The free schoole of vvarre, or, A treatise, vvhether it be lawfull to beare armes for the seruice of a prince that is of a diuers religion.

London, Printed by Iohn Bill, printer to the Kings most excellent Maiestie, 1625.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. 40 unnumbered leaves. A-K4. [without A, blank]. Roman letter. Large woodcut royal arms on title, large floriated and grotesque woodcut initials and headpieces. Light age yellowing, recto of first and verso of last fractionally dusty, upper margin shaved just touching running title in places. A very good copy in modern quarter calf over paper boards, title lettered in gilt on spine.

Rare first edition of this most important and interesting work concerning Catholic mercenary troops fighting for the Protestant armies in the Netherlands, of particular interest not only for its discussion of the religious questions involved, and of the limits of the power of leaders over their subjects; the work also gives much anecdotal insight into the nature of the fighting in the Netherlands. The work consists of “Remonstrations against the denial of absolution by confessors to soldiers on active service occasioned by the case of a Catholic priest refusing absolution to Italian soldiers fighting on behalf of the Dutch in their war against Spain, translated by Sir Nathaniel Brent from the Italian, edited by William Bedell, and printed in quarto by John Bill in 1625. The treatise accuses ‘Factious Papalines’ of using religion in the Interest of state affairs. Although the  editor tries hard to keep the author anonymous in his preface, the work was originally written in Italian by Paolo Sarpi. The Italian original, however, has not been traced.” Soko Tomita. ‘A Bibliographical Catalogue of Italian Books Printed in England 1603–1642’ no 420 p. 249. STC suggests that William Bedell may also have produced the 1630 Latin translation entitled ‘Quaestio quodlibetica’. Paolo Sarpi was a member of the Servite Order, hated yet never excommunicated by the papal See, he was the devoted and honoured servant of the Venetian Republic. The opinion of Le Courayer, that Sarpi “était Catholique en gros et quelque fois Protestant en detail” (that he was Catholic overall and sometimes Protestant in detail) seems not altogether groundless. William Bedell was invited to fill the place of chaplain to Sir Henry Wotton, the British Ambasador to Venice. Though he did not arrive until some time after the Interdict had been revoked, he became close to Sarpi who took him into his fullest confidence. He was there when the attempt to assasinate Sarpi was made and wrote of the event “I hope this accident will awake him a little more and put some spirit into him, which is his only want”. Bedell’s life was written by Bishop Burnet. A very good copy of an interesting work with particular resonance concerning the controversies of the time in England and Ireland.

STC 21758. ESTC S116734.


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