In four years of burrowing through the Thomason Tracts I thought I’d got used to George Thomason’s handwriting. This particular annotation, however, has stumped me slightly: both in terms of what it says and how to decipher it. It’s from the newsbook Perfect Occurrences of Parliament, for 15-22 November 1644.

This is what I think it says:

The author of this is Walker the Ironmonger

Who hath Wm Laud’s license to preach. Witness

John Partridge & others this 22 June.

I think this is the right transcription. The William Laud part certainly makes sense: in 1640 Walker was ordained a deacon by Laud, or at least by one of Laud’s chaplains. But why has Thomason got John Partridge – a fellow bookseller (not the astrologer of the same name, who was only born in 1644) – and others to witness it? He had scrawled much the same on a publication of Walker’s in early 1641 without feeling the need to get another person to verify it. And why the reference to 22 June given the pamphlet was published on 22 November – or could it actually say 22 Nov?

Another marginalia mystery related to Perfect Occurrences that I am trying to solve is related to its author(s). The Edwardian historian J. G. Muddiman attributed it to the antinomian preacher John Saltmarsh, citing a marginal note by Thomason. He argued that Walker only took over in 1647, when his pseudonym Luke Harruney appeared on the colophon. But as with most of Muddiman’s assertions, he doesn’t provide a citation for this. As a result, I can’t find the marginal note.

Much more recently, Carolyn Nelson and Matthew Seccombe – seemingly drawing on Muddiman – attributed the title to Saltmarsh and Walker in their short-title catalogue of newsbooks. Joad Raymond has subsequently mentioned that Saltmarsh might have had a hand in the publication – although implying heavily that Walker was the lead – and referenced Thomason’s copy of a very early edition of Occurrences from 5 April 1644. Is this the marginalia Muddiman mentions? But having looked at this on EEBO there are no annotations on it (at least none that I can make out). And the text itself doesn’t mention anything about the author. I am not sure whether it is the quality of the scan making Thomason’s scrawls illegible, an incorrect footnote, or something else.

Given Thomason’s marginalia above, and other self-aggrandising references to Walker in the paper from 1644, it seems pretty clear to me that Walker was involved with it from early on in its life, not just from 1647. And Saltmarsh seems a strange candidate for editor. In 1644 he was preaching in Northampton then became vicar of Cranbook in Kent. Quite how this gave him time or the capacity to edit a London newsbook is unclear to me. There is also the fact that in 1644 and 1645, Saltmarsh’s occasional religious pamphlets were published by Giles Calvert, not by Andrew and Jane Coe, the early publishers of Occurrences.