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NORTON, Robert

The gunner shevving the vvhole practise of artillerie:

London, Printed by A[ugustine] M[athewes] for Humphrey Robinson, 1628.

£9,500

FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. [xvi], 100, 99-158, [iv]. first and last leaf blank, 27 leaves of plates (complete). A, B-Y. Roman letter, floriated initials, woodcut initials and headpieces, woodcut ornaments and printed diagrams, title within architectural border of upright cannons (McKerrow and Ferguson 291) just trimmed at fore-edge, plates, undivided, as issued, 8, 9, 11 and 14 trimmed to page with some loss, bookplate of Thomas Fremantle (Baron Cottesloe) on pastedown, label of the ‘Westdean Library’ above. Light age yellowing, minor dust soiling to end-leaves and in a few margins, the odd thumb mark. A very nice copy, crisp and clean, unsophisticated in slightly later English calf, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands gilt ruled in compartments, gilt fleurons (rubbed), red morocco label gilt lettered, joints repaired at head.

First edition of Robert Norton’s important work, remarkably complete with all plates. Norton undertook to provide the English reader and especially gunner “who wants respect and encouragement” with the best continental writings on gunnery, artillery and all sorts of fireworks “for pleasure, triumph and war service”; largely adapted from Uffano’s “Tratado de la artileria”, reusing the splendid de Bry plates produced for that work. The text opens with definitions of terms, such as ‘swiftnesse’, ‘to mount’ and ‘to expell’. Next are the physical requirements of the gun, e.g. “That the superficies of the Columne of the Peece bee perfectly round,” followed by maxims:e.g. “The lighter are more moveable than the heavier.” The section concludes with 67 theorems of general and gun-related science: e.g. “A peece reverseth when it dischargeth”. “The sinewes of the art of artillerie,” including mathematics and its practical applications in calculating numbers of troops, optimal formations and measuring towers etc are discussed, accompanied by numerous woodcut diagrams.

The main section of the text then addresses the practise of artillery, beginning with a definition. Topics covered are the inventors of guns and gunpowder, the distribution and use of early forms of weaponry in Europe, with their weights and measures included in tabular form, the materials required for the fabrication of various kinds of gun and cannons and potential problems, the construction of moulds for cannons and other weapons with diagrams illustrating the firing power of various guns, techniques and calculations to assure the gunner of a good shot, defend a besieged fortress, make counter-batteries, to tell if powder is suitable to fire, plant mines, transport equipment, and to make ‘ordinary and extraordinary matches’. The work concludes with a chapter on ‘artificiall fireworkes for tryumph and service,’ followed by engraved plates featuring armies, cannons, firing trajectories, calibre gauges, sailors coming to land, elaborate fireworks, and cavalry.

Robert Norton (d.1635) studied engineering and gunnery under John Reynolds, England’s master gunner, later becoming a royal gunner. He published several works on mathematics and artillery, of which this was the last. His works were notable for their scientific explanation of gunnery and that of the mathematical principles on which it relied.

An excellent copy, very rare complete with all the plates. Estc. calls for 27 plates; these plates were often split up and placed in half sheets in the text. This copy has the 27 numbered plates as issued, none have been split.

ESTC S115254. [Calls for 27 plates.] STC 18673 (both BL copies incomplete). Cockle 114. Riling 100. Spaulding & Karpinski 116.

K193