Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Riot of Biblical Proportions


It was our annual family murmuration yesterday, a time to catch up on news from various far-flung outposts in a non-funereal context.  And there was some good gossip on offer, like my cousin Hayley delivering her own grandchild because the midwife insisted the baby (a little girl called Millie, 8lbs 6oz, since you ask) wouldn't be born till morning.  But there was something more unusual from my cousin Pam, who'd been helping her mother sort through papers following my Uncle Meric's death. 



My photos are rather hurried - my cousin was en route to Bristol's newest museum, the M Shed, where the pages will now be housed - but the pages (from 2 Kings Chapter 11, it would seem) are inscribed with the following in copperplate handwriting:

This was part of a bible which was plundered from the dwelling houses in Queen Square, Bristol, on the ever memorable Sunday the 30th day of October when the dreadful Riot and burning of that place was perpetrated by an infuriate and lawless mob.  



Which poses all sorts of questions.  How did my great-grandmother (for it was she who gave it to my uncle) come by such a thing?  What on earth was a rioter doing looting a bible?  Was the bible the then equivalent of a flat-screen TV as far as entertainment was concerned?   And perhaps most pressingly of all, where's the d from the end of infuriate?


5 comments:

  1. The 'd' isn't essential. Check your dictionary.

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    1. Thanks - I did. Just making a small joke.

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  2. This is so fascinating and fun!
    You're right, it does seem a strange thing to loot. The 19th century is not really my period, but certainly in the time I am more familiar with (100 - 350 AD) they certainly would be on a looter's hit list, not simply from their monetary worth (as they were handwritten and by the later period lavishly produced), they were often held to have more apotropaic powers (such as warding off evil, illness etc). I doubt whether this would have been the case in the 1830s
    Do you know if it was just this page that was stolen? If so, there might be a link between the text and what was happing in the riots. From what I can see from the photographs the majority of the page is actually 2 King 10. This text describes how Jehu destroyed the temples of Baal - a pretty ghastly catalogue of atrocities. I wonder (it is really is pure speculation) if this text was used to en(-)courage or justify the riotous behaviour? It wouldn't be the first (and certainly not the last) time this has happened.
    Richard (Goode)

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    1. It's just those pages, Richard, and sadly my Uncle, who might have known more about their provenance, is no longer in a position to divulge. My cousin was unaware of their existence until she found them amongst his papers.

      The fact that the inscription does not mention a year suggests to me that it was written in the year of the riots. How my god-fearing great-grandmother came by them is a mystery: she was, of course, born much later, in 1870, and both her and my great-grandfather were from North Somerset labouring stock rather than Bristol.

      The subject-matter does make me wonder whether they were removed deliberately by someone who knew their bible but maybe didn't own one, and who sought them out because of a perceived connection with what was happening around them.

      I am fascinated by apotropaia, and one day hope to write a poem about eating the bible as a way of warding off evil spirits. I'm sure it's out there somewhere.

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