By Hillary Nunn with Rebecca Laroche
The more Rebecca Laroche and I work with the College of Physicians manuscript, the more enmeshed we become with the religious politics of the mid-seventeenth century. Rebecca’s most recent post, on the transcription of the “Horologe” from Lancelot Andrewes’ Private Devotions, not only provides additional evidence for dating the manuscript in the 1640s, it connects the Layfield hand even more securely to the world of the church.
This new context makes our latest discovery even more exciting: we have a new idea of the person behind Hand 2, thanks to a new writing sample from the archives.
Looking for potential “E. Layfield”s while at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I stumbled across the following image of a signature from the State Papers Online.
The L and y immediately caught my eye: our Layfielde, I thought, had those:
But the match isn’t perfect. For one thing, the f is substantially different in this signature, as is the e. And then, of course, there’s the spelling. As much as we know early modern people often used variant spellings of their own names, the new signature’s ei is repeated in another of Edward Layfield’s signatures of the period:
I immediately knew that I needed an expert opinion. Besides, this new signature belonged to Edward Layfield, Archdeacon of Essex, and Edward Layfield, rector of Wakes Colne from 1640 to 1666, had seemed our most likely candidate. The signatures, moreover, carried the date 1660, and our recipe manuscript’s inscription says the book belonged to a Layfield – Anne – in 1640. But the similarities made it well worth pursuing.
I consulted with Heather Wolfe and Sarah Powell at the Folger, and their verdict was a resounding maybe. The idea that the newly-found signatures belonged to the same person as the CPP manuscript’s Hand 2, they told me, was “plausible, but not provable.” They noted that the distinctive h in the letters’ archdeacon does not commonly appear in the CPP manuscript, but they also pointed out that the two new Edward Layfield signatures were different from one another as well, with substantially difference ds. in Layfield. Could Mr. Layfield’s handwriting be changing in his later years?
While this verdict from the experts surely didn’t give permission for the “eureka!” I’d been stifling, it wasn’t a reason to stop this new line of pursuit, either. So we’ll be taking it further, to see what difference it makes if we consider Edward, not Edmund, as behind the Layfield hand. Church politics will most certainly be involved. More of that to come in the next posting.
 Both the Edward Layfield signatures come from The National Archives of the UK, as reproduced in State Papers Online. This first image is For University Promotions or Degrees: Certificate by Edw. Layfield, Archdeacon of Essex, and three others, in favour of the petitioner’s orthodoxy and loyalty (SP 29/9 f.130), and the second is Certificate of Edw. Layfield, Archdeacon of Essex, and two others, in behalf of Rich. Beresford (SP 29/10 f.86).