ASCHAM, Roger Disertissimi à Latinis epistolis, familiarium epistolarum libri tres.

London, Ar. Hatfield pro Francisco Coldocko, 1590


8vo. pp. [xvi], 540, [iv]. A-2M . “Ioannis Sturmii, Hieronymi Osorii, aliorumque epistolæ, ad Rogerum Aschamum aliosque nobiles Anglos missæ” has separate title page dated 1589; pagination and register are continuous.” ESTC. Italic Letter, some Roman. Both titles within ornate typographical borders, floriated woodcut initials, woodcut headpieces, typographical ornaments, “Sam: Milles 1688” on fly, bookplate of Robert S. Pirie on pastedown. Age yellowing, a few quires lightly browned, very rare marginal mark or spot. A very good copy in Cambridge late 17th-century tan speckled calf, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design, large fleurons, binder’s instals ‘I W’, blind stamped at outer corners, spine with triple blind ruled raised bands, edges gilt ruled, a.e.r.

The last sixteenth-century edition of this important and influential collection of letters by the Tudor humanist and tutor to Elizabeth I, Roger Ascham (1514/15-68) providing tremendous insight into Ascham’s circles at court, and more generally into humanist learning in England. His letters were extensive and varied, and were used by educators as epistolary examples, but were in themselves revealing of the academic dialogues Ascham engaged in with English and European scholars, clergymen and politicians. Appended to the three books of letters are responses from Johann Sturm under a separate title page, a 16pp selection of his Poems, and a biography by Edward Grant. “Of his letters, Edward Grant, his biographer, who was a sizar of St. John’s College in 1563, and afterwards head-master of Westminster School, published a selection, with a very full life in Latin, and several of his Latin poems, under the title of ‘Familiarium Epistolarum libri tres magna orationis elegantia conscripti, nunc denuo emendati et aucti,’ in 1576. The book was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, and was republished in London in 1578 and 1590, at Hanover in 1602 and 1610, and at Nuremberg in 1611. In 1703 William Elstob published a new and much enlarged edition at Oxford ..” DNB

As tutor to Elizabeth I his letters are particularly revealing of their relationship, her education and Ascham’s thoughts on female scholarship in general. “Roger Ascham had friends in hight places. Or so it appears from his extent correspondence. When he was not teaching in the royal nursery, writing humanist treatises .. or drafting official letters as Latin secretary to the Queen, Ascham corresponded regularly with members of Europe’s political and intellectual elite. …The letters that Ascham exchanged with Sturm have been seen as the jewel of his correspondence since it was first published in the sixteenth century. The first letter that Ascham sent to Sturm on 4 April 1550 presents an earlier attempt to petition Elizabeth while ostensibly talking to a friend. Having left the princess’s service in disgrace in 1549, Ascham hoped to regain her favour when she learned of the elaborate encomium of her virtues and talents his letter contained. The way that Ascham uses his letter to negotiate with someone other than the recipient in this instance is a reminder that early modern letters were not necessarily private documents and an illustration of how this fact might be exploited.” James Daybell, ‘Women and Epistolary Agency in Early Modern Culture.’ Some of his letters praise female scholarship more generally and he was an influential supporter of female humanist learning “We now have many honourable women who surpass the daughters of Thomas More in all kinds of learning. Amongst them the shining star, not so much for her brightness as for the splendour of her virtue and her learning, is my Lady Elizabeth sister of our King.” He even includes a detailed description of Princess Elizabeth’s reading and curriculum.

ESTC S122374. STC 829. Lowndes I p. 75.
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