CAMDEN, William

CAMDEN, William Annales rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum, regnante Elizabetha, ad annum salutis M. D. LXXXIX

London, Typis Guilielmi Stansbij, impensis Simonis Watersoni, 1615


FIRST EDITION. pp. [xii], 499, [xxiii]., A , B ,(±B1), C-3V . Wanting two prelim. blanks. Roman letter, some Italic, text within box rule. Large historiated and floriated woodcut initials, woodcut head and tail-pieces. Coloured woodcut arms cut from a C17th armorial book, motto “All for the best” loosely inserted, engraved armorial bookplate of Montagu George Knight (1844-1914),(engraved by Charles W. Sherborn) on pastedown, his label with mss. shelf mark above. Very light age yellowing, verso of last a little dusty. A very good copy, crisp and clean in handsome contemporary English calf, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands blind ruled in compartments, tan morocco label gilt lettered, edges gilt ruled, small repair to head of spine, a.e.r.

First edition of the first part of this most important history of the reign of Elizabeth I. In 1597, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley suggested that Camden write a history of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The degree of Burghley’s subsequent influence on the work is unclear: Camden only specifically mentions John Fortescue of Salden, Elizabeth’s last Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Henry Cuffe, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex’s secretary, as sources. Camden began his work in 1607. The first part (books 1–3) appeared in this work, the second part (book 4, covering 1589–1603) was completed in 1617, but was not published until 1625 (Leiden), and 1627 (London), following Camden’s death. The Annales were not written in a continuous narrative, but in the style of earlier annals, giving the events of each year in a separate entry. Sometimes criticised as being too favourably disposed towards Elizabeth and James I, the Annales are one of the great works of English historiography and had a great impact on the later image of the Elizabethan age. Hugh Trevor-Roper said about them: “It is thanks to Camden that we ascribe to Queen Elizabeth a consistent policy of via media rather than an inconsequent series of unresolved conflicts and paralysed indecisions.” “Camden’s Annals of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth was the first of his two great works to be begun .. It was a work concerned predominantly with the politics of the recent past – a veritable minefield! For that reason Raleigh in his History of the World had studiously avoided it. ‘Whosoever in writing a modern History’, he declared, ‘shall follow Truth too near the heels it may happily strike out his teeth’. Camden’s approach was to tread carefully but purposefully – although in the end that inevitably aligned him with the government rather than its critics. ‘Things manifest and evident I have not concealed’, he asserted; ‘things doubtful I have interpreted favourably; things secret and abstruse I have not pried into’. Writing what Trevor-Roper has termed ‘politique history’, Camden identified himself with the hierarchical political and religious order of the Elizabethan age, a stance perfectly revealed when he dealt with rebellions and with the growth of Puritanism. Camden’s researches for his history of the Queen’s reign were based on state papers and diplomatic despatches, made available to him through Burghley’s good offices, on legal records, and on Parliamentary proceedings. The arrangement he adopted – as his title makes clear – was a chronological one. Lengthy digressions and invented speeches (both characteristic devices of Renaissance historiography) were shunned. ‘Speeches and orations’, he declared, ‘unless they be the very same verbatim or else abbreviated I have not meddled withal, much less coined them out of mine own head’. He avoided excessive moralising, was interested always in the sequence of events and in causes and processes, and adopted a consistently questioning approach. With evident approval he quoted the views of the classical historian Polybius: Camden’s Annals were not designed as leisure-time reading but in the best Renaissance tradition, as an earnest attempt to convey the political wisdom of the recent past. ..Any exploration of a country’s history is an act of discovery or re-discovery, designed to extend the boundaries of knowledge and understanding. Camden’s Annals represented a kind of map of the recent past, a new and original contribution to the geography of knowledge.” R.C. Richardson. ‘William Camden and the Re-Discovery of England’. Without the errata leaf added at end of some (presumably later) copies.

ESTC S107145. STC 4496. Lowndes. 358. Not in Pforzheimer.

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