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Raphael Holinshed

Born: c. 1520
Died: c. 1580
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Historian

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Chronicles

English chronicler, belonged probably to a Cheshire family, and according to Anthony Wood was educated at one of the English universities, afterwards becoming a "minister of God's Word." The authenticity of these facts is doubtful, although it is possible that Raphael was the Holinshed who matriculated from Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1544. About 1560 he came to London and was employed as a translator by Reginald or Reyner Wolfe, to whom he says he was "singularly beholden." Wolfe was already engaged in the preparation of a universal history, and Holinshed worked for some years on this undertaking; but after Wolfe's death in 1573 the scope of the work was abridged, and it appeared in 1578 as the Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The work was in two volumes, which were illustrated, and although Holinshed did a great deal of the work he received valuable assistance from William Harrison (1534-1593) and others, while the part dealing with the history of Scotland is mainly a translation of Hector Boece's Scotorum historiae. Afterwards, as is shown by his will, Holinshed served as steward to Thomas Burdet of Bramcott, Warwickshire, and died about 1580.

A second edition of the Chronicles, enlarged and improved but without illustrations, which appeared in 1587, contained statements which were offensive to Queen Elizabeth and her advisers, and immediately after publication some of the pages were excised by order of the privy council. These excisions were published separately in 1723. An edition of the Chronicles, in accordance with the original text, was published in six volumes in 1808. The work contains a large amount of information, and shows that its compilers were men of great industry; but its chief interest lies in the fact that it was largely used by William Shakespeare and other Elizabethan dramatists; Shakespeare, who probably used the edition of 1587, obtaining from the Chronicles material for most of his historical plays, and also for Macbeth, King Lear and part of Cymbeline. A single manuscript by Holinshed is known to be extant. This is a translation of Florence of Worcester, and is in the British Museum.

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