Diatribe against Over-long Locks and Cosmetics, with Warnings about Bleeding Hair and Bodily Afflictions


(London: Printed by J. G. for Nathanael Webb and William Grantham, 1654). 152 x 95 mm. (6 x 3 3/4"). 4 p.l., 125 pp. FIRST EDITION.

Recent unadorned polished calf in the style of the period, raised bands. Front pastedown with engraved armorial bookplate of Edward Astle, Esq. (see below). Wing H-429; McAlpin III, 72; Thomason E. 1489(3). Leaves somewhat browned, especially at edges (perhaps from fire?), occasional minor spots of foxing or rust, two pages with one-inch ink blot (one of these partially obscuring a sidenote), one sidenote just grazed by the binder, but still a very good copy of a book expected to be found in poor shape, with nothing approaching a fatal defect.

With warnings of acute consequences for libertine expressions of both sexes, this is first and foremost a puritanical diatribe against the fashion for long hair among men, backed by scriptural arguments and the 17th century version of urban legends. Described by DNB as "a man who fought all his life against popular revels and pastimes," Thomas Hall (1610-65) warns here of a dire disease in which matted "snakes" of long hair become infested with vermin and bleed when pricked with a needle. Not lacking in imagination, Hall claims that sufferers in Poland who cut off the offending hair "lost their eyes" or had some other body part grievously afflicted. His aversion to long hair on men is extreme: he mentions approvingly his fellow Puritan William Prynne's attack on "love-locks," but fears Prynne does not go far enough in condemning the scourge of hirsuteness. After 95 pages of lecturing men on their hairstyles, Hall turns his attention to the fashion crimes of women. Make-up is "the badge of the harlot," and a bare decolletage an invitation to adultery. When Charles II ushered in the Restoration, Hall's parishioners ushered out their joyless minister, whose sentiments and world view suddenly ran contrary to those fostered by the monarch, and he died five years later. Former owner Edward Astle (1770-1816) was the son of famous antiquary and major manuscript collector Thomas Astle (1735-1803), and was a bibliophile in his own right. The elder Astle also had a library of around 1,500 printed books in addition to his early manuscripts, and it is possible that our volume was once a part of his collection. This is not a common book: OCLC finds nine copies in U. S. libraries, and just four other copies appear in auction records since 1975.

Keywords: STC and Wing Books