Most of the non-religious books in Corbett’s bookshop are copies of classical texts. This emphasises the ongoing influence of ideas from the classical world as a result of the European Renaissance. The writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero, particularly his ideas about oratory and rhetoric, were especially influential – there are eighteen copies of various works by Cicero in Corbett’s bookshop. The bookshop also stocked copies of of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, Lucius Florus’s history of Rome, and Homer’s Odyssey (pictured).
There are a range of books on the shelves informing readers about medicine (The Method of Physic), navigation (A Regiment for the Sea) and languages (Elyot’s Latin Dictionary). There are also 112 almanacs in stock – these were cheaply produced annual publications containing calendars, tide tables, weather forecasts and other statistical and astronomical information for the year ahead.
There are also a number of works concerning what would now be known as history and geography.
These include Poly-Olbion by Michael Drayton, a 15,000 line-poem describing the topography of the counties of England and Wales, also discussing local traditions and histories. Book 1 of the work is accompanied by annotations by antiquarian John Selden, author of the controversial History of Tithes.
A Survey of London gives an expansive description of the streets of London in the time of Elizabeth I, also with information on the city’s history, social conditions and customs. A similar work describing the city of Newcastle, Chorographia, or, A survey of Newcastle upon Tine by William Gray, was printed in 1649 by Stephen Bulkley and sold by William London. The full text of this work is available to read here.
The only work of fiction listed in the bookshop is Amadis de Gaule, a popular chivalric romance which originated in Spain or Portugal. It is a medieval fantasy in the same vein as tales of King Arthur, and relates the adventures of the knight Amadis and his courtly relationship with Oriana, heiress to the throne of Great Britain.
In 1508 Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo reworked an earlier version of the text, adding a fourth book, and this was published in Spain. This was translated into French by Nicholas de Herberay in the 1540s, and it was this French edition that was subsequently translated into English.