Evidence from a Cambridge adultery case heard in 1596. Reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.

This is another exhibit in the same case, and an extraordinary document: a list of objections to a witness, presented to discredit his reliability, written in the hand of the female defendant, Bridget Edmunds. Bridget briefly protested her innocence before she turned witness for prosecution, alongside her husband.

By the time the case was transferred to the Vice Chancellor’s Court in Cambridge, she was helping prove that the affair had indeed taken place, despite Covell’s plea of innocence. Her objections here are to Roger Mountain – the ‘mountayn’ of the heading – a witness for Covell. Particularly amusing is point 3: ‘m. read lectures to me of bawdry’, and the marginal annotation, presumably added by the court clerk: ‘viz. the pallace of pleasure as she termeth it’. This is very probably William Painter’s Palace of Pleasure (enlarged second edition, 1575); or it could be George Pettie’s Petite Pallace of Pettie his Pleasure (1576), modelled on Painter. Both were collections of prose tales, mainly from Italy. The document thus offers intriguing cultural knowledge. The last objection (no. 8) offers sexual knowledge through a vivid evocation of place and posture, turning the Vice Chancellor’s room into a veritable ‘bawdy court’: ‘m. telld me that covel confessed that the sweetest sport that ever he had with me was in the chayre’!