The life of Alfred, or, Alvred: the first institutor of subordinate government in this kingdome, and refounder of the Vniversity of Oxford.London, Richard Badger for Thomas Alchorn, 1634
FIRST EDITION 12mo. pp. [xxxiv], 96, 99-156, [ii]: A¹²(-A1), a⁶, B-G¹², H8, lacking blank A1, E7 and two final blanks present. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut initials, typographical ornaments, bookplate of Eric Gerald Stanley, Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford on pastedown. Light age yellowing, title fractionally dusty, small tear to lower outer corner of H2 just touching catchword. A good copy in contemporary polished vellum, covers gilt ruled, with central gilt stamp of an angel hold a banner ‘Glori Deo’, spine triple gilt ruled in compartments, fleurons gilt at centres, endpapers renewed.
Rare first and only edition of this interesting work by Robert Powell, one of the first biographies of Alfred the Great in English, in which he ingeniously finds a comparison between the life of Alfred and that of Charles I. The work is divided into two parts, the first the life of Alfred and the second the comparison with Charles I entitled “The Parallel”. “Powell describes himself in 1634 as ‘of Wells, one of the Society of New Inn,’ and as having enjoyed for twenty-five years a good practice as a solicitor in Gloucestershire (Life of Alfred, ded.). As late as 1652 he was bailiff and deputy-sheriff of the county (State Papers, Dom. Jac. I. cliii. 17). .. Powell wrote. ‘The Life of Alfred, or Alured’ dedicated to Walter Curle, bishop of Winchester. He says ‘I was first set on to this work by reading’ the ‘Regia Majestas,’ (1613), by Sir John Skene.” DNB. Powell starts the work with an interesting discussion of the nature of History in his preface.
Alfreds reign has been regarded as pivotal in the eventual unification of England, after he famously defended Wessex and southern England against the overwhelming Vikings invasions. Powell points out that apart from his military success, he was also noted for his translations of Latin texts, education reforms including advocacy of education in the English language rather than in Latin, improving his kingdoms legal system and civic defense. Alfreds positive image may have been accentuated by Bishop