DE SALAZAR, Diego. Tratado De Re Militari.

Brussels, Roger Velpius, 1590


4to. Ff. (iv) 125 (i). Roman letter. Tp with typographical woodcut border and printer’s device, ornamental head and tail pieces and initials. Five foldout plates of battle formations, military illustrations, final leaf with large printer’s device. Autograph of George Shirley (1559-1622) to tp with ms price. Armorial bookplate to pastedown of Washington Sewallis, 9 th Earl Ferrers (1822-1859), descendent of George Shirley. Slight age browning, slight soiling to lower edge of tp, occasional foxing, some diagrams slightly shaved, one foldout plate repaired without loss. A good, well margined copy in contemporary limp vellum with green silk ties, later label to spine.

Attractively bound second edition of this work taken from Machiavelli’s Arte della Guerra by the Spanish solder and author Diego de Salazar. The early date of the first edition of this work (1536) makes it the first translation and adaptation into any language of a work by Machiavelli. De Salazar adds his own Spanish ideals and perspective as well as referencing Machiavelli’s work. De Salazar analyses the essential characteristics of armies in the first half of the sixteenth century, as well as consistently referencing examples from antiquity. He addresses topics including combat, discipline, recruitment, and evaluates the characteristics of different weaponry. This is one of the first texts of its kind to be published by a Spanish author (Merino, Esther, ‘Los autores españoles de los tratados “De Re Military”. Fuentes para su conocimiento: los Preliminares’, 1994). Palau 341 states “De Re Militari hecho a manera de dialogo que passo entre los Illustressimos Señores Don Gonçalo Fernandez de Cordova…y Don Pedro Manrique de Lara…En el qual se contienen muchos exemplos de grades Principes, y Senores, y excellentes avisos, y figuras de Guerra muy provechoso para Cavalleros, Capitanes, y Soldados.” 

Machiavelli’s Dell’arte della Guerra, or the Art of War, takes the form of a Socratic dialogue. The essential purpose of the publication is to honour ‘virtus’, and to describe the ideal order of a military system. Macchiavelli describes the role of the military as the roof of a palazzo protecting the contents inside. It was the only work printed during the Italian diplomat’s lifetime, and is dedicated to Lorenzo di Filippo Strozzi. The treatise insists that war must be expressly defined. He developed the philosophy of “limited warfare” – that is, when diplomacy fails, war is an extension of politics. The work also underlines the importance of a state militia and promotes the concept of armed citizenry. Macchiavelli believed that all society, religion, science, and art rested on the security provided by the military.

This copy was owned by the distinguished Shirley family. George Shirley, 1st Baronet of Staunton Harold (1559-1622) studied at Oxford before presenting his service at Court whereupon he embarked on the voyage to Holland in 1585 with the Earl of Leicester at the outbreak of the Anglo-Spanish wars. This copy may have aided him in the fight against the Spaniards as a tool to study their battle tactics. He entered Gloucester Hall in 1587 and Grays Inn in 1602, and accompanied James I through Northamptonshire to his coronation which earned him his baronetcy.

Cockle 511 for first edition; BMSTC Spain 173 for first edition; Palau 341.
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