Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baldwin, William (fl.1547)
BALDWIN, WILLIAM (fl. 1547), a west-countryman, spent several years at Oxford in the study of logic and philosophy. He is supposed to be the William Baldwin who supplicated the congregation of regents for a master's degree in 1532 (Wood, Athenae, i. 341). On leaving Oxford he became a corrector of the press to Edward Whitchurch, the printer, who, in 1547, printed for him 'A Treatise of Morall Phylosophie, contayning the Sayinges of the Wyse,' a small black-letter octavo of 142 leaves. This book was afterwards enlarged by Thomas Paulfreyman, and continued popular for a century. In 1549 appeared Baldwin's 'Canticles or Balades of Salomon, phraselyke declared in Englyshe Metres,' which the author printed with his own hand from the types of Whitchurch. The versification has more ease and elegance than we usually find in metrical translations from the Scriptures; and the volume is remarkable for the care bestowed on the punctuation, a matter to which the old printers seldom paid the slightest attention. During the reigns of Edward VI and Queen Mary, it appears that Baldwin was employed in preparing theatrical exhibitions for the court (Collier, Hist. of Eng. Dram. Poetry, i. 149, &c.) In 1559 he superintended the publication of the 'Mirror for Magistrates,' contributing four poems of his own: –(1) 'The Story of Richerd, Earl of Cambridge, being put to death at Southampton;' (2) 'How Thomas Montague, Earl of Salisbury, in the midst of his glory was by chance slain by a Piece of Ordnance; ' (3) 'Story of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, being punished for abusing his King and causing the Destruction of good Duke Humphrey;' (4) 'The Story of Jack Cade naming himself Mortimer, and his Rebelling against the King.' In the preface, Baldwin speaks of having been 'called to other trades of lyfe.' He is probably referring to the fact that he had become a minister and a schoolmaster. Wood states that he took to clerical work immediately after leaving the university; but this must be a mistake. In 1560 he published a poetical tract (of the greatest rarity) in twelve leaves, 'The Funeralles of King Edward the Sixt; wherein are declared the Causers and Causes of his Death.' On the title-page is a woodcut portrait of Edward. The elegy is followed by 'An Exhortation to the Repentaunce of Sinnes and Amendment of Life,' consisting of twelve eight-line stanzas; and the tract concludes with an 'Epitaph: The Death Playnt or Life Prayse of the most Noble and Vertuous Prince, King Edward the Sixt.' One of the rarest and most curious of early ludicrous and satirical pieces, 'Beware the Cat ' (1561), has been shown by Collier to be the work of Baldwin. The dedication is signed 'G. B.,' the initials of Gulielmus Baldwin; and Mr. Collier quotes from an early broadside (in the library of the Society of Antiquaries) the following passage:
Where as there is a book called Beware the Cat:
The veri truth is so that Streamer made not that;
Nor no such false fabells fell ever from his pen,
Nor from his hart or mouth, as knoe mani honest men.
But wil ye gladli knoe who made that boke in dede?
One Wylliam Baldewine. God graunt him well to speede.
But the authorship is placed beyond all possible doubt by an entry in the Stationers' Registers, 1568-9, when a second edition was in preparation:— 'Rd. of Mr. Irelonde for his lycense for pryntinge of a boke intituled Beware the Catt, by Wyllm Baldwin, iiijd.' The scene is laid in the office of John Day, the printer, at Aldersgate, where Baldwin, Ferrers, and others had met to spend Christmas. Personal allusions abound, and there are many attacks on Roman Catholics. The purpose is to show that cats are gifted with speech and reason; and in the course of the narrative, which consists of prose and verse, a number of merry tales are introduced. Of Baldwin's closing years we have no record; he is supposed to have died early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
Baldwin prefixed a copy of verses to Langton's 'Treatise ordrely declaring the Principall Partes of Physick' (1547). He is probably the author of 'A new Booke called The Shippe of Safegards, wrytten by G. B.' (1569), and a sheet of eleven eight-line stanzas:—
To warn the papistes to beware of three trees.
God save our Queene Elizabeth.
Finis qd. G. B.,
printed on 12 Dec. 1571, by John Awdelay. Wood ascribes to him 'The Use of Adagies; Similies and Proverbs; Comedies,' of which nothing is known.[Wood's Athenae Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 341-3; Ritson's Bibliogr. Poet. p. 121; Dibdin's Typogr. Antiq. iii. 503, iv. 498; Collier's Hist. of Engl. Dram. Lit. i. 149, 154, new ed.; Bibliogr. Account, i. 43-7; Corser's Collectanea, i. 108-16, 123-9.]