Historiae martyrum Gorcomiensium, maiori numero Fratrum Minorum, qui pro fide Catholica a perduellibus interfecti sunt anno Domini M.D. LXXII. Libri quatuor.

Douai, Baltazaris Belleri, 1603.

£1,250

FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. (xvi), 302. lacking last blank. Roman letter. Woodcut floriated initials, typographical head and tail-pieces. Light age yellowing, a few quires slightly browned (poor quality paper), insignificant worm trail at gutter over a few quires, rare marginal mark. A good, clean, copy in C19th three quarter vellum over speckled paper boards, a little soiled.

Rare first edition of the best contemporary account of the massacre of nineteen Catholics by the ‘Watergeuzen’ or ‘Sea-beggars’ under the command of Willem II van der Marck, Lord of Lumey, at the town of Gorkum in 1572. Estius, born in Gorkum, was an important Counter Reformation theologian, who studied theology at Louvain, and became chancellor of Douai University where he worked closely with the English Recusants, Allen and Thomas Stapleton to edit the Bible of Douai, the standard Bible for English-speaking Catholics for three centuries.

In 1569 William of Orange, who had openly placed himself at the head of the party of revolt in Holland, granted letters of marque to a number of vessels manned by crews of pirates drawn from all nationalities and by the end of 1569 there were 84 ‘Sea Beggar’ ships in action. At first they were content merely to plunder both by sea and land, carrying their booty to English ports to refit and replenish their stores. However, in 1572, Elizabeth I abruptly refused to admit the Sea Beggars to her harbours. Without refuge, they made a desperate attack on Brielle, which they seized by surprise, in the absence of the Spanish garrison, on 1 April 1572. Encouraged by this success, they took Flushing. The capture of these two towns prompted several nearby towns to declare for revolt, starting a chain reaction resulting in the majority of Holland joining in a general revolt.

In June, Dortrecht and Gorkum fell into their hands and at Gorkum they captured nine Franciscans monks with two lay brothers from the same monastery, and also rounded up the parish priests. “After enduring much suffering and abuse in the prison at Gorkum (26 June-6 July) the first fifteen martyrs were transferred to Brielle. On their way to Dortrecht they were exhibited for money to the curious and arrived at Brielle 13 July. On the following day, Lumey, the commander of the Watergeuzen, caused the martyrs to be interrogated and ordered a sort of disputation. In the meantime the four other martyrs also arrived. It was exacted of each that he abandon his belief in the Blessed Sacrement and in papal supremacy. All remained firm in their faith. Meanwhile there came a letter from William of Orange which enjoined all those in authority to leave priests and religious unmolested. Nevertheless Lumey caused the martyrs to be hanged in the night of 9 July, in a turf shed amid cruel mutilations. Their beatification took place on 14 Nov., 1675, and their canonization on 29 June, 1865.” Catholic Encyclopaedia.

Estius was still studying at Louvain when his native town was captured. His father, brother and uncle were imprisoned. Both his father and brother escaped, but Nicolas Pieck, his uncle, Superior of the Franciscan convent at Gorcum, was amongst those put to death.

BM STC Fr. C17th. p. 166.

L1548

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