Clare College Cambridge

May 2011 - 'Frisquing and Making Merry'

The following letter from Edward Browne to Samuel Blythe was written on the 1st May 1679 congratulating Blythe on his appointment as Master of Clare in 1678 (ref. CCAD/1/1/2a, p. 63b).

Although letters of congratulation to Blythe on his appointment are to be expected, the rest of this particular letter contains further interesting details such as a rather vivid description of Browne's most recent illness and personal opinions on religion. Quite possibly the most interesting aspect of this letter is what the 'sciogirdles' were that Browne said he would send to Butler. After much discussion, two possibilies emerged. The first was an embroidered belt from the Greek island of Chios, for which Scio is the Genoese version of Chios. With Browne writing the letter from Constantinople, Chios is relatively close so it is fair to assume that access to these belts would have been fairly easy. The second likely explanation is that a sciogirdle is a type of mantle or girdle that an undergraduate would be entitled to wear after correctly answering questions asked of him by members of the faculty to which he belonged in order that he successfully graduate. It is possible from the context of the letter that these 'sciogirdles' were to be used as part of some sort of uniform for a society, the society potentially being just another term for the College.

Further suggestions for the 'sciogirdle' included a frame from which a piece of optical scientific equipment could be suspended and a hilt from which a sword could be hung. For a transcription of this letter please click here.