The general historie of the Magnificent State of Venice.

London, G. Eld and W. Stansby, 1612.


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. pp. (viii), 579, (iii), 500, (xliv). Roman letter. Large pictorial woodcut map of Venice on title page, woodcut portrait vignettes of the Doges within decorative frames throughout, large ornamental initials and head and tail pieces. Water staining to four leaves in mid-volume (doubtless before the two parts were united), the odd marginal finger mark, small tear, rust stain or spot; a good clean copy in handsome contemporary morocco over boards, covers double gilt bordered, gilt fleurons at corners, spine gilt ruled fleurons and gilt morocco label, a little worn in the usual places. Manuscript inscription “For the most illustrious and High Borne Prince James Duke of Monmouth. Hen: Smythe”, early case mark on first pastedown.

A very handsome copy of the first edition of Shute’s English translation of Fougasse’s monumental History of Venice, with most interesting royal provenance. “James himself “took a great interest in the controversy over the Venetian interdict” (Sommerville, 1991: 61), with the shared Anglo–Venetian concern about papal assaults on temporal power explicitly raised by the controversy over the Oath of Allegiance in 1606. This oath “renounc(ed) the pope’s claims to be able to depose kings and released subjects from allegiance to their sovereigns”, with “any recusant who twice refused the oath.. liable to the penalties of praemunire”. (Sommerville, 1995: xx). Paul V twice demanded that English Catholics should refuse to take the oath, inspiring James to write his Triplici Nodo in which he explicitly compared the Pope’s quarrel with England with that of Venice. Venice under the interdict, then, shared the same concern as England did, and in affirming its own supreme jurisdictional authority, provided the perfect example of how to act.

Indeed, the way in which Venice became increasingly thought of for its anti–papal stance rather than its constitution is well reflected by a translation which appeared in 1612. William Shute’s rendering of Thomas de Fougasse’s The general historie of the magnificent state of Venice, which Markku Peltonen identifies as being first and foremost concerned with the Republic’s mixed constitution (Peltonen, 1995: 178), in fact begins with a swipe at present day Rome, claiming that “that which now Vsurps that name is not Rome, but her Carkasse, or rather Sepulcher”. (Shute, 1612). Large parts of the Historie are then taken up, not by the Contarini style feting of the Republic’s constitution, but rather by a recital of Venice’s relations with the papacy, with the text culminating in an account of the recent interdict. In other words, it is Venice as the anti–papal champion, rather than Venice as the perfect constitution which seems to interest Englishmen at this point. And this continued throughout James’s reign, with the anti–papal work of men such as Paolo Sarpi and Marco Antonio de Dominis.” Greg Tibbs. ‘Ventian Moments In Early Modern English Political thought.’

This copy was presented by Henry Smythe to the great grandson of James I, James Scott, First Duke of Monmouth, First Duke of Buccleuch, (9 April 1649 – 15 July 1685). Originally called James Crofts or James Fitzroy, he was born in Rotterdam, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter. Monmouth was executed in 1685 after making an unsuccessful attempt to depose his uncle, King James II, in what is commonly called the Monmouth Rebellion. Declaring himself the legitimate King, Monmouth attempted to capitalize on his position as the son (albeit illegitimate) of Charles II, hoping his Protestantism, in opposition to the Catholic James, would help in a popular uprising against the King. Due to his military success in the Anglo Dutch wars and at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, he was regarded as many as preferable to the Duke of York in succession to the throne. On his father’s death he landed at Lyme Regis with a small force in an attempt to take the throne from his uncle, but was defeated at the battle of Sedgemoor. He was executed at the tower in 1685. A most interesting provenance and an excellent copy in contemporary morocco.

STC 11207. Lowndes. 825.


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