PONTANUS, Johannes Isaacus
FROM THE LIBRARY OF KING CHARLES I
Historiae Gelricae libri 14. Deducta omnia ad ea usque tempora nostra, quibus firmata sub ordinibus republicaHarderwijk, excudit Nicol. à Wieringen gymnasij typographus: sumptibus Iohannis Iansonii, bibliopolae Amsterodamensis, 1639
FIRST EDITION folio. pp. (xxvi), 72, 956, (lxxii). ², (:) , *², 2* , a-f , A-4K , 4L , 4M-4R , with four engraved portraits, five double page folding engraved maps, and four double page folding engraved plans of cities The five maps are of the Duchy or Gelrica, Nijmegen, Roermond, Zutphen and Arnhem. The town plans are of Nijmegen, Zupthen and Harderwijk. Roman letter, some Italic and Gothic. Fine engraved title with putti above with the arms of Gelderland, portraits of Claudius king of Batavia and William Prince of Orange at sides, large floriated and historiated woodcut initials, woodcut head and tail pieces, engraved C19th armorial book plate of the ‘The Earl of Roden’ with shelf mark on pastedown. Light age yellowing, minor dust soiling to first and last leaves. A fine copy crisp and clean in a contemporary London binding of black morocco, covers bordered with two double gilt rules with gilt dentelle rolls, Royal arms of Charles I gilt at centre, with a seme of flowers stars and fleurons gilt, flat spine gilt tooled with the same gilt borders and semé as covers.
A lovely copy of the beautifully printed and illustrated first edition of this monumental history of Gelderland, finely bound in black morocco, and richly gilt, for Charles I of England. The binding, with its rich semé of small tools, is fairly typical of the sumptuous bindings made for Charles Ist’ library; see British library catalogue of bindings shelf mark c24c4 for a binding attributed to the ‘Squirrel binder’ with a similar decoration also made for Charles I, with his arms gilt at center. For a study of the Royal arms blocks of which sixteen variants exist see Foot “Some bindings for Charles I” ‘Studies in Seventeenth-Cntury English literature History and Bibliography.’
In 1597 the provincial assembly of Gerle decided to commission a history of the Duchy of Gelderland, and Paulus Merula of Leiden University was approached to do the research. His work was severely hampered by the war and was eventually passed to his successor Johannes Luntius. When Luntius died in 1620 “the task was again transferred to another historian, Johannes Isacus Pontanus in Harderwijk. Although like his predecessors not a native Geldersman, he was at least a resident of the province… Also like his predecessors Pontanus received a bundle of documents already collated and copied for the enterprise. The state made available 956 guilders to acquire chronicles and histories from Brabant, Cleves, Flanders, Utrecht and Julich. It was also recommended that Pontanus should have access to the archives of the regional aristocratic families. In 1634 the estates decided to print Pontanus’ manuscript, which now covered the history of Gelderland until 1438, the death of the last independent Duke. A commission was established whose members should check the manuscript before publication. It was then decided that the work should be extended to cover the period up to 1581.” Raingard Esser, ‘The Politics of Memory: The Writing of Partition in the Seventeenth-Century Low Countries’.
Pontanus studied in Franeker and Leiden, and worked for three years in Basel with the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. He taught at the University of Harderwijk from 1604 until his death. A lovely copy, beautifully bound for Charles I’s own library with the royal arms. Most ‘Royal’ bindings have a limited connection with the monarch whose arms they bear; often they merely demonstrate his remote patronage of the institution concerned. This sumptuous binding however was made for King Charles for one of his collections, interestingly continuing the style created by Bateman for the Royal library two generations earlier.BM STC Fr. C17th. C375. Sabin III 11272. JFB 630/42.