Early Modern Ghosts

Early Modern Ghosts

My dissertation was called “Textual Ghosts,” and the first chapter was about ghost pamphlets. In the post-1641 publication boom, ghost pamphlets started getting woodcuts for their title pages, providing a recognizable iconography of ghostliness that included shrouds and torches. (Today we still use sheets as shrouds if we want to dress up as ghosts, but we’ve apparently decided to abandon torches in favor of not getting burned in horrible torch/shroud accidents.)

In honor of Halloween, have some of my favorite imagesĀ from my searches into early modern ghosts.

Sir Thomas Gresham His Ghost
Gresham has the best-starched shroud of all the ghost pamphlets. Look at that perfect arc, framing his quaint Elizabethan styles. What a guy. (Wing S3898)
Strange Apparitions, or The Ghost of King James
I like how the Duke of Buckingham appears to be leading them all in learning torch choreography. (Wing S5880)
The Earle of Straffords Ghost
While Gresham’s shroud looks well-starched, Strafford’s just looks like a hut. He also looks like he’s about to say “DUDES!” and invite everyone to a party in his shroud. He seems inappropriately festive givenĀ the topic, is what I’m saying. (Wing E84)
The iust reward of Rebels, Or The Life and Death of Iack Straw, and Wat Tyler
Here the ghosts are joined by a spooky skeleton. Look at the baby ghost in the front center though. Creeeeepy. (Wing J1241)
Tom Nash his Ghost
Finally, Tom Nash, who has not prepared adequately for his ghosthood and had to just drape himself in a sheet instead of having a proper shroud like everybody else. And where’s your torch, Tom Nash? Shocking. I should also note that, kind of hilariously, EEBO lists Thomas Nashe as the author of this pamphlet. It really was written by his ghost! (Wing T1784)

Sources: All images were accessed via Early English Books Online through the Renaissance Society of America.

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