Helen Pierce 1
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  • 1 University Of Aberdeen
The Devil and the Detail
An Illustration of Otherness in John Nalson’s An Impartial Collection
in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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An Impartial Collection of the Great Affairs of State was published in London, in two volumes, between 1682 and 1683. Its author John Nalson was a fervent believer in the twin pillars of the monarchy and the Anglican Church. In An Impartial Collection he holds up the internecine conflict of the 1640s as an example not to be followed during the 1680s, a period of further religious and political upheaval. Nalson’s text is anything but neutral, and its perspective is neatly summarised in the engraved frontispiece which prefaces the first volume. This article examines how this illustration, depicting a weeping Britannia accosted by a two-faced clergyman and a devil, adapts and revises an established visual vocabulary of ‘otherness’, implying disruption to English lives and liberties with origins both foreign and domestic. Such polemical imagery relies on shock value and provocation, but also contributes to a sophisticated conversation between a range of pictorial sources, reshaping old material to new concerns, and raising important questions regarding the visual literacy and acuity of its viewers.

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