Notes to Cony-Catching


A Notable Discovery of Cozenage


1. Nascimur pro patria: "We are born for our country."

2. Omnia sub sole vanitas: "All is vanity under the sun" (Ecclesiastes.).

3. Patres patri : "Fathers of the country."

4. With a langret, cut contrary to the vantage, will cross-bite a card cater tray: i.e., will swindle a victim by throwing a four and a three with dice which have been cut in such a way that they are not exactly cubical, and so will fall with the smaller face on top.

5. Quis nisi mentis inops ollatum respuit aurum: "Who but a madman rejects money."

6. Vie and Revie: to raise and re-raise the stakes.

7. Summum ius: "The greatest force of the law."

8. Cum multis aliis quae nunc prescribere longum est: "With many others which would be too long to describe now."

9. Multa latent qu  non patent: "Many things are hidden that are not seen."

10. No cozen to grime with his stop dice: i.e. No victim to swindle with his loaded dice.

11. Polyphemus: a savage man-eating giant in the ninth book of Homer's Odyssey

12. By his ownes: A minced oath = by his (Jesus') wounds.

13.A shamless woman etc: Proverbs 22:26

14. Si quis: A public notice advertising lost property or wanted men.

15. Exordium: The beginning or introduction of a speech or court plea.

16. Neapolitan favour: Syphilis, the first major outbreak of which in Europe was at the siege of Naples, 1495.

17. Parators and sumners: Minor court officials.

18. The Arches: An ecclesiastical court (still in existence) which dealt with religious and moral matters, including adultery, illegitimacy, etc.

19. Venus in vinis, ignis in igne fuit: "Love and wine together are like adding fuel to fire" (Ovid, The Art of Love).

20. gogs nownes: A minced oath = God's (Jesus') wounds.

21 Fallere fallentem non est fraus: "It's no sin to cheat the cheaters."

22. Bull: Samuel Bull, hangman of London.

23. Ne Hercules contra duos: "Not even Hercules (could win a fight) against two."

24. Jack Drum: Jack (or John or Tom) Drum's entertainment was to be dragged into the house, beaten and thrown out again. See Shakespeare: All's Well that Ends Well, iii. 6. A comedy called Jack Drum's Entertainment by John Marston was performed several times in 1599-1600 and published in 1601.

The Second Part of Cony-Catching


25. Mallem non esse quam non prodesse patriae: "Better not to live than not to be of service to my country."

26. το πρεπον [to prepon]: "Fittingly."

27. Immedicabile vulnus, Ense resecandum est ne pars sincera trahitur: "The infected part which cannot be cured must be cut away, lest it infect the healthy parts." Ovid, Metamorphoses Bk. 1 l. 190-91.

28. Summum bonum: "Greatest good."

29. Keep him at hard meat: Feed the horse on hay and oats while keeping him stabled, rather than on grass in a field where it could be seen.

30. The slop of a man's hose: The wide parts of a pair of baggy breeches

31. An Act to avoid Horse Stealing, 31 Eliz c. 12 (1592).

32. Knights of the post: Fellows who could be hired at the posts outside the Courts of Law to swear anything or go bail for any one.

33. Benevolentiam captare: "To persuade by flattery."

34. Bathyllus: A bad poet who tried to pass off as his own, a poem by Virgil.

35. Neckverse: The beginning of Psalm 50/51 Miserere mei, Deus, secundum misericordiam tuam; et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam. ("Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy. And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity.") This was the prayer of those about to be executed.

36. Lento gradu: "By slow degrees."

37. The Accidence: Part of a grammar textbook dealing with parts of speech and their inflections. The eight parts are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, articles, and conjunctions.

38. Jakes farmers: Contractors who carried off the human excrement from the city's privies and cesspits.

39. With advantage: with a little extra, as a tip

40. Upon their pantofles: On their dignity.

41. Mittimus: A warrant to imprison a named person.


The Third and Last Part of Cony-Catching


42. Whittington College: Newgate Prison, which was first built when Dick Whittington was mayor of London.

43. Their journey westward, but not of their return: They travelled from Newgate to Tyburn, and were hanged.


The Black Book's Messenger


44. He leapt at a daisy: He was hanged.

45. Senex Fornicator: A dirty old man.

46. Colman hedge: A garden in Fenchurch St. near the church of St. Catherine Coleman, where street-walkers were wont to take their clients.

47. Aretine's Tables: I Modi, an album of erotic engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi with text by Pietro Aretino.

