Possibly the first teach yourself book published in england & the printers who reproduced it by keith armstrong
Possibly the first teach-yourself book
published in England & the printers who
Abstract: The story of the first teach-yourself book published in England and the Elizabethan
printers who reproduced it.
Key words: History, Education, Philology, Biography, teach-yourself, Huguenot, Elizabethan
refugees, French, history of printing, social history, Claude de Sainliens, Claudius Hollyband,
Thomas Vautrollier, Richard Field
People have been reading self-help books for a long time. English books of this genre go back to
Shakespearean times when Queen Elizabeth 1 was sitting on the throne (1558–1603). Furthermore
the inventor of the first English self-help book was an asylum seeker who fled to the British Isles
because of religious persecution in France.
Claudius Hollyband was an English pen name for the Huguenot refugee Claude Desainliens or de
Sainliens. Claude de Sainliens also used the alias Claudius a Sancto Vinculo (holy bond) for his
Latin text. Born in France, he was forced to leave along with other Huguenots from Bourbonnais in
about 1562. Sooner or later he came to London as a refugee, by 1565 and according to an inventory
of 'strangers' in May 1571, he is listed in St. Olave's parish in Southwark, South London.
Claude de Sainliens' first teach-yourself book was The French Schoolmaster of 1573 and was
followed in 1576 with The French Littelton. A most easie, perfecte, and absolute way to learne
the French tongue. Set forth by Claudius Holyband, an exquisite pocket French language
instruction manual for English merchants. It is recorded that; Glood Holebrand, Frenchman,
scolemaster, denizen, [...] 1
He taught French from 1566 - 7 near St. Paul's cemetery, which
appears at the time to have been a centre for French culture.
Mark Eccles writing in his paper Claudius Hollyband and the Earliest French-English
Dictionaries published in the journal Studies in Philology of 1986, states that he:
[...] lived in so many London parishes that the collectors of the Queen's subsidy
were unable to keep track of him. Every alien in London was expected to pay a poll
tax of four pence, but although Hollyband became a denizen in 1565/6, in 1593 he
was still on the roll for poll tax both in Westminster and in Aldermanbury. 2
Claude de Sainliens married an English wife, and another after her death. "Clawdius Holyebarne"
and "Elyzabethe Wylliams" a widow of Robert, a yeoman: married at St. Margaret's church in
Westminster, on the 7th of July, 1567.
Claude de Sainliens, an experienced school teacher, mainly used poetry to teach foreign languages
to the English people. With The French Littleton (a genuine pocket book, that feels good to hold in
ones hand) he used a sonnet by George Gascoigne on Holyband - A frendly frenche in deede. His
De Pronuntiatione Linguae Gallicae of 1580, was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603;
reign 1558-1603) the copy with her arms on the binding is now in the library of the Royal College
The French Littleton size
Eccles states that he dedicated his first book in Italian and English, Arnalt and Lucenda of 1575,
to Sir Jerome Bowes, later to be an English ambassador in 1583 to Ivan the Terrible of Russia.
It contained verses by William Elderton as his text for translation.
Sainliens used two significant Elizabethan printers to assist him, the Huguenot and fellow refuge
Thomas Vautrollier  and the Stratford-upon-Avon born Richard Field , who is also
remembered for the printing of William Shakespeare's early poems including Venus & Adonis
in 1593. Eccles writes that;
His books show that he was teaching in 1573, hard by the Church at Lewisham in
Kent, where the Queen spoke with him in French, and from 1575 on in St. Paul's
Churchyard, first near the sign of the Lucrèce, where he taught Latin in the morning
and French in the afternoon till five, and then at the Golden Ball in 1580 and 1581.
In the 1593 edition of The French Littleton he describes himself no longer as
teaching in Paul's Churchyard but as Gentilhomme Bourbonnois. [...]
De Sainliens narrates in The French Schoolmaster of 1573, that he had a son and a daughter. The
1582 edition altered this to a son and two daughters, and in his Campo di Fior of 1583, he mentions
four children. However, Eccles found that in the register for St. Gregory in Paul's Churchyard that
John Sonne of Laues Hollyband was buried on the 17th of June, 1578 and Elizabeth wief of Laues
Hollyband on the 13th of July, 1578. De Sainliens was not long without a wife, for on 13th of
October, 1578 he obtained a license to marry Anne Smithe, a single woman, at St. Benet by Paul's
Wharf.They had several children, including Mary, christened on the 30th of March, 1584 at
St. Dunstan in the West; Edward was christened on 20th of November, 1586 at St. Clement Danes
and Elizabeth was christened on the 15th of September, 1594 also at St. Dunstan.
