AN EARLY VELLUM DOCUMENT IN ENGLISH.
A TRIPARTITE INDENTURE COVERING THE SALE OF ESTATES IN SUSSEX BY THE TRUSTEE OF A MINOR, PERHAPS FROM THE FAMILY OF THE POET SHELLEY.(31 October, 1681). 572 x 740 mm (22 1/2 x 29 1/8"). 64 lines in a very fine professional hand.
The first three words of the text in large, ornamental letters. With two hanging ribbons beneath the signatures of Richard Marsh and Theobald Shelley, with Shelley's seal intact (the seal a bit larger than 30 mm. square, with no image, and having been originally wrapped in parchment). A hint of wear at two folds, but AN EXCEPTIONALLY WELL-PRESERVED AND ATTRACTIVE DOCUMENT--clean, fresh, and bright, penned in an upright, rounded, and handsome hand.
This beautiful document tells the interesting tale of the transactions of Richard Marsh, a merchant of London, who is acting on behalf of Theobald Shelley of Horsham in Sussex, a minor for whom Marsh was trustee. By a rather complicated series of real estate transactions, Marsh netted his ward £48. The tale begins with a man staking land in order to procure a loan, with Marsh--using money from Shelley--acting as banker. Specifically, Marsh paid to Edward Woodcock, a Londoner of the parish of Saint Margaret, Westminster, the sum of £1,000 in September of 1680, in return for Woodcock's rights to a number of Sussex properties in Buncton, Wiston, Ashurst, Plumpton, Steyning, West Grinstead, Ashington, and elsewhere. Although the document specifies that Marsh is to have and hold the lands for 1,000 years, there is an escape clause. Woodcock was allowed to recover the lands if he were to come up with £1,060 by a certain date, but (the usual story) he failed to do so. Then, on 29 April 1681, Woodcock received another £600 from Marsh in return for releasing all rights to recover the properties, unless he could come up with £1,648 by 30 October. This deadline also passed, and the next day, Marsh, on behalf of Shelley, sold by this indenture the lands in question to Paul Allenstrey and Toby Garbram, London merchants like Marsh himself. Three brief notations appear on the back of the parchment, including a four-line statement signed by Marsh acknowledging that he has received the £1,648. Meanwhile, of course, the properties had continued to be worked by the various tenant farmers listed in the document, so that Shelley actually would have profited by the rents they owed as well as gaining the £48. Marsh apparently continued to be an honest guardian, for we know that Theobald Shelley in 1689 was able to set up a modest charitable trust. The romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822) was born in the vicinity of Horsham, where his family had lived for generations, making it more than just possible that Theobald belonged to the same family as the poet. (ST10236-4b)