48. Strado Curtizano: The Street of the Courtesans; Madam Padilia and Romana Imperia: Famous courtesans.

49. per varios casus & tot discrimina rerum: "Through various adventures and many dangerous things" Virgil, Aeneid I. 204.

50. Amasis' Law: Amasis was Pharaoh of Egypt 570 BC   526 BC."It was Amasis too who established the law that every year each one of the Egyptians should declare to the ruler of his district, from what source he got his livelihood, and if any man did not do this or did not make declaration of an honest way of living, he should be punished with death. Now Solon the Athenian received from Egypt this law and had it enacted for the Athenians, and they have continued to observe it, since it is a law with which none can find fault." Herodotus, Histories 2.177.

51. Statute merchant: "A bond of record, acknowledged before the chief magistrate of a trading town, giving to the obligee power of seizure of the land of the obligor if he failed to pay his debt at the appointed time." OED.

52. Arx: A small village in southwestern France.

The Defence of Cony-Catching

53. Qui bene latuit bene vixit, dominatur enim fraus in omnibus: "He who lives hidden, lives well, for falsehood rules over all"

54. Marginal Note: Newgate builded by one Whittington.

55. Give you the bucklers: Confess that you have won. A buckler was a small shield, often offered as a prize in a tourney

56. Marginal Note: The names of such games as cony-catchers use.

57. Marginal Note: All the money in their purse.

58. Squariers, langrets, gourds, stop-dice, highmen, lowmen, and dice barred for all advantages: Types of rigged dice

59. All that his purse had in esse or his credit in posse: All that his purse actually held or what he could borrow.

60. Marginal Note: Some cony-catchers wear noblemen's livery, as W. Bickerton and others.

61. Tully: Cicero, the Roman orator, whose full name was Marcus Tullius Cicero.

62. T.D.: Thomas Deloney 1543 1600, novelist and ballad-writer.

63. Iron age: The Greek writer Hesiod (c. 600 B.C.) wrote of five ages of mankind; the Golden age, a time of peace and plenty, the the Silver, Bronze and Heroic ages, each worse than the previous one; and finally the Iron age, in which we are now living, a time of toil and misery, and constant selfishness, strife, crime and violence.

64. Promised to acknowledge a statute staple to him, with letters of defeasance: To lend money under a bond, witnessed before the mayor of the town, allowing the lender to seize the property of the debtor if the debt was not repaid.

65. The Washes: A former ford, in the area now called Enfield Wash

66. Hostry: Sticks used for kindling; Faggots: Bundles of firewood; Fair chambering: Expensive hanging, bedclothes etc.

67. The Pantry: The division of the King's Household which dealt with the provision, cooking and serving of food.

68. Lash of lions: Lions' whiskers

69. Marquisadoed, with a side peak pendent: Having no beard but long moustaches or long side whiskers hanging down.

70. Single of a deer: a deer's tail.

71. Barbary: The North Coast of Africa

72. Alcaires: Cairo in Egypt

73. Cavilavarst:   Perhaps a misprint for cavalierest i.e. most like a cavalier, or strutting gallant.

74. Marginal note: A boy of vii years old to make a bill of sale.

75. The Legend: The Golden Legend, a compendium of lives of the saints, a book very popular in the late Mediaeval and early modern period

76. Martinist: A follower of "Martin Marprelate", the pseudonymous author of several works attacking the bishops of the Church of England, published in 1588-89 until their printer was discovered and executed.

77. As in praesenti: A rule in Latin grammar for forming certain verb tenses; Carmen Heroicum: "Song of Heroes", an example given in Latin grammars of the period.

78. Galligaskins: A kind of wide hose or breeches. Trunk-slops: Full bag-like breeches covering the hips and upper thighs, and sometimes stuffed with wool or the like, worn in the 16th and early 17th c.

79. Pleonasmos: Elaborate speech; using more words than are necessary to describe something.

80. Vails: Additional rewards or perquisites of an employment: as here, the right to sell the offcuts of cloth left over after making a garment.

81. Granado silk: From Granada in Spain; Paned: Made of strips of different coloured cloth sewn together; Biliment: Costly lace used for trimming garments.


A Disputation between a He Cony-catcher and a She Cony-catcher.

82. The Mirror of Magistrates: The Mirror for [not of] Magistrates is a collection of poems about the lives of various historical figures. It had several editions from rival printers during the second half of the sixteenth Century; one was written mostly by John Higgins.

