English Travellers Of The Renaissance By Clare Howard


Towards the sixteenth century, when curiosity about things human was an
ever stronger undercurrent in England, pilgrimages were particularly
popular - Page 7
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Towards The Sixteenth Century, When Curiosity About Things Human Was An Ever Stronger Undercurrent In England, Pilgrimages Were Particularly Popular.

In 1434, Henry VI.

Granted licences to 2433 pilgrims to the shrine of St James of Compostella alone.[2] The numbers were so large that the control of their transportation became a coveted business enterprise. "Pilgrims at this time were really an article of exportation," says Sir Henry Ellis, in commenting on a letter of the Earl of Oxford to Henry VI., asking for a licence for a ship of which he was owner, to carry pilgrims. "Ships were every year loaded from different ports with cargoes of these deluded wanderers, who carried with them large sums of money to defray the expenses of their journey."[3]

Among the earliest books printed in England was Informacon for Pylgrymes unto the Holy Londe, by Wynkin de Worde, one which ran to three editions,[4] an almost exact copy of William Wey's "prevysyoun" (provision) for a journey eastwards.[5] The tone and content of this Informacon differ very little from the later Directions for Travellers which are the subject of our study. The advice given shows that the ordinary pilgrim thought, not of the ascetic advantages of the voyage, or of simply arriving in safety at his holy destination, but of making the trip in the highest possible degree of personal comfort and pleasure. He is advised to take with him two barrels of wine ("For yf ye wolde geve xx dukates for a barrel ye shall none have after that ye passe moche Venyse"); to buy orange-ginger, almonds, rice, figs, cloves, maces and loaf sugar also, to eke out the fare the ship will provide. And this although he is to make the patron swear, before the pilgrim sets foot in the galley, that he will serve "hote meete twice at two meals a day." He whom we are wont to think of as a poor wanderer, with no possessions but his grey cloak and his staff, is warned not to embark for the Holy Land without carrying with him "a lytell cawdron, a fryenge panne, dysshes, platers, cuppes of glasse ... a fether bed, a matrasse, a pylawe, two payre sheets and a quylte" ... a cage for half a dozen of hens or chickens to have with you in the ship, and finally, half a bushel of "myle sede" to feed the chickens.

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