Brand, John


Brand, John
(1744-1806)
   Curate in several parishes in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, before becoming rector of St Mary-at-Hill and St Mary Hubbard, City of London (1784), where he lived for the rest of his life. Brand was one of the new breed of 18th-century antiquarians who were becoming fascinated by British traditions rather than the primarily classical interests of their predecessors, and he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1777, serving as the Society's Resident Secretary from his arrival in London until his death. As were many of his contemporaries, Brand was an indefatigable collector, of books (his library at his death numbered over 10,000 volumes), manuscripts, and, in particular, notes, and the book by which he is now remembered started life as his annotation of an earlier work. A previous Newcastle curate, Henry *Bourne, had published a pamphlet of miscellaneous lore and traditions under the title of Antiquitates Vulgares, or the Antiquities of the Common People, in 1725. Brand reprinted this, in 1777, with his own comments and notes, as Observations on Popular Antiquities, and from then on began gathering material for a second, expanded edition. For both Bourne and Brand, the material was the remnant of the superstitions foisted on the people by pre-Reformation Catholicism, and thus, although fascinating as evidence, to be held at arm's length. By the time he died, in September 1806, he was still amassing material and his manuscript was sold to publishers hoping to turn it into a book.
   The huge task of editing Brand's material into publishable form fell to Sir Henry *Ellis, who had little time to devote to the project, and could do no more than add the new material in the form of footnotes, but, despite its faults, this edition hit the taste of the time, and became one of the standard works to which antiquarians and folklorists turned for source material. Numerous other editions have appeared over the intervening years, including Ellis's three-volume set, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain (a new edition with further additions) in 1849, and an alphabetically arranged Dictionary of Faiths and Folklore edited by W. Carew Hazlitt in 1905, and recently reprinted. It has been said that Brand gave scant credit to Bourne for his pioneering work, but with so many editorial emendations and additions in later editions it is now difficult for the modern reader to ascertain what is by Bourne, Brand, Ellis, or subsequent hands, making the dating of much of the material extremely problematic.
   ■ DNB; Dorson, 1968: 13-30.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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