fol. S2v-S3r, Matthew
Wastell, Simon. Microbiblion, or, The Bibles epitome: in verse. Digested according to the alphabet, that the Scriptures we reade may more happily be remembered, and things forgotten more easily recalled. London: Printed for Robert Mylbourne, 1629.
Duodecimo. , 506,  pages, 5¼ x 3 inches. Roman and italic. Title within ornamental border; headpieces; initial letters of quatrains in larger font to show alphabetical procession. Bound in modern calfskin. § STC (2nd ed.) 25102. § CD-ROM: 11.5, title page; 11.5, fol. S2r.
Teaching the Bible to young children, as Simon Wastell ( 1632), schoolmaster of Northampton, doubtless did, can be a task fraught with difficulties. The violence and sexual intrigues of the Old Testament, the long genealogical lists, the intricacies of the poetry, and the theological profundities can stymie even the most gifted teacher. And yet children must be introduced to the Bible for their moral well-being and educational development. What to do?
Rather than turning to the text itself as medieval and Renaissance schoolmasters had done, pedagogical notions of the seventeenth century contrived to make the Bible easier for children to understand by reformatting it into stories or, in this case, sing-song versea practice that continues today, of course, with Bible stories and expurgated childrens Bibles.
Simon Wastell brought new meaning to the phrase "chapter and verse" by actually rendering each chapter of the Bible into verse. His poetic Microbiblion reduces lengthy and complicated chapters of the Bible into 4-line stanzas, each beginning with successive letters of the alphabet to make them easier to memorize, or, as Wastell put it, "alphabeticall, and metricall, for the better and surer memorie." Here, for example, he boils down the first three familiar chapters of Matthew into twelve lines:
A pedigree of IESUS CHRIST, |
by the holy Ghost conceivd:
Of Virgin borne, who (though with child)
of Ioseph is receivd.
By starre the Wisemen guided are
to Christ, whom they adore;
They offer gifts; King Herod frets;
and Ioseph flies therefore.
Children by Herod murthered are;
and then observe his death:
Ioseph is sore afraid, yet comes
with Christ to Nazareth.
Literature: Dictionary of National Biography 59:442.