Richard Rowlands

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For other people named Richard Rowlands, see Richard Rowlands (disambiguation).

Richard Rowlands (c. 1550 – 1640), Anglo-Dutch antiquary, whose real name was Verstegen (usually anglicized Verstegan), was the son of a cooper established in East London. His grandfather, Theodore Roland Verstegen, a Dutch emigrant, came from Gelderland to the Kingdom of England c. 1500.


Under the name of Rowlaunde, Richard went to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1564, where he may have studied early English history and the Anglo-Saxon language. Leaving the university without a degree (having become a Catholic), he was indentured to a goldsmith, and became a Freeman of the Company of Goldsmiths in 1574.

He published in 1576 in London a guidebook to Western Europe, translated from the German, entitled The Post of the World.

At the end of 1581 he secretly printed an account of the execution of Edmund Campion but was discovered and 'being apprehended, brake out of England'. In exile he resumed the name of Verstegen.

In Paris he was briefly imprisoned at the insistence of the English Ambassador; in Rome, he was the recipient of a short-lived pension from the pope. In both of these cities he published accounts of the suffering of priests in England.

In 1585 or 1586 he moved to Antwerp, and set up in business as a publisher and engraver, an intelligencer, and a smuggler of books and people. He spent the rest of his long life in Antwerp, dying there in 1640.


Plate from Theatrum Crudelitatum haereticorum nostri temporis (1587), depicting reported Protestant atrocities.

His original works include Theatrum Crudelitatum haereticorum nostri temporis (= Theatre of the Cruelties of the heretics of our time) (1587); A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities concerning the most noble and renowned English Nation (1605; reprinted 1628, 1634, 1652, 1655, 1673); Neder Duytsche Epigrammen (published by Henry Jaye in 1617); Sundry Successive Regal Governments in England (1620); and Spiegel der Nederlandsche Elenden (1621). The verses on the defeat of the Irish rebels under Tyrone, entitled England's Joy, by R. R. (1601), have mistakenly been attributed to him.

The Nederlantsche Antiquiteyten, published from 1613 onwards in a variety of editions (1631, 1646, 1662, 1700, 1701, 1705, 1714, 1725, 1733, 1756, 1809), is an adaptation of his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence. From 1617 to about 1630 Verstegan was a prolific writer in Dutch, producing epigrams, characters, jestbooks, polemics. He also penned journalistic commentaries, satires and editorials for the Nieuwe Tijdinghen (New Tidings) printed in Antwerp by Abraham Verhoeven from 1620 to 1629. This makes him one of the earliest identifiable newspaper journalists in Europe.


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Rolf H. Bremmer Jr, 'The Anglo-Saxon Pantheon According to Richard Verstegen (1605)', in Timothy Graham, ed., The Recovery of Old English. Anglo-Saxon Studies in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Kalamazoo, Michigan, 2000), p. 141-172.
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Paul Arblaster, ‘Verstegan [Rowlands], Richard (1548x50–1640)’, 2004 [1] accessed 5 Nov 2006
  • Arblaster, Paul (2004). Antwerp and the World. Richard Verstegan and the International Culture of Catholic Reformation. Leuven: Leuven University Press. 
  • Kendrick, Thomas (1950). British Antiquity. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. pp. 116–20. 
  • On Verstegan's Restitution of Decayed Intelligence... see Clement, Richard W. (1998). "Richard Verstegan's reinvention of Anglo-Saxon England: A contribution from the Continent". In Gentrup, William F. Reinventing the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: Constructions of the Medieval and Early Modern Periods. BREPOLS. pp. 19–36. ISBN 2-503-50804-9. 
  • A volume of essays on various aspects of Verstegan's activities and writings: Richard Rowlands Verstegan: A Versatile Man in an Age of Turmoil, edited by R. Zacchi and M. Morini. Late Medieval and Early Modern Studies (LMEMS 14), Turnhout, Brepols, 2012. ISBN 9782503535753.

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