Upon walking into the Special Collections section of the library, I saw a few small, relatively old looking books. I wondered which of these clearly old, but relatively unimpressive books was the one I was looking for. Upon inquiring about The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, I was pleased to see that it was so large and grand looking. I was not sure whether to begin with the first or second volume of the massive book in order to more easily find the passage about King Lear, but I figured the beginning was probably a very good place to start.
Upon opening the book, I was struck by the smell of the 400 year old pages. I was expecting the typical “old book smell,” however the smell I was anticipating usually goes along with books that are a century or less old, rather than four centuries. The smell I encountered was much stronger. Perhaps 300 years ago it smelled as I thought it would and it had simply grown exponentially more pungent. I was most surprised at how sturdy the pages were. They were not only much thicker than I’d anticipated, but they were in extraordinary condition. I’m sure a large, bound book like this would have been a relatively expensive luxury in 1587, despite the printing press’ use. It’s in such good condition that I can imagine it being bought as a status symbol. I can see it being part of one huge library collection, meant to fill shelves and impress rather than be read, which would explain the book’s remarkable condition.
The two large books seemed to be divided into volumes within each physical book. I could not find a table of contents, and each volume began with page one. I spent most of my times perusing through the second volume entitled “History of England” which came after the volume called “Description of England.” The text was very difficult to read, as the letters seemed squished together. It did not help that the font of the text was more similar to calligraphy script than any normal print font of today. I had a difficult time finding a mention of Leir. I first stumbled upon his name in the first volume, which contained a several-paged list of all of the rulers of England. It is on this seventeenth page that I first encountered our “Leir”, followed shortly by “Cordellia”. This extensive list was organized by the group that was ruling at the time. While I could not quite discern what the chart meant, Leir and Cordellia were under the category of “Celtes.” It seemed to imply that this group had overthrown the previous group called the “Samothes.”
The next place that Leir and his kin appear is not until the second “book” within the first volumes. On page 12 of the second volume entitled “History of England”, the story of King Leir is told, with various differences with our...