MEXIA, Pedro, et al.; MILLES, Thomas, trans.


MEXIA, Pedro, et al.; MILLES, Thomas, trans. The Treasurie of Auncient and Moderne Times. [and] [Greek] Archaioploutos.

London, W. Jaggard, 1613, 1619.


FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH. Folio. 2 Parts in 2 vols. I: pp. [10], 965, [7]; II: pp. [10], 977, [9], double column, lacking first and last blank. Roman letter, with Italic and Gothic, little Greek, Hebrew and Anglo-Saxon. Woodcut title vignettes, all pages within typographical rule, decorated initials and ornaments, vol.II with 20 small woodcut heraldic shields, 1 full-page woodcut with the arms of the Swiss Cantons, and 8 full- or ½-page engravings including the arms of the Swiss Cantons, James I, the English Parliaments, and the traditional attire of the English nobility. The odd little marginal mark, I: two very small clean tears to title outer margin repaired, another to lower margin of Llll7, lower outer corner of N4 and Gg4 torn, the latter affecting handful of words, II: small light water stain to Nn6, page flaw affecting couple of letters on Vv1 verso, another, affecting text of Bbbb3 without loss, small holes (flaws?) to last three ll., affecting couple of words, some edges creased. Very good copies in contemporary sprinkled calf, double blind ruled, raised bands, spines darkened with c1800 gilt ruling, lettering and morocco labels, a.e.r., minor repair at head of vol.2 spine. Armorial bookplate of Gaddesden Library to front pastedowns, couple of C17 marginal ms notes to vol.I, C17 ms ‘Liber Roberti Baynham’ with Latin motto, and ‘R[ober]t Beuerl(e)y(?)’ to second title.

Very good copies, in contemporary binding, of the first edition in English of this most interesting historical encyclopaedia, from antiquity to modern times, including a section on the New World. It is usual to find it bound in two volumes which makes a less unwieldy tome much easier to consult and handle. The ‘Treasurie’ draws on the historical writings of major humanists, especially Pedro Mexia (1497-1551), Francesco Sansovino (1521-86) and Antoine du Verdier (1544-1600), with additions and revisions by the translator Thomas Milles (1550-1627), author of influential works on economics and a customs official and agent for Francis Walsingham. The narrative follows the traditional organisation of Christian world history, interrupted by short sections on curious subjects, crammed with anecdotes. Vol. I begins with God and the Creation, miscellaneous practices (e.g., secrecy, war, slavery, painting, circumcision, techniques for poisoning, marriage customs in China, heresies), the origins of places (e.g., Constantinople, the kingdoms of Fez and Tunis) and peoples (e.g., the Amazons, Goths, Mahomet, Prester-John of Ethiopia). A C17 annotator glossed a story in the chapter on secrecy, where a mother is asked to keep her son’s shameful secret. To this a different C17 annotator replied: ‘This is the hand of a woman’. Most interesting is the chapter on ‘writing before paper was known’. It discusses ancient materials including palm tree leaves, linen cloth, papyrus and parchment.

This concludes with printing, said to have begun in 1453 (‘the first impression of any book’), with Gutenberg. The ‘first book printed in Rome’ in 1465, by the brothers ‘Conrades’, is said to have been St Augustine’s ‘De Civitate Dei’, followed by Lactantius’s ‘Institutiones’ (both now attributed to Arnold Sweynheym & Konrad Pannartz), with a census of known copies. There follow mentions of Aldus, Froben, Estienne and Caxton. The final paragraphs explain old methods by which ‘blind men could write very perfectly’, under the guidance of an instructor, using tablets of porphyry or bone and a sharp pointed instrument.

Vol.II includes sections on government (e.g., France, Swiss Cantons, with handsome heraldic illustrations, Jerusalem, Muscovy and Ireland). It also discusses agriculture (e.g., the preservation of corn, vines and wine), medicine (e.g., sudden death, sleep, gun-shots, physicians prolonging illnesses, the employment of physicians, the Indian Guyaicum), the habits of the English nobility (with fine engraved illustrations), Saxon laws (also reproduced in the original, with Anglo-Saxon type), and the Septuagint bible. The fascinating section (pp.916-24) on the New World begins with Columbus’s voyages and continues with a crushing dismissal of the role of Columbus’s genius in the expedition. Columbus allegedly got his idea from the papers of the late mariner Andaluzo, who died in Columbus’ house and left him all his belongings; Columbus was not a good geographer or learned, but had judgment. There follow accounts of Columbus’s attempts at finding sponsorship for his expedition, as well as of the voyages themselves, with mentions of local customs and figures.

There appear to be two variants of vol.II, one with gathering A of 6 ll., no table of contents and A1 blank, the other with A1 featuring an engraved title, a table of contents and a gathering A of 8 ll.

I: ESTC S114955; STC (2nd ed.), 17936. II: ESTC S114956; STC (2nd ed.), 17936.5. I-II: Sabin 48247; JFB (Part II only, imp.). Not in Alden.
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