A fourme of prayer with thankesgiuing, to be vsed by all the Kings Maiesties louing subiects euery yeere the fift of August. Being the day of his Highnesse happy deliuerance from the trayterous and bloody attempt of the Earle of Govvry and his brother

London, By Robert Barker, printer to the Kings most excellent Maiestie, 1606.


4to. pp. 27 unnumbered leaves. A-G⁴ (-G4). Black letter, some Roman. Title page with large woodcut of the Royal arms, floriated woodcut initials, grotesque woodcut headpiece, Christie-Miller’s purchase or price record “Laing Sale Part I, 1537 – £5 Ellis Court 10/ 5.10” his instruction to binder above in pencil “Bedford, cleaning mending and binding £2.10.6” and “C+P 14 amp 1883” above. Light age yellowing, title a little dusty, lower and upper blank corners expertly restored, small closed tear in last leaf, and outer upper corner of A2, expertly restored, rare minor marginal dust soiling, upper and lower margins short. A very good, clean copy, in beautiful C19th crimson morocco signed by Bedford, covers triple gilt ruled to a panel design, fleurons to outer corners, arms of Samuel Christe-Miller (1810 – 1889) (Stamp 2, British armorial bindings) gilt stamped at centres, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, single gilt ruled in compartments, richly gilt, Christie-Miller’s monogram gilt stamped at centres, edges gilt ruled, inner dentelles richly gilt, combed marbled endpapers, a.e.g.

Rare and most interesting “Form of Prayer” to be performed every Year in celebration of King James’ deliverance from the plot (so called) against his life by the Earl of ‘Gowry’. In August 1600 King James I of Scotland arrived with his retinue at the Castle of John Ruthven, third Earl of Gowrie. Although there appears to have been prior correspondence between Gowrie and the King the visit was unexpected. In circumstances never fully explained a melée took place between certain of the King’s retainers and Gowrie’s, in one of the towers of the castle, after Gowrie had been told that the King had left. The King had not, he was present at the fight, (if such it was) and both Gowrie and his brother were killed. Whatever the cause of their deaths, and whether intended by James or not, they were certainly turned by James to his advantage. Gowrie and his brother were posthumously accused of high treason, their bodies hanged and quartered, the whole family proscribed and all their assets and estates forfeited to the Crown; even the name Ruthven was abolished.“Even in the sanitised printed version obvious inconsistencies hadn’t been ironed out. Was it a botched kidnapping? Otherwise, why would Ruthven’s brother bind the king if he intended to kill him? And why would the ordinarily wary King go alone with Ruben to a private chamber to see a pot of gold? Those who knew of Jameses attraction to handsome young man might have thought it likely that this was a flirtatious pass or assignation gone wrong. Or was the cover story cleverly concocted by James himself, who used the visit to kill off rivals to whom, as many in Scotland knew, he owed a great deal of money?” James Shapiro .’The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606.’ Shakespeare’s company, The King’s Men, performed a play ‘The Tragedy of Gowrie’ twice in December 1604. “we’ll never know how closely the Kings man’s version of the story stuck to the Royal script, but despite its initial popularity the play was quickly banned and never printed. It may well be that even a faithful re-enactment of the King story raised too many unanswered questions. Chamberlain, our only source of information about the lost play, wasn’t able to learn why it was censored: “Whether the matter or manner be not well handled, or that it be thought unfit that princes should be put on stage in their lifetime, I hear that some great counsellors are much displeased with it.” There were a few unspoken rules in Shakespeare’s day. One was that you never portrayed a living Monarch on stage (the risk of seeming to mark Jameses gait or Scottish accent was far too great). Another was the public holidays should always commemorate the dead, not the living (these were, after all, holy days, with a divine warrant.) In staging ‘The Tragedy of Gowrie’, Shakespeare’s company broke the first rule; in insisting that his subjects celebrate the 5th of August as a public holiday James broke the second. Shortly after his succession in 1603 the Royal printer published a form of prayer with Thanksgiving to use by all the kings majesties loving subjects every year the 5th of August. James also commanded that a special sermon annually be preached in court as part of the holiday celebration.” James Shapiro .’The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606.’ Shakespeare never performed the ‘The Tragedy of Gowrie’ again, however it was undoubtedly most influential in his writing of his great tragedy ‘Macbeth’.

The binding by Bedford, is sumptuous and was hugely expensive. Samuel Christe-Miller also owned a copy of the 1600 first edition of “Gowreis conspiracie”, which he also had bound in red morocco by Bedford, now in the National Library of Scotland. 

ESTC S122853. STC 16490. Lowndes 923. Not in Pforzheimer.


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