The good orderynge of a common weale:

London, by Ihon Kingston, for Ihon Wight, dwellyng in Poules Churchyarde, 1559.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. ff. [iv], 212, [iv]. [par.]⁴ A-3G⁴, ²[par.]⁴. Last blank. Black letter, some Roman and Italic. Title within four part grotesque woodcut border, woodcut white on black criblé, floriated and grotesque initials. Autograph ’William Herbert 1771’ (English bibliographer) on fly, his shelf mark on pastedown, autograph of “A. G. Hunter, Balshielly, 1812” on second fly, that of “G. Spencer, Grays Inn” on verso, printed note from the Britwell Court sale, Sotheby’s London, 3 May 1920, loosely inserted, armorial bookplate of Major J. R. Abbey, with his pencil purchase note ‘Quaritch – Bindings, 1921’ on fly, Robert S. Pirie’s pencil acquisition note from the Bradley Martin sale, lot 3390 above. Very light age yellowing, the very occasional thumb mark or spot. A very fine copy, absolutely crisp and clean, in a magnificent contemporary English calf binding, covers with two gilt ruled borders, the first infilled with black paint, the second, finer, filled with silver, very fine gilt blocked corner pieces and large central oval, with arabesque strap and scroll work design, the raised scroll work painted in silver, semée of gilt three dot pointillé tool, spine gilt ruled into a single panel, double gilt ruled into five compartments, upper central and lower compartments with a gilt scroll work design infilled in silver, the two intermediate panels with a semée of gilt three dot pointillé tool and a large central fleuron, edges gilt hatched and ruled, all edges gilt, title ms. on upper edge before gilding, small, very expert restoration to headband and lower outer corner of upper cover, in folding box with J.R. Abbey’s armorial device gilt stamped on red morocco label

Very fine copy of this exceptionally rare and important work in a most beautiful contemporary Elizabethan binding by the ‘Morocco binder’, remarkably preserved, with extraordinary provenance. The first edition in English, dedicated to Princess Elizabeth (future Queen), of Ferrarius’s De republica bene instituenda (Basel, 1556). “In 1559 Elizabeth was the dedicatee of a translation of the Lutheran jurist Joannes Ferrarius Montanus’s book ‘Touching the good ordering of a common weal..” In the dedication, William Bavande, the translator, explained that although the law tried to make her subjects “embrace justice, temperence, upright dealing, and all kinds of virtues” it never fully succeeded. Therefore magistrates were needed to encourage virtue by enforcing the law. The magistrate who esteemed both God and the Queen by living virtuously and enforcing virtue, was himself honourable, for the result of virtue was honour.” Norman Jones “Governing by Virtue: Lord Burghley and the Management of Elizabethan England.” The work is a most interesting and influential political treatise concerning the best way to govern a nation and its dedication to Elizabeth as Princess is no coincidence. “In 1559, ‘commonweal’ (as opposed to ‘publique weal’) depicted res publica on a printed title-page for the first time. The cultural driver was international Protestantism, a primary instigator the Earl of Leicester. In 1559, the common lawyer William Bavande ‘Englished’ ‘Awoorke of Ioannes Ferrarius Montanus … Ferrarius was a German Humanist and follower of the great Lutheran and humanist Melanchthon; he placed particular especial on lesser magistrates in upholding and reforming res publica” Phil Withington “Society in Early Modern England.”

The sumptuous Elizabethan binding is almost certainly the work of the London “Morocco binder” who made highly decorative bindings for Robert Dudley amongst others. This binding is very similar in style and tooling to M M Foot, The Henry Davis Gift, vol II, No. 45, and BL Davis60, with the same semée of a three dot pointillé tool, and elaborate block-stamped corner-pieces. Particularly revealing is the use of the painted black border with a fine second border in silver, the flat spine also has been gilt ruled in compartments in a very similar style. See also H M Nixon, Five Centuries of English Bookbinding, London, 1978, n. 18., BL shelfmark c24c14, and c25h3 for other very similar examples of the Morocco binder’s work.

With extraordinary provenance; It came into the possession of the celebrated English bibliographer and collector William Herbert in 1779, a year before he began the project of updating Ames typograhical Antiquities, the basis of his own seminal work. “his edition of the ‘Typographical Antiquities’ increased three times the size of the original of Ames. The unfinished edition of Dibdin has not superseded it, and it remains a monument of industry, and the foundation of our bibliography of old English literature.” DNB. Since then this volume has been one of the prized possessions of a succession of great book collectors of the C19th and C20th; Britwell Court, Major J.R. Abbey’s extraordinary collection, Bradley Martin and Robert S. Pirie.

Very rare: this appears to be the only copy in the trade for more than a century.

ESTC S102013. STC 10831.


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