83. Hieria: The Hyena from Pliny's days was said to counterfeit men's voices in order to entrap them and others (though not to sing), "In the Hyena itself there is a certain magical virtue, attributing a wonderful power thereto, in transporting the mind of man or woman, and ravishing their senses so as that it will allure them unto her very strangely." (Natural History, B. 28, c. 8 trans. Philemon Holland)  But qy. odd as the misprint is, is it a blunder for Sirens, Greek mythological creatures resembling women, who with their singing enchanted sailors, and then ate them  The context 'tunes' and 'passengers' suggests this.

84. diebus illis: Those days.

85. Quatuor hic casibus etc: This quatrain has been attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo, but is probably not by him.

86. All the bite in his bung: All the money in his purse.

87: Pierce Penniless: The protagonist of Pierce Penniless, His Supplication to the Devil, a story by Thomas Nashe published in 1592, wherein Pierce laments the misfortunes which have brought him to destitution.

88. Lime twigs: Twigs smeared with bird-lime, a sticky substance used to catch birds, which stick to it when they perch, and cannot fly away, and so are taken.

89: In danger of the cart: To which criminals were tied to be flogged though the streets.

90. Unguentum aureum: "Golden grease" i.e. a bribe.

91. Morrow-mass priest: A priest appointed to celebrate the first mass of the day very early in the morning. The task usually fell to the most junior priest of the parish or community.

92. Have a bout at my nine bowls: = bowl at my skittles i.e. try to knock me down.

93. morbus Anglicus: English disease; Gallicus: French.

94. French marbles: Syphilis

95. pigeon-holes: Holes in a pillory-like structure used to hold men while being flogged.

96. To dine with Duke Humphrey: To go without dinner.

97. Prick-song: music pricked or noted down; when opposed to plain song, it meant counter-point, as distinguished from mere melody.

98. A wanton heifer: Hosea 4:16. "For Israel hath gone astray like a wanton heifer: now will the Lord feed them, as a lamb in a spacious place."

99. Spectatum veniunt, veniunt spectentur ut ipsi: "They come to watch; they come to be looked at themselves" Ovid, Art of Love, Book 1 l. 90.

100. An ordinary dancer: one very accurate in her steps.

101. Forma bonum fragile est quantumque accedit ad annos
Fit minor et spacio carpitur ipsa suo
"Beauty is a fleeting boon; it fades with the passing years, and the longer it lives, the more surely it dies." Ovid, Art of Love, Book 3 l. 132-3.

102. Cornelia: Presumably Cornelia Africana (c. 190 c.100 BC) daughter of Scipio Africanus, who defeated Hannibal, and mother of the Gracchi, who pressed for reform of Roman corruption. She is remembered as a prototypical example of a virtuous Roman woman. (Julius Caesar's first wife was also called Cornelia.)

103. Moly: A magic herb with the aid of which Ulysses resisted the spells of the witch Circe, who turned all his men into swine. (Homer, Odyssey, Book 10.)

104. Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 12.10-11; 42. 9-11.

105. Quo semel est imbuta recens servabit odorem testa diu."The jar will long retain the odour of the liquor with which, when new, it was once saturated" Horace, Epistles, Book 1 Epistle 2, (to Lollius) l. 69-70.

106. Damon & Pythias, Pylades & Orestes, Titus & Gisippus: Famously devoted friends from classical mythology.
            Pythias was accused of plotting against the tyrannical Dionysius I of Syracuse. Pythias requested Dionysius that he be allowed to settle his affairs on the condition that he leave his friend, Damon, as a hostage, so if Pythias did not return, Damon would be executed. Eventually, Pythias returned to face execution to the amazement of Dionysius, who because of the sincere trust and love of their friendship, then let both Damon and Pythias go free.[Cicero, De Officiis]
            Orestes was the son of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, and Clytemnestra who murdered him when he came home from Troy. Pylades was the companion and friend of Orestes, and helped him in his wanderings and attempts to avenge his father. [Aeschylus, The Oresteia]
            There are different versions of the story of Titus and Gisippus, either that one gave the other his wife Sophronia because of his greater love for her; or that one confessed to a murder for which the other had been condemned. [Boccaccio, Decameron. 10.8; Shakespeare, The Two Gentleman of Verona  (with the names changed to Valentine and Proteus)]

107. Le don de merci: "The gift of compassion."

108. Knight of the Forked Order: A man whose wife or mistress was unfaithful was said to wear horns or antlers hence the joke that cuckoldry was an order of Knighthood, whose emblem was a pair of (forked) antlers.

109. Si nihil attuleris ibis Homere foras: "If Homer came without money, he would be driven out." Ovid, Art of Love, Book 2 l.297

110. Messalina: Wife of the Roman emperor Claudius, notorious for her sexual voracity.


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