Andrew Borde, from The First
Book of the Introduction of Knowledge
Borde's The First Book of the Introduction
of Knowledge (1547) describes the customs
and manners of various nations, from the
English and their neighbors to the Moors,
the Turks, the Egyptians, and the Jews. Borde
was a doctor and the author of books on medicine
and on astronomy, and it seems the Introduction
of Knowledge (written 1542, published
1547) was intended to focus mainly on physic,
but only the first book, on the peoples of
Europe and the Mediterranean, saw the light.
For each nation Borde provides a satirical
description in verse and a few phrases in
the local language.
first woodcut in the book shows an Englishman
standing naked and holding tailor's scissors,
trying to decide which new fashion to follow: "I
am an English man, and naked I stand here
/ Musing in my mind what raiment I shall
wear. . . ." In the verses
that follow England is praised for its power
and wealth, while the people's inconstancy
I do fear no man, all men feareth
I overcome my adversaries by land and by sea;
I had no peer, if to myself I were true;
Because I am not so, divers times do I rue.
Yet I lack nothing, I have all things at will;
If I were wise, and would hold myself still,
And meddle with no matters not to me pertaining,
But ever to be true to God and my king.
The passage below describes
the Moors. Although the English in the sixteenth
century most often associated black with
ugliness and evil, such associations could
be challenged or surprisingly reversed, as
in Shakespeare's Sonnet 127 (NAEL 8, 1.1073), "In
the old age black was not counted fair."
[The Moors Which Do Dwell in Barbary]
I am a black Moor born in Barbary;
>> note 1
Christian men for money oft doth me buy.
If I be unchristened, merchants do not care,
They buy me in markets, be I never so bare.
Yet will I be a good diligent slave,
Although I do stand in stead of a knave.
I do gather figs, and with some I wipe my tail:
To be angry with me, what shall it avail?
Barbary is a great country, and plentiful
of fruit, wine, and corn. The inhabitors
be called the Moors. There be white Moors
and black Moors. They be infidels and unchristened.
There be many Moors brought into Christendom,
into great cities and towns, to be sold.
And Christian men do buy them, and they will
be diligent, and will do all manner of service.
But they be set most commonly to vile things.
They be called slaves. They do gather grapes
and figs, and with some of the figs they
will wipe their tail, and put them in the
>> note 2 They
have great lips, and knotted hair, black
and curled. Their skin is soft, and there
is nothing white but their teeth and the
white of the eye. When a merchant or any
other man do buy them, they be not all
of one price, for some be better cheap
than some; they be sold after as they can
work and do their business. When they do
die, they be cast into the water, or on
a dunghill, that dogs and pies
>> note 3 and
crows may eat them, except some of them
that be christened: they be buried. They
do keep much of Mohammed's law, as
the Turks do. They have now a great captain
>> note 4 which
is a great warrior. They doth harm, divers times, to the Genoese, and to
Provence and Languedoc, and other countries that do border on them, and for
they will come over the straits, steal pigs, and geese, and other things.
Whoso will speak any Moorish,
>> note 5 English
and Moorish doth follow.
One. two. three. four. five. six. seven.
Wada. attennin. talate. orba. camata. sette.
eight. nine. ten. eleven. twelve. thirteen.
camene. tessa. asshera. habasshe. atanasshe.
fourteen. fifteen. sixteen. seventeen.
arbatasshe. camatasshe. setatasshe. sabatashe.
eighteen. nineteen. twenty. one and twenty, etc.
tematasshe. tyssatasshe. essherte. wahadaessherte,
Give me some bread and milk and cheese.
Atteyne gobbis, leben, iuben.
Give me wine, water, flesh, fish, and eggs.
Atteyne nebet, moy, laghe, semek, beyet.
Much good do it you.
You be welcome.
I thank you.
Erthar lake heracke.