BARLETI, Marin. The historie of George Castriot, surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albanie.

London, for William Ponsonby, 1596


FIRST EDITION, folio, pp. [xvi] 498 [xviii]: [par.] , A-2V . ‘Variant: [par.]4r line 1 begins “Gentle reader” With sonnet by Edmund Spenser on leaf [par.]8r.’ ESTC. Roman letter, side notes and detailed table in italic, large woodcut printer’s device on title of an anchor held from the clouds within decorative border (McKerrow 170), woodcut initials and head- and tailpieces, extra illustrated with full page engraving of “George Castriot, otherwise called Scanderberg. Prince of Eprius Scourge of the Turkes.” circa 1700, bookplate of Boies Penrose, ‘Old East India House’ on pastedown, engraved armorial bookplate Boies Penrose II above, early autograph of Gilbert Dethis, Knight, and Charles Harris on fly. Age yellowing, some minor marginal spotting, outer margins of leaves [par.]3 and 4 trimmed, fore-edge of title and second leaf browned and slightly frayed, a few old thumb marks or stains in blank margins. A very good, clean copy in contemporary calf, covers bordered with a triple blind and single gilt rule, arms of Elisabeth I gilt stamped at centres, rebacked to match, corners restored, stubbs from a C16th English language ms.

First, and only edition in STC, of the first English translation of La Vardin’s history of Scanderbeg, itself a French version of Barlezio’s Italian original. The English translation is the work of Z. Jones, who is unnoticed by D.N.B.; one of the three commendatory verses is by Edmund Spenser. In 1423, when Murad II invaded Epirus, Scanderbeg was one of the three princely hostages handed over to the Turk; he spent the next 20 years in Ottoman service, his brilliant abilities gaining him the high favour of the Sultan. In 1443, however, he proclaimed his Christianity, seized Kroia and gathered the Albanian clansmen to his banner. For 25 years he maintained a guerrilla war against the Turks, easily routing the armies sent against him; he is said to have killed 3000 of the enemy by his own hand. In the truce of 1461 Mohammed acknowledged him as Lord of Albania and Epirus. Though his kingdom fragmented after his death, Scanderbeg’s role in resisting the Ottoman advance was invaluable in the preservation of Christendom. Marinus Barletius Scodrensis (ca. 1450?-1512), or Barleti as he was known in Albanian, was an eyewitness to the Turkish invasion of his native city, Shkodrës. He published this account of George Kastrioti, the prince known as “the Christian Alexander,” roughly 40 years after Kastrioti’s death. Barleti’s work was originally translated from Latin into French (and notably expanded upon) by Jacques de Lavardin; the preliminary matter here includes the first appearance in print of Spenser’s dedicatory sonnet “Upon the Historie of George Castriot.” La Vardin’s history was first published in 1576, this translation following in 1596, in turn followed by an expanded French edition in 1621. “This work was, in fact received within two contexts. The first was the reign of Henry III and the religious division in France, while the second, relevant to the expanded 1621 edition, was the Thirty Years War (1618-48), after the Battle of the White Mountain in Bohemia in 1620, and the violent struggle that made the expansion of the Ottoman Empire possible. In both cases, Islam is presented as the punishment for the sins of the Christians and the consequence of their internal divisions. However the Historie of Georges Castriot is primarily a work about the political history of Europe rather than Christian-Muslim relations.” ‘Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History. Volume 9’

The stamp on the covers is reproduced in British Armorial Bindings at the University of Toronto as ‘Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland (1533 – 1603) (Stamp 22)’. It is recorded there as appearing on a book from the same late Elizabethan period, ‘Historie of Guicciardin’ published in 1599.

ESTC S113043. STC. 15318. Lowndes 1321. Göllner 2201.609. Blackmer 964.
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