Descrittione del regno di Scotia.Anversa, il di primo di Gennaio [London, John Wolfe], 1588
FIRST EDITION THUS. Folio. Pp. (viii) 54. Mainly Italic letter. Printer’s device to tp, figural and floriated head and tail pieces and initials. Bookplate of Baron Horace de Landau (1824-1903) to pastedown with shelf mark, sticker above. Light age yellowing, a few leaves slightly browned, foxing in places. A good clean copy with generous margins in C19 half calf over marbled boards, spine gilt, green silk marker, minimal wear to spine and corners.
Appealing Italian translation by Petruccio Ubaldini (c. 1524-1600) of the 1527 Historia Gentis Scotorum by the Scottish philosopher and historian, Hector Boece (1465-1536). The work by Boece was one of the first scholarly histories of Scotland and was enormously popular and influential. It is somewhat flowery and inaccurate, with significant bias toward the Scots, yet its attractive writing style led to both the church and the crown’s approval. It was translated from Latin into French and into Scots by John Hellenden, and was used as the basis for many later iterations of Scottish historiography, eventually forming part of the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It included a description of the now extinct Eurasian beaver and was heavily complimentary toward Boece’s patron, James IV.
The present work is a free Italian translation of Boece’s Description. It is ‘well printed in a fine Italic type’, and despite the Antwerp imprint ‘there can be no doubt that this book was printed in London by John Wolfe. He obtained a license for it 27th November 1587, and his name appears on the title of several other of Ubaldini’s books published about this time.’ (Pforzheimer 1015). The history of Scotland is of personal importance to Ubaldini as he fought for England against the Scots at the Siege of Haddington in 1548. He dedicated this work to Sir Christopher Hatton (1540-1591), an English politician, Lord Chancellor and favourite of Elizabeth I. Sections of the work describe the habits of the peoples of Scotland, its natural landscape, including its abundance of ‘lakes’, the national dress, and an extensive section describes how the Scots harvested and processed pearls. Ubaldini compares the Scots to Norwegian peoples, and explains the differences between the many Scottish isles.
Petruccio Ubaldini was a Tuscan soldier, employed by Henri VIII and Edward VI. He grew in prominence to become a favoured calligraphist and illuminator at the court of Elizabeth I, writing various accounts on the history and culture of Britain as well as important verbal portraits of Queen Elizabeth at court. In Lewis Einstein’s words, Petruccio Ubaldini is ‘an example of the better type of the Italian adventurers then to be found at every European court’ (Einstein, 1902, p 190); and an adventurer he was, like many of the Italian expatriates in Tudor England. On his activities at court, a modern critic writes that ‘from 1562 onwards, he was able to fill the vacuum left by the rupture in official diplomatic and ecclesiastical contacts between England and Italy. He became almost the only well-placed Italian reporter of English affairs during the second half of the sixteenth century. … Ubaldini, .. corresponded with the secretaries of the Dukes of Florence and numbered Henrey Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, Walsingham, William Cecil, Lord Thomas Howard and other important personages amongst his acquaintances. Certainly Queen Elizabeth thought his services were valuable enough to grant him a salary.’ (Bugliani). .. Ubaldini is the author of 12 works, all of them composed and/or published in England between 1564 and 1597.” Giovanni Iamartino. ‘Representations of Elizabeth I in Early Modern Culture.’ESTC S118915; Pforzheimer 1015; Lowndes Vol VII 2738; Woodfield 51, “This is the only use of a specifically fictitious imprint in any of Ubaldini’s books.”