Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/188

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Agas
Agas
174

learn what manner of man he was, his qualities, abilities, and pursuits, he has left us ample means of doing so, in a very quaint document issued doubtless as an advertisement. From this it becomes evident that he entertained a very good opinion of himself. Besides his knowledge of surveying, he was able to read old records, and to restore any that were worn, ‘obliterated, or dimmed,’ as well as to make calendars to them. He could find the weight and measure of any solid body. He was clever at arithmetic, and was an adept ‘in writing smaule, after the skantelinge & proportion of copiynge the Oulde & New Testamentes seven tymes in one skinne of partchmente, without anie woorde abreviate or contracted, which maie also serve for drawinge discriptions of contries into volumes portable in verie little cases.’ He had a receipt for the preservation of the eye; he could remove and replant without injury trees of a ton weight; and had had forty years' experience in his profession. It is clear, however, from some documents first published by Mr. Peter Cunningham, that the life of Agas was by no means free from troubles. He had married the widow of John Payne, of Stoke-by-Nayland. Family disputes arose as to the disposition of Payne's property, and in one of these quarrels Agas's brother-in-law, Ives, was wounded in the back with a pitchfork. Eventually the matter came before the Court of Star Chamber. In the bill presented to the court Agas and his sons were described as the most pestilent fellows in the neighbourhood, and Agas himself as ‘one that in former times hath used the office of magister, and was sometymes parson of Dereham, in the county of Norfolk, being deprived of his benefice for his lewd life and bad conditions, and being deformed in shape and body as in conditions.’ The answer of the defendants in the suit asserted that many of the allegations in the bill were absurd, ridiculous, and untrue, and further, ‘that the same Radulph Agas was never a parson of Dereham in Norfolk, neyther had anything to do eyther with the church, personage, or minister there; neither was ever deprived from any church or benefice whatsoever, as is falsely and maliciously in the said bill suggested and intended. And touching the infirmity and bodily weakness of the same Radulph Agas, one of the defendants, he saith, that as he received the same by the providence of God in his mother's wombe, so hath he always with humble thanks to his Creator willingly borne and suffered that his infirmity.’ The decision of the Star Chamber is not known, as the records of that tribunal are lost.

Agas died at Stoke-by-Nayland, 26 Nov. 1621.

He published: ‘A Preparative to Platting of Landes and Tenements for Surueigh. Shewing the diversitie of sundrie instruments applyed thereunto. Patched vp as plainly together, as boldly offered to the curteous view and regard of all worthie Gentlemen, louers of skill, And published instead of his flying papers, which cannot abide the pasting to poasts,’ Lond. 1596, 4to. This was written at his ‘lodging at the Flower de Luce, ouer against the Sunne without Fleetbridge.’ It is only an admonitory essay, and the author says he contemplated writing a full technical treatise on the subject.

His chief claim to remembrance, however, rests on his celebrated maps, or rather bird's-eye views, of London, Oxford, and Cambridge. The earliest was the plan of Oxford, dated 1578, of which a copy is preserved in the Bodleian Library. A copy, probably unique, of the plan of Cambridge, dated 1592, is also preserved there. These extremely curious and valuable maps were bequeathed to the Bodleian Library by Dr. Rawlinson. Having become decayed and dilapidated by exposure, they were some years ago carefully mounted on canvas, on a wooden frame, and covered with glass; by which means they are effectually secured from further injury of the same kind. The plan of Oxford was re-engraved by Robert Whittlesey, at the charge of the university, in 1728. This plate was destroyed in the fire at Mr. Nichols's in 1808. Of the celebrated plan of the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent, two copies have been preserved, one of which is to be found in the Pepysian collection at Magdalen College, Cambridge, and the other is the property of the Corporation of London. There has been much dispute as to the exact date of this admirable view of the metropolis of England as it existed in the time of Queen Elizabeth; and Mr. W. H. Overall, F.S.A., after a careful examination of all the facts, comes to the conclusion that it could not have been prepared earlier than about the year 1591. The map is 6½ feet long and 2 feet 4½ inches wide, and is printed from wooden blocks. In 1737 George Vertue, the engraver and antiquary, published a pretended copy of Agas's map of London, stating that it was executed in 1560, and that it gave a true representation of the metropolis as it existed at the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign. Vertue crowned his pretended copy with the date 1560 in Roman numerals, made palpable alterations and omissions in order that he might retain the delusive date,