De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis, libri quattor
Antwerp, Christopher Plantin, 1584.
FIRST EDITION, 4to, pp (ii) 3-264 (viii). Roman letter, some Italic, woodcut initials, printer’s device on title page. Light age yellowing, very slight foxing, a good, clean, wide margined copy in mid 19thC olive morocco, spine and edges gilt.
FIRST EDITION of Stanihurst’s interesting and controversial history of Ireland. Opening with a dedicatory epistle to his brother-in-law, Patrick Plunkett, Baron Dunsany, Stanihurst, writing in Latin, gives a detailed description of Ireland’s geographical and enthnological features; one of his aims, he tells Plunkett, is to dispel Ireland’s obscurity and raise continental awareness of the country. The next three chapters narrate the Normans’ invasion of Ireland in 1169 (in support of Diarmait Mac Murchada, the ousted King of Leinster) and their subsequent settlement there, with extended descriptions of the arrival of Richard of Clare, Earl de Pembroke, known as Strongbow. The account ends at the beginning of the 13th century and the accession of King John. One of Stanihurst’s main sources was the 12th-century Welsh historian Giraldus Cambrensis, and the work ends with an annotated appendix of extracts from his Expugnatio Hibernica, from which Stanihurst’s numerous errors, pointed out by later editors, are believed to have derived. Stanihurst positions himself as a descendant of the Norman Irish settlers, rather than a ‘true’ Celtic Irishman, and is credited with coining the term ‘Anglo-Irish’. He was later criticised for his ‘want of sympathy with the native Irish and his prejudiced misrepresentations’ and his ignorance of the Irish language (DNB).
Born in Dublin in 1547, the son of the Recorder of Dublin and Speaker of the Irish Parliament, Stanihurst went to Kilkenny Grammar School and thence to University College Oxford and both Furnivall’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn. His tutor at Oxford was Edmund Campion, the Jesuit martyr, and Stanihurst accompanied him on research trips for Campion’s own history of Ireland. Raphael Holinshed asked Stanihurst to finish the Irish chapter of his Chronicles, but the result incurred the disapproval of the Privy Council.
Due to political unrest and his association with Campion, Stanihurst was arrested and imprisoned in 1580. On release, he fled to Leiden, known for relative religious tolerance, where he published an innovative – and widely mocked – translation of the Aeneid, attempting to preserve Virgil’s original hexameter scansion. He also worked as an alchemist and advisor in Spain, under Philip II, but never returned to Britain, dying in Brussels in 1618.
BM STC C16 Dutch p. 192. Voet. V 2228A “The work was actually printed at Leiden, but a number of copies received a title page with Plantin’s Antwerp Imprint.”. Shaaber S 292. Adams S 1633. Brunet V 508. “livre peu commun, et qui est recherché en Angleterre.”