braggeth on, it is like I haue not seene it, & must needs be hard to vnderstande it.

Then he saith my latter Summary differeth cleane from my first. To this I aunswere, I haue not chaunged eyther woork, or title, but haue corrected my first booke as I haue founde better Auctours. But hee himselfe hath made his last abridgemente not onelye cleane contrary to his first, but the two impressions contrarye the one to the other, and euery one contrary to his mere History. For his true alledging of Aucthors let men iudge by those which are common in our vulger tongue, as Policronicon, Ro. Fabian, Ed. Hall, Doctour Cooper. Look those Authors in those yeres and peraduenture ye shal finde no such matter. Try, and then trust.

Dedication of Annales in 1592.

To the Right Reuerend Father in God my Lord Archbishop of Canterburie, Primate and Metropolitane of England, and one of hir Maiesties most honorable priuie Councill, Iohn Stowe wisheth increase as well of all heauenly graces as worldly blessings.

It is now more than thirtie yeeres (Right reuerende father) since I first addressed all my cares and cogitations to the studie of Histories and search of Antiquities: the greatest part of which time I haue diligently imploied in collecting such matters of this kingdome, as I thought most worthie to be recommended both to the present and succeeding age. These laborious collections in so long a time haue now at length grown into a large volume, which I was willing to haue committed to the presse had not the Printer, for some priuate respects, been more desirous to publish Annales at this present. Wherein I haue condescended to him to publish these, which I submit to your gratious and graue consideration, and to the censure of the courteous reader, & learned Antiquaries: relying wholy vpon this comfort, that the truth & credit of my Authors is in no point iniuried, how simple and naked soeuer the stile may be iudged. Neither do I doubt but they may haue free passage in the world, if they be countenanced vnder your honorable name & protection. Vnto whom I offer & with al dutiful affection I dedicate both my selfe and them: being heerunto induced, both for that your worthy predecessor, and my especiall benefactor Archbishop PARKER, animated me in the course of these studies, which otherwise I had long since discontinued; and also that your great loue and entire affection to all good letters in generall and to the Antiquities in particular hath beene so singular, that all which like and loue good studies, do iustly esteeme you their principall and gratious patrone. Thus hoping of your fauorable acceptance of this, as but part of that which I intended in a more large volume, I humbly take my leaue.
London this 26 of May 1592.

Epistle Dedicatorie (to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen) prefixed to the Summary Abridged for 1604.

Note that the vngratfull backebiter slaieth Three at once, himselfe by his owne malice, him that crediteth his false tales & him that he backbiteth..

Amongst other bookes, (Honourable & worshipfull) which are in this our learned age published in great numbers, there are fewe either for the honestie of the matters, or commoditie which they bring to the common welth, or for the plesantness of the studie & reading, to be preferred before the Chronicles and histories. What examples of men deseruing immortalitie, of exploites worthy great renoune, of vertuous liuing of the posteritie to be imbraced, of wise handling of weightie affaires, diligently to be marked, and aptly to bee applied: what incouragement of Nobilitie to noble feates, what discouragement of vnnaturall subiects from wicked treasons, pernicious rebellions, & subjects from wicked treasons, pernicious rebellions, & damnable doctrines, To conclude, what perswasion to honestie, godlinesse' & vertue of all sorts; what diswasion from the contrarie is not plentifully in them to bee found? So that it is as harde a matter for the readers of Chronicles, in my fancie, to passe without some colour of wisdome, inuitements to vertue, and loathing of naughtie factes, as it is for a well fauored man to walke vp and down in the hot parching, Sun, and not to bee therewith Sunburned. They therefore which with long studie, earnest good will, & to their great cost & charges haue brought hidden Histories from dustie darkenes to the sight of the world, and haue beene diligent obseruers of common wealths, and noted for posteritie the fleeting maners of the people, and accidents of the times, deserue (at the least) thankes for their paines, and to be misreported of none, seeing they haue labored for all. I write not this to complaine of some mens ingratitude towards mee (although iustly I might) but to shew the commodities which ensue of the reading of histories, that seeing they are so great and many, all men would as they ought, imploy their diligence in the honest, fruitfull, and delectable perusing of the same, and so to account of the Authors, as of men carefull for their countrie, and so to confesse, if neede require, by whom they haue taken profite. It is now nigh 45. yeares since I seeing the confused order of our late English Chronicles, and the ignorant handling of auncient affaires, as also (by occasion) being perswaded by the Earle of Leicester (fn. 1), (leauing mine owne peculiar gaines) consecrated my selfe to the search of our famous Antiquities. What I haue done in them, the former editions of my Summaries, Chronicles, and Annales, with my suruay of the Cities of London, Westminster, & Borough of Southwarke, may well testifie: but how far (be it spoken without arrogance) I haue labored for the truth more then some other, the last editions will euidently declare. Where in that I differ from the inordinate & vnskilfull collections of other men, it is no maruaile, seeing that I doe not fully agree with my selfe, as some obscure persons haue fondly charged me, but let it be considered that there is nothing perfect at the first, & that it is incident to mankind to erre & slip sometime, take he neuar so great heede; but only the point of fantasticall fooles to perseuer & continue in their errors perceiuing them. Wherfore seeing that the perusing of auncient records & best approued histories of all times (not without great difficultie obtained) do not only moue me, but for their authoritie driue me to acknowledge both mine & other mens errors, & in acknowledging, to correct them, I trust to obtaine thus much at your Honor & Worships hands: that at the least you will call to remembrance a most gentle and wise law of the politike Persians, where in it was enacted that a man accused to be in their lawes a trespasser, and found guiltie of the crime, should not straightway be condemned, but a diligent inquirie & search of his whole life and conuersation (no slander imputed vnto him as of importance) if the number of his laudable facts did counteruaile the contrarie, he was full quit of trespas. The same lawe doe I wish the readers of this my abridged Summary and other my larger Chronicles, to put in vse, that if the errours be not so plentifull, as Histories truely alledged, they will beare with them, for (as I haue promised and many wayes performed) I meane (God willing) so to trie all matters worthy of immortalitie by the certaine touchstone of the best allowed Historiographers and sound recordes, that neither any body by me shalbe deceiued nor I forced to craue pardon if I do offend.


  • 1. I gaue him a booke compiled by his Grandfather Edmond Dudley.