BARRET, Robert

BARRET, Robert The Theorike and practike of moderne warres

London, William Ponsonby, 1598


FIRST EDITION. Folio, pp. [8], 247, [7]. [par.] , A-N , O1, P-Y . (quire O a half sheet, folding woodcut illustration, small closed tear). Roman letter, some Italic, Full page woodcut arms of the Earl of Pembroke on verso of title, Barret’s arms on verso of last, numerous woodcut illustration in text, woodcut tables, curious pinpricked military flags or pennants on last leaf ‘The annals of Cornelius Tacitus’ ms above in an Early hand, bookplate of Thomas Francis Fremantle (Baron Cottesloe) on pastedown, early autograph of “John Longe”, repeated, on rear pastedown (on turn ins). Very light age yellowing, occasional marginal mark or spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean in handsome contemporary calf, covers bordered with a single gilt and double blind rule, large scroll-worked arabesque gilt at centres, rebacked to match, spine with raised bands, corner restored to upper cover, lower corners worn, end-papers renewed using old paper.

Rare first edition of the only published work by the soldier Barret (died 1607), which “exemplifies England’s belated transition from knightly to professional principles of warfare. Detailing a wide range of military technique, it prescribes the ‘severall duties’ expected of ‘the Officers in degrees’ within the new hierarchy of military rank, and provides—in the influential manner of Leonard and Thomas Digges’s Stratioticos (1579)—a practical grounding in the mathematical logistics of early modern war” (ODNB). William Shakespeare, according to Chalmers, caricatured Barret as Parolles in All’s well that ends well. But the statement is purely conjectural. Parolles is spoken of as “the gallant militarist—that was his own phrase—that had the whole theoric of war in the knot of his scarf, and the practice in the chape of his dagger”—words which may possibly allude to the title of Barret’s military manual, but are in themselves hardly sufficient to establish a more definite connection between him and Parolles. Another connection to Shakespeare may be found in the dedicatory poem; “On page viii, facing page 1, .. are printed a sort of laudatory preface – which may even have been written by Shakespeare – a suggestion not altogether implausible. The word ‘teene’, (occurring in this poem) meaning ‘annoyance of ‘vexation is used by him (Shakespeare) at least four times.” J. H. Leslie ‘Ancient Military Words.’

“Robert Barret, who had served as a soldier in the French, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish armies observed that – ‘men of sundrie humours, sundrie qualities, and sundrie professions such as Politicians, Geometricians, and Mathematicians, which neuer saw any warres claimed their commitment to developing contemporary soldiership.’ Despite such competition between theorists and experienced soldiers in early modern writing about soldiership, there were attempts to bring the two different disciplines together. As both a soldier and a military theorist, Barret asserted that only those who understood the Methode & meaning of theory and had – experience & practice of war could be perfect souldier[s].’ This idea was further fostered by leading members of the aristocracy who were committed to an ideal of virtue in their pursuit of classical learning and practical information.” Dong Ha Seo. ‘Military Culture of Shakespeare’s England.’

A handsome copy of this rare and important work.

ESTC S106853. STC 1500. Cockle 68.
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