The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England

Ian Mortimer

Illustrated by Robert Venables

Ian Mortimer, best-selling author of the Time Traveller’s series, launches readers into the omnipresent odours and architectural wonders of Elizabethan England in our stunning new Folio Society edition.


Ian Mortimer has a gift for fully immersing readers in history: from the outset, you’re invited to explore your surroundings first-hand, walking the streets in the shoes of your historical contemporaries and living history in real time. Following on from our best-selling The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, we’ve crafted a stunning new Folio edition of Mortimer’s meticulously researched, accessible and witty guide to the Elizabethan era.    

production details

Bound in printed and blocked buckram

Set in Caslon with Blackmoor display

488 pages

Frontispiece and 9 colour illustrations

Printed endpapers

˝ x 6¼˝

History in the present tense

Aside from Elizabeth I, Shakespeare is the most celebrated figure of the Elizabethan age, so it’s fitting that we begin our tour in Stratford-upon-Avon, taking in the ‘timber-framed, two-storey buildings with unglazed windows, tiled roofs and jetties’. The streets are unpaved and the town is a mix of grand houses and tenements; the adjoining green space piled with ‘animal entrails, faeces, vegetable and old rushes from floors’ – an unofficial amenity tip that spews noxious smells back across the town. 

Scholarly research and page-turning narrative

After travelling onwards through rural England and then exploring the bustling capital we learn about religion, professions and everyday essentials: a minefield of unwritten rules closely linked to social class. Woe betide the individual with an income under £100 who steps out in taffeta or a silk jacket, or working folk who fail to wear a wool cap on Sundays. And when it comes to food, ‘heavy fines are levied for eating meat on non-meat days’ unless you can afford the licence for carnivorous dining. 

Living in the late 1500s, you’d be thrilled to make it to your 40th birthday and would count your blessings if you avoided the plague. However, Elizabethan England also produced some of the finest writing in the English language – the likes of Christopher Marlowe and John Lyly joining the Bard – as well as incredible architecture such as Audley End, Longleat and Wollaton Hall. And then there was the not insignificant matter of the daily beer allowance; one gallon per person in many large houses, ‘whether he be a servant or a nobleman’.

A unique edition of a best-selling history

Having previously illustrated The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, talented artist Robert Venables applies his inimitable style to this edition, creating a series of character-led illustrations in the style of Elizabethan woodcuts. The gold-blocked binding design – also by Venables – shows a scene of Elizabethan musicians and dancers, while the cloth-bound cover features gold-foil blockwork, the gold replicated in motifs on the endpapers. Our designers selected Blackmoor for the display typeface; a font based on the style of old English signage. 


1 The Landscape

2 The People

3 Religion

4 Character

5 Basic Essentials

6 What to Wear

7 Travelling

8 Where to Stay

9 What to Eat and Drink

10 Hygiene, Illness and Medicine

11 Law and Disorder

12 Entertainment

About Ian Mortimer

Ian Mortimer is a British historian. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1998, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 2015, and was awarded the Alexander Prize (2004) for his work on the social history of medicine. He is the author of four medieval biographies, The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer (2003), The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III (2006), The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King (2007) and 1415: Henry V’s Year of Glory (2009), and a book of related scholarly essays, Medieval Intrigue. In 2009 his PhD thesis was published by the Royal Historical Society as The Dying and the Doctors. In 2012, following the success of The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England (published by The Folio Society in 2013), Ian Mortimer published the sequel, The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, which was made into a three-part TV series presented by him. His most recent publications include The Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration Britain (2017) and a multi-period historical novel, The Outcasts of Time (2017). Dr Mortimer has also written three novels set in the 1560s, the Clarenceux Trilogy, under his middle names, James Forrester.

About Robert Venables

Robert Venables is a British artist, who studied graphic design at the Central School of Art and Design in London. A master of the pastiche, Robert has created many high-profile advertising campaigns through major international advertising agencies. He is also a prolific editorial illustrator, creating illustrations for many magazines and newspapers. For The Folio Society he has previously illustrated The Persian Expedition and The Violet Fairy Book.


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