ELIZABETH I. A proclamation for the obseruation of certein statutes, with a fourme howe the same shal be executed:

London, in Povvles Church yarde by Rycharde Iugge and Iohn Cawood, 1562


4to. 36 unnumbered leaves. A-I4. Black letter. Title within architectural woodcut border, historiated initials [large incipit initial of Poseidon], autograph contemporary gift inscription, smudged on verso of title, prayer in same hand on verso of last, contemporary inscription above imprint, M. H. Bloxham bookplate “Scholae Rugbeiiensi legatis” on pastedown, armorial bookplate of Rugby School above. Light age yellowing, paper repairs to blank margins of title, and outer blank margins of next three leaves, repair to lower blank corner of last, one corner torn just touching side note, mostly light waterstaining in places, title and verso of last soiled, some dust soiling and creasing, the odd stain. A perfectly acceptable copy in C19th three quarter mottled calf, over combed marbled paper boards, rebacked, gilt title label laid down, a.e.r.

The first collective edition of these statutes, extremely rare, from the beginning of Elisabeth I’s reign, of tremendous social and historical interest, concerning the regulation of clothing, the sale, export, and breeding of horses, alehouses, ‘playes and games’, archery, wine, vagabonds, robbery, and reporters of slanderous tales and news etc. The first part of the work is concerned extensively with statutes dealing with clothing or apparel, such as the wearing of hats, swords and daggers. “During the late 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I passed a series of strict laws relating to dress codes. The laws ensured that people across the social spectrum dressed according to their rank and class. At this time, England was importing great quantities of luxury fabrics, and the Queen expressed concern that her subjects were spending too much money on ‘unnecessary foreign wares’ and ‘vain devices’. The laws allowed her to curb extravagant spending, and to define and set the distinctions between the different strata of society. Those found dressed in inappropriate clothing could be fined. [These statutes] specify the fabrics and types of clothing that each social rank was permitted to wear, such as specific types of embroidered silks, ‘tinseled’ satins, furs or ‘purpures’ – a type of purple or crimson robe.” BL. Where Henry VIII had issued five proclamations on apparel, Elizabeth issued a total of twelve edicts on dress, making her reign unprecedented in its active restraints on apparel. The sumptuary laws were an attempt not only to clarify who was who but, “to freeze into place the signs that established status and social identity. .. In an atmosphere in which a rising merchant class and expanding group of urban professionals competed with a declining aristocracy, it is far from ‘peculiar’ that elites would attempt to preserve exclusivity by monopolising the trappings of luxury.” Bailey. The work continues with a reinforcement of statutes enacted the previous year against the “decay and disfurniture of all kinds of horses”.

The second section of the work publishes or reiterates earlier statutes, including those made by Edward VI for the regulation of Alehouses “The first legislative measure intended to restrict the establishment of new houses for the sale of beer was passed in the last year of Edward VI. The multiplication of alehouses and tippling houses was then, in the opinion of Parliament, causing intolerable hurt and trouble in the commonwealth; and to prevent the continuance of this evil, it was enacted that no one should keep an alehouse unless licensed by the magistrates, and unless he gave recognizances for good behavior” Edward Porritt ‘Five Centuries of Liquor Legislation in England’. There is also a most interesting statute on the regulation of wines, its pricing, the quantities allowed and to whom etc. The statute on the regulation of games states fines to be imposed for keeping unlicensed “anye common place of bowlyng, tenys, dysyng, or carding”.

An extremely rare work of great social interest; ESTC gives two copies only, at Oxford and Folger. ESTC S1237. STC 7954.7. Ames 2548.
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