GUEVARA, Antonio de.


GUEVARA, Antonio de. The Dial of Princes.

London, Richard Tottell and Thomas Marshe, 1568.


Folio. 2 parts in 1, ff. [20], 165, [1], 173, [24]. Black letter, little Roman. Title within woodcut border with grotesques, decorated initials and ornaments. Few ll. of second part slightly browned, intermittent very light water stain along outer blank margin or gutter, extending to text to final gatherings, worm trail to blank gutter of initial gatherings, touching the odd letter, long clean tear without loss at foot of G2, occasional minor marginal ink spotting. A very good, crisp, well-margined copy in contemporary English calf, stubs from vellum spine lining, double blind ruled, blind-stamped fleurons to inner border, small oval arabesque centrepiece in blind to covers, raised bands, extremities and head and foot of spine repaired. Bookplate of George Goyder to inner front cover, C19 ms ‘Knowsley Library V 13 No.1’ to ffep, autograph ‘1646 J Derby’ to title, large engraved armorial bookplate of James, Earl of Derby, 1702, to title verso (blank).

A very good copy, in an attractive contemporary English binding, of the second, enlarged English edition of this most influential Renaissance ‘mirror for princes’, first published in Castilian as ‘Relox de Príncipes’ (1529) by the Franciscan Antonio de Guevara (1481-1545), court historiographer of Charles V. This English edition includes, for the first time, the translation of Guevara’s treatise for courtiers, ‘Aviso de privados’ (1539). This English version by the jurist Thomas North (1535-1604), chiefly based on the French, is listed among Shakespeare’s sources for ‘Henry VIII’ (1613, with John Fletcher) (McCarthy, p.32). ‘It is almost impossible to overestimate the influence of North’s vigorous English on contemporary writers, and some critics have called him the first master of English prose’ (Chrisholm, p.759).

‘Dial of Princes’ gathers an array of moral counsels. The protagonist is a fictionalised version of the Philosopher-Emperor Marcus Aurelius, whose autobiographical ‘Meditations’ provide the main source. ‘North’s dedicatory preface contains some interesting information on the processes through which the teachings of Guevara, originally of great use and profit to the Spaniards, can by means of their translation and appropriation be made profitable for English readers […]. North combines the languages of political and moral philosophy […] with the lexical fields of financial and commodity exchange’ to promote his translation and make the work relevant for a wider readership (Fernandez, p.91). The three main sections discuss Christian faith, the Prince’s relationship to his wife and children, and government, with the help of dozens of epistolary ‘exempla’ from antiquity. Book I addresses the evils of tyranny, how the prince should behave towards his subjects, eschew flatterers, be pious, and cultivate patience and virtue. Book II is entirely devoted to marriage, because ‘whereas common people marry of free will, princes and noble men ought to marry of necessity’, with sections on its legal aspects. Numerous sections provide counsels to married princesses, e.g., how they shouldn’t be ashamed of breastfeeding, impart orders to their husbands or leave their house too often, as well as various misfortunes which may occur during pregnancy. Other sections are devoted to husbands’ proper behaviour towards their wives, especially when they are expecting. It also addresses the best education for children and the choice of tutors, i.e., nurses that are learned and knowledgeable. Book III focuses on government, how the prince should be just, moderate and aware of the turns of fortune. Book IV includes the first English version of Guevara’s treatise of advice for courtiers, with close focus on their demeanour towards other courtiers and their ruler, pursue of continence, avoidance of ‘unhonest women’, etc. They should also know when to leave the court graciously, before ‘age overtakes them’. The final appendix comprises a dozen letters present in the Castilian original, but omitted in the French translation.

James Stanley (1664-1736), 10th Earl of Derby, was a British politician who amassed a fine collection of Italian and Flemish paintings at his seat of Knowsley Hall.

ESTC S120709; STC (2nd ed.), 12428. Not in Pforzheimer. H. Chisholm, ed., ‘North, Sir Thomas’, Enc. Brit., vol. 19; D. McCarthy et al., Thomas North\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s 1555 Travel Journal (2021); J.M. Perez Fernandez, ‘Translation and Communication’, in Cultures of Diplomacy and Literary Writing in the Early Modern World, ed. J. Craigwood et al. (2019), pp.87-100.
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