Instructions for a Right Comforting Afflicted Consciences (Robert Bolton)
Religious scholars and preachers tended to contemplate melancholy more than any of the other four humours, presumably because it generated the most controversy. Robert Bolton, who wrote Instructions for a Right Comforting Afflicted Consciences in 1631, was perhaps one of the most staunch disparagers of the “horrible humour.” Bolton was a rector of Broughton, Northamptonshire, and a well-known conformist preacher. While he differentiated “grief occasioned by humoral imbalance from sorrow born of a repentant conscience” like many of his contemporaries in the period, he set himself somewhat apart from other writers by cautioning his readers even against excessive “godly sorrow.” If inappropriately managed, he believed it was a corrupting source that could prevent one from doing the works required of a good Christian.
Interestingly, he describes the effect of sorrow on the body by envisioning it within a bodily context, suggesting that grief “grates most upon the vitall spirits; dries up soonest the freshest marrow in the bones; and most sensibly suckes out the purest, and refinedst bloud in the heart.” His book functions as a guide of sorts, warning readers against falling prey to sorrow. He contends that melancholy can be alleviated through spiritual purification, with the sadness generated by black bile cleansed by devotion to God.
A Look Inside
To the left are images of Instructions for a right, including the makeshift board-and-cloth binding and an inner page. The book has a relatively simple structure and the pages are joined with a stab binding technique (note the holes on the inner edges of the leaves).
The chapter above (XV, or 15) is one of the most pertinent chapters for the study of the humours and melancholy. In it, Bolton offers spiritual guidance for those with 'afflicted consciences', even adopting medical terminology by referring to a person seeking religious guidance as a 'patient.' The use of terminology lends more credence to the idea that melancholy was a malady toward which any and all healers should offer their counsel.
INSTRVCTIONS For a Right comforting AFFLICTED CONSCIENCES: With speciall Antidotes against some grievous Temptations. Delivered for the most part in the Lecture at Kettering in Northamp-tonshire. By ROBERT BOLTON, Batchelor in Divinitie, and Preacher of Gods Word at Brough-ton in the same Countie. The second Edition, divided into Chapters, with a Table of the Contents annexed.
PUBLISHER: Printed by T[homas]H[arper] for Thomas Weaver.
ITEM TYPE: Book
CALL NUMBER: VIC CRRS- BJ 1278.C66B64
STC lists 10 copies. ESTC lists 21 copies. Printer's name from STC. First leaf blank. Three pages after p. 68 are 65, 66, 76.
(4to)  1-240, 239-595,  p. P.2 misnumbered "14", p. 3 misnumbered "15", p. 67 misnumbered "76". "The three pages after p. 68 are numbered: 65, 66, 76" (EEBO). [par.]1-[par.]2, 2R1-2R2, [par.]3-[par.]8, A-2P8 2Q3 ($4); Boards measure: 18.9 x 14.9 cm. Leaves measure 18.2 x 14.8 cm.
TYPE: Roman; Italic
LANGUAGES: English; Latin; Greek; Hebrew
DEDICATIONS: Various; individula dedications precede each play or set of poems; various dedicatory sonnets at the opening.
TABLES AND INDEXES: Catalogue of volume contents on A3.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Head and tail pieces; ornamented initials etc.
PRINTED MARGINALIA: Moderate to heavy.
Early pasteboards with remnants of calf sewn to later green cloth spine. Tied. Four early thong supports found on inner boards, one of which (see backboard) is still attached to spine. Sewing threads in blue and white still present. A good example of the support structures of an early bound copy. Some signs of reddening to foreedges.
CRRS bookplate on inside front board. Victoria University book label found beneath CRRS bookplate. Inscription on first fly in blue pen reads "Placed by Rev. J. Elwood Mitchell. 294 Warden Ave. Scarborough Ont.
HANDWRITTEN NOTES: Final fly has a short note in black ink in an early secretary.
 Angus Gowland, "Consolations for Melancholy in Renaissance Humanism," Society and Politics 6, no. 1 (April 2012): 16.
 Stephen Pender, "Melancholy, Grief, and the Imagination in Early Modern England," Philosophy and Rhetoric 43, no. 1 (2010): 55.
 Ibid, 55.
 Gowland, "Consolations for Melancholy," 21.
 Pender, "Melancholy, Grief, and the Imagination," 56.