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Has anyone ever looked at Jonsonâ€™s inscription to Queen Anne in the British Library copy of The Characters of Two Royal Masques? This is the gift-copy of the masques of Blackness and Beauty which Jonson gave to Anne in 1608, and has an autograph Latin dedication to her. Unfortunately, there is an abbreviation which has resisted our best efforts at explanation. The inscription reads as follows:
â€˜D. Annae / M. Britanniarum Insu. Hib. &c. / Reginae / Feliciss. Formosiss. / Musaeo / S.S. / Hunc librum vouit / Famae & honori eius / Seruientiss. / imÃ² addictissimus / Ben: Ionsonius / VicturÅ«s Genium debet habere liber.â€™
None of the editorial team can work out what â€˜S. S.â€™ stands for. Possibly it is short for â€˜summae sapientiaâ€™, which would give the following meaning: â€˜To Lady Anne, Queen of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, etc., most happy, most beautiful, a library of exquisite wisdom [?], Ben Jonson, most attentive, indeed most devoted, to her fame and honour, dedicates this book: â€œA book that is to live must have a Geniusâ€.â€™
This interpretation would make sense in relation to the quotation in the last line, which is from Martial (Epigrams 6.61.10). However, we canâ€™t be certain. If anyone can give us a reliable steer, weâ€™d be really grateful.Share on Twitter Share on Facebook