HOWARD, Henry, Earl of Northampton


HOWARD, Henry, Earl of Northampton A defensative against the poyson of supposed prophecies

London, W.Jaggard, 1620


Folio in 4’s. ff.(viii) 151 (i). Roman and italic letter. T-p slightly shaved at f-e, title within white interlaced strapwork border on a black crible background,(Mckerrow and Ferguson 249). Decorative headpieces, historiated and floreated initials throughout in two sizes. Slight water staining to first two gatherings. Inner ll. slightly spotted. An interesting and attractive copy in contemp. speckled calf, covers with blind ruled outer borders. Spine in seven compartments, remains of paper label. Upper joint cracked at head.

Reputedly the most learned man of his time and a skilled architect and generous benefactor, Northampton (1540-1614), took an active part in political business at court, often out of favour; he was twice arrested for heresy and treasonable correspondence with the Scottish Queen. After his release he retired to St. Albans where he spent a year writing “A defensative…”. This work is a learned attack on judicial astrology, dedicated to Walsingham and perhaps suggested by the astrological exploits of Richard Harvey (writer of: “An astrological discourse upon the the great and notable conjunction of two superior planets…1583”). Soon after its publication the book was accused of “seeming heresies and treason” and Howard was sent to the Fleet for several months.

This edition printed six years after his death is described on the title page as newly revised and is divided into thirty six chapters. Northampton dispels the authority of dreams, oracles, revelations, invocations of spirits “or any other kind of pretended knowledge whatsoever – which have been causes of great disorder in the common wealth, especially among the simple and unlearned people”. He has little time for astrology, the zodiac, planetary powers or fortune telling, one wonders what he would make of our modern day infatuation with all things new-age. Northampton was known as a wit and counted amongst his friends, Bacon, who recorded some of his remarks in his “Apophegms”, and George Chapman who inscribed a sonnet to him which was printed before his translation of Homer in 1614.

STC 13859. Lowndes IV 1703. Not in Pforzheimer, Caillet or Grolier.
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