GAETANI, Enrico Instructions for Young Gentlemen

Oxford, John Lichfield, 1633


FIRST ENGLISH EDITION. 12mo. pp. [viii] 122 [ii]. Roman letter within double ruled line border; errata on recto of last. A very good, clean wide-margined copy in contemp. limp vellum, later vellum superimposed over spine, lacking ties. Acquisition note of Thomas Clifford 1647, 1s 3d, to rear free endpaper.

A translation of an untraced original, subtitled ” The instructions of Cardinall Sermonetta to his Cousen Petro Caetano, at his first going into Flanders to the Duke of Parma, to serve Philip, King of Spaine,” the work comprises a set of instructions to a young nobleman entering military and royal service. It begins with the necessity of maintaining regular communication by writing from every stopping place to both confirm his progress, report upon the state of the war and to find out what is to be done for the service of the King. The need for discretion and secrecy in his letters is advised, as well as maintaining detailed records to eliminate confusion. As well as sending letters of his own, it is vital that he answer fully all missives, using the cypher that he receives. Cardinal Sermonetta advises developing a close relationship with the postmaster, rewarding him intermittently for his continued good services so he shall remain loyal and work with haste. Petro was evidently sent to Flanders at the desire of his father and is impelled to do his utmost to ensure the satisfaction of the Prince with his service, combining excellence in war and a thorough knowledge of the background to the current hostilities, with the demonstration of honour and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the state of affairs of the nation, topographically and socially as well as militarily. He is encouraged to construct a dictionary of the terminology and tactics of warfare for his own use, and to participate as actively as possible in military life. Great emphasis is placed upon behaving and speaking appropriately around the royal personage. The work concludes within a warning to always respect the sanctity of religious establishments, personages and artefacts, before commending him to God.

The war in question here is the Eighty Years’ War, the revolt of the Seventeen Provinces in the Low Countries against the Spanish (Habsburg) Empire. Shortly after the publication of this letter in 1639, Spain sent an Armada to Flanders carrying 20,000 troops to assist in a last large scale attempt to defeat the northern “rebels”. The armada was defeated in the Battle of the Downs, marking the end of Spain as the dominant sea power.

The Thomas Clifford of the exlibris may well be the first Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1630-1673), who would have acquired this work at the appropriate age of seventeen. He went on to distinguish himself in naval battles, intriguing against the peace treaty at the end of the Dutch War.

STC 11514, recording only 7 copies, BL, two at Oxford, one at Cambridge; Folger, Huntingdon and Yale in the US. Not in Lowndes.

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