De Sainlienswrote in The French Littleton, "I should not be a French man, if I should not love
wine", and in the 1581 edition he named thirteen different kinds of wine and noted that the best
wine in London was "....at Maister Rodehous, at the kings head, at temple barre". He removed this
recommendation in later editions Eccles found in the register of St. Dunstan in the West, an
entry of the 5th of May, 1584, reporting that Henry Rodhouse executed and buried here.
In 1583 he had extended his Italian reader, Arnalt and Lucenda, and called it The Italian
Schoolmaster, dedicating it to his student John Smith, to whom he taught French and Italian. Lord
Zouche took him to Germany for three years and in all likelihood also to Constantinople, Poland
De Sainliens along with his patron Lord Zouche signed the register at Heidelberg University in
1587, the Mecoenas to whom he dedicated his Dictionary on 10 April 1593, when they were both
back in England. He may have been abroad for up to six years, as no trace of him has been found in
England between 1586 and 1593.
Woodcut from the "Elizabethan Home discovered
in 2 dialogues by Claudius Hollyband and Peter Erondell"
Lucy Farrer, in her La Vie et les Oeuvres de Claude de Sainliens Alias Claudius Holyband, notes
that Holyband's main source for his Treasurie of the French tong: teaching the waye to varie all
sortes of verbes; enriched so plentifully with wordes and phrases ... as the like hath not before
bin published. Gathered and set forth by C. Hollyband of 1580 was Jean Nicot's enlarged version
of Thierry's French- Latin Dictionary/Le Grand dictionaire françois-latin, augmenté...) which
was published in 1573.
Farrer observes that;
Hollyband however only quotes succinctly from Nicot's developed definitions.
Although the meanings he gives for the various words are mostly correct, they
are often presented in obscure, even clumsy language.
She maintains that De Sainliens has done much to supplement Nicot's work;
[...] he adds verbal forms, explanations of words and phrases left unexplained by
Nicot; explanations of various lesser-known customs; occasionally new meanings or
uses for words cited by Nicot; certain French words which Nicot had rejected or
It should be noted that often Holyband's style has a popular, not to say primitive,
flavour. This is to be explained by his being in exile from France during many years,
and thus removed from the literary centre of the French-speaking world. It does
however, give him the advantage of confessing to the "patois" the same status as to
the literary tongue. 3
He married his first wife in 1567 and his second in 1578, and he had at least nine children. After he
published his final edition of the Dictionary of French and English in 1593 he continued to live in
London, and he was buried there on 15 November 1597.
Mark Eccles records that;
[...] the register of St. Bartholomew by the Exchange (Guildhall MS 4374/1) enters
the burial on 15 November 1597 of "Claudius Holliband, frenchman''
The register of St. Giles without Cripplegate (Guildhall MS 6419/1) records the
christening on 16 December 1597 of "Margarett daughter of Cladeus Hollyband,
scholemaster (deceased) from a garden in Moorelane, Mr
Dooe in Hownesditch,
did geve in worde in a note unto Mr
Ally son, to discharge the parishe."
De Sainliens has added a lot to the Elizabethans' understanding of the French language. His work is
also of interest to modern historians and philologists because it increases our knowledge and
understanding of late Tudor English. He was the first educationalist to provide English speakers
with suitable and practical textbooks for the learning of French, and his books were in general use
for nearly a hundred years.
De Sainliens' 'teach-yourself' French and Italian textbooks have added much to popular language
education; today there are so many 'teach-yourself' books available on numerous different subjects.
Go to almost any book shop in the world and you will find a row of self-help books, on the sixth of
August 2013, I found 154,528 separate titles listed on Amazon.
Woodcut from the "Elizabethan Home discovered
in 2 dialogues by Claudius Hollyband and Peter Erondell"
Note 1: From the Old French deinz within (from Latin de ‘from’ + intus ‘within’) + -ein (from
Latin -aneus ‘-aneous’). The change in the form of the word was due to its association with citizen.
Onions, C. T., (Ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966,
According to the British Home Office the procedure of denization can be traced back to the 13th
century. It was the forerunner of naturalisation. The main difference being that letters of denization
were granted by the monarch whereas naturalisation was, and still is, the result of an Act of
Parliament. Persons who were British subjects by denization could not pass on this status to their
heirs. Denization was the first legal means which could enable 'an alien' to acquire British
The last person to acquire British nationality by denization was in 1873, Sir Lawrence Alma
Tadema, a Dutch painter whose work was admired by Queen Victoria. The practice of granting
letters of denization gradually fell into disuse. The procedure was finally abolished by Act of
Parliament only in 1949.
