“The Humble Petition of William Andrews,” ca. 1690

***This post was previously posted at the RBML Discoveries from the Vault website***

A handwritten letter from around 1690 that has long been in the uncataloged area of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library has recently been cataloged. Though known to curators in the past, cataloger Brandy Parris came upon it again and brought it to our attention. It gives us a peek at the underbelly of 17th-century life in London. The petition has now been properly cataloged by Cataloging Project Manager Christopher D. Cook, who offers the transcription below. Cook explains that the document was purchased by the University in August 1942, and has been mostly forgotten since it was displayed in DeLloyd J. Guths 1982 exhibition, Law Lives in the Library: Anglo-American Legal Books and Manuscripts.

N.B.: Abbreviations have been expanded and spellings have been modernized:

To the honorable the Bench of Justices
sitting at Hicks Hall

The humble petition of William Andrews––

That the petitioner stands convicted by this honorable Court to now prison being sentenced to stand in the pillory and fined 40 marks upon pleading guilty to 2 indictments for keeping a disorderly house;
That the petitioner is maliciously prosecuted by the Constables, some of whom keep victualling houses and might be as well indicted as himself, he never lodging any women or idle persons in his house;
That there are several that live in the parish known harborers of women and idle persons (of whom the Constables cannot be presumed to be ignorant) who pass unprosecuted or presented;
That the petitioner questions not but he shall discover to this honorable Court several indirect practices used by the said Constables as also the houses where such idle persons haunt;
That the petitioner has a sick wife who has lain sick on his hands above 2 months.

The petitioner therefore humbly prays this honorable Court to order that he may be brought before the honors to make a discovery of the matters aforesaid, and that this honorable Court will be pleased to remit his fine and sentence, otherwise the petitioner’s wife must inevitably (sick as she is) come to the parish and himself be utterly ruined.

And the petitioner shall ever pray, etc.
The following remark on the reverse of the document tells us that the petition was a success:

“Fine reduced to 4 marks and corporal punishment remitted.”

You can find the item in the online catalog under Post-1650 MS 0010. CDC