Richard Rowlands

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Richard Rowlands (circa 1550- 1640), Anglo-Dutch antiquary, whose real name was Verstegen (usually anglicized Verstegan), was the son of a cooper whose father, Theodore Roland Verstegen, a Dutch emigrant, came from Gelderland to the Kingdom of England c. 1500.

Under the name of Rowlands, Richard went to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1564, where he may have studied early English history and the Anglo-Saxon language. Leaving the university without a degree (having become a Catholic), he was indentured to a goldsmith, and became a Freeman of the Company of Goldsmiths in 1574. He published in 1576 a guidebook to Western Europe, translated from the German, entitled The Post of the World. At the end of 1581 he secretly printed an account of the execution of Edmund Campion but was discovered and 'being apprehended, brake out of England'. In exile he resumed the name of Verstegen. In Paris he was briefly imprisoned at the insistence of the English Ambassador; in Rome, he was the recipient of a short-lived pension from the pope. In both of these cities he published accounts of the suffering of priests in England. In 1585 or 1586 he moved to Antwerp, and set up in business as a printer and engraver, an intelligencer, and a smuggler of books and people. He spent the rest of his long life in Antwerp, dying there in 1640.

His original works include Theatrum Crudelitatum haereticorum (=Theatre of Cruelties)(1587); A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities concerning the most noble and renowned English Nation (1605; reprinted 1628, 1634, 1652, 1655, 1673); Neder Dvytsche Epigrammen (1617); Sundry Successive Regal Governments in England (1620); and Spiegel der Nederlandsche Elenden (1621). The verses on the defeat of the Irish rebels under Tyrone, entitled England's Joy, by R. R. (1601), has mistakenly been attributed to him.

The Nederlantsche Antiquiteyten, published from 1613 onwards in a variety of editions (1631, 1646, 1662, 1700, 1701, 1705, 1714, 1725, 1733, 1756, 1809), is an adaptation of his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence. From 1617 to about 1630 Verstegan was a prolific writer in Dutch, producing epigrams, characters, jestbooks, polemics, also penning journalistic commentaries, satires and editorials for the weekly Nieuwe Tijdinghen (1620-1629).

  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

See Also

  • Rolf H. Bremmer Jr, 'The Anglo-Saxon Pantheon According to Richard Verstegen (1605)', in Timothy Graham, ed., The Recovery of Old English. Anglo-Saxon Studies in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Kalamazoo, MI, 2000), 141-172.
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Paul Arblaster, ‘Verstegan [Rowlands], Richard (1548x50–1640)’, , 2004 [1] accessed 5 Nov 2006
  • Arblaster, Paul [2004]. Antwerp and the World. Richard Verstegan and the International Culture of Catholic Reformation. Leuven: Leuven University Press [2].  This is the best modern biography and analysis of Verstegan's life and works - an impressive study.

  • Kendrick, Thomas [1950]. British Antiquity. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd..  pp116 – 120
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