Note 2: Thomas Vautrollier was a printer, bookseller and bookbinder who worked in the area of
Blackfriars in London. In A Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers in England, Scotland and
Ireland, and of foreign printers of English books 1557-1640 it is reported that Thomas Vautrollier
and his wife Jacqueline, or Jaklin, were both French Huguenot refugees, who had been able to settle
in England and became denizens on March 9th, 1562. Vautrollier was recognized as a brother of
the Company of Stationers in 1564.
On June 19th, 1574, letters patent were granted to him to print certain Latin books including the
works of Ovid and Cicero for ten years, and he was also allowed six French or Dutch workmen, for
that period. In 1579, Richard Field of Stratford on Avon was put over to Vautrollier for six years to
learn the art of printing.
As a printer Thomas Vautrollier ranks above most of his contemporaries, both for the
beauty of his types and the excellence of his press work. His device was an anchor
held by a hand issuing from clouds, with two sprigs of laurel and the motto Anchora
Spei, the whole enclosed in an oval frame. It is found in various sizes and was
afterwards used by his successor.
Mackerrow and Plomer
Vautrollier died in 1587. Jaklin or Jacquelin Vautrollier (the widow of Thomas) tried to live as a
printer in 1588. But by an order of the Company of Stationers she was banned from printing any
books whatsoever by the decree of the Star Chamber. However the Company allowed her to finish
a leaf of the Greek Testament and also Luther's Commentary upon Galatians; but not to undertake
anything more until she procured authority to print according to the decree of the Star Chamber
[Records of the Stationers' Company]. Within a year of her first husband's death she married
Richard Field his apprentice. Although at the time the English monarch was female, this certainly
was not a period for the equality of women.
Note 3: Richard Field (1579 - 1624) was the son of Henry Field, a prosperous tanner of Stratford-
upon-Avon, whose goods and chattels John Shakespeare, the father of William, was employed to
value on August 25th, 1592. Mackerrow and Plomer state that in 1579 Richard Field left his home
town and went to London. There he apprenticed himself as a printer to George Bishop for seven
years. He was immediately transferred for the first six years to Thomas Vautrollier, the Huguenot
printer in Blackfriars.
Richard Field who had taken up his freedom on February 6th, married his master's widow within a
year and thus succeeded to one of the best businesses in London.
His first entry is found in the Registers under December 24th, 1588. On April 18th, 1593 Field
entered in the Registers a booke intituled Venus & Adonis, the first of William Shakespeare's books
that passed through the press. On May 1594, Field also printed for John Harrison the elder,
Shakespeare's Lucrece and a second edition of Venus and Adonis. This was followed in 1596 by a
third edition of the same work, in octavo. About 1600 Field moved from Blackfriars to the parish
of St. Michael in Wood Street, at the sign of the Splayed Eagle. In 1615 he was returned as having
two presses. He became a prominent member of the Stationers' Company, of which he was elected
Master in 1619 and 1622. Richard Field died in the autumn of the 1624.
Mackerrow and Plomer sum up Field's contribution to printing and consider that;
Field's principal device was the Anchora Spei that had previously been used by
Thomas Vautrollier. There were several sizes of it. He also used most of the borders
and tail pieces as well as the fonts that had belonged to Vautrollier. On the whole his
work as a printer was creditable, though it did not approach in excellence that of
Vautrollier. It is in his brief connection with Shakespeare that its chief interest lies.
Onions, C. T., (Ed.), (1966: 256), The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, (Oxford:
Eccles, Mark (1986) 'Claudius Holebrand and the Earliest French-English Dictionaries' in 'Studies
in Philology' Issue 83, No. 1, 51-61.
Hollybrand, Claudius and Erondell, Peter, (1925), The Elizabethan Home Discovered in 2
Dialogues, M. St. Clare Byrne (Ed.), The Haslewood Books, London, Frederick Etchells and Hugh
Farrer, Lucy E., (1908), La Vie et les Oeuvres de Claude de Sainliens Alias Claudius Holyband, (H.
Champion) < http://archive.org/details/lavieetlesoeuvr00farrgoog> Retrieved 30/06/2012.
Farrer, Lucy E.,(1908: 10 - 13, 67, 73, 77. ), La Vie et les Oeuvres de Claude de Sainliens Alias
Claudius Holyband, (Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion),
Mackerrow, Ronald Brunlees. and Plomer, Henry Robert, et al, (1910: 102 - 3, 271 - 4) A
Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of foreign printers
of English books 1557-1640., (Corporate: London: Bibliographical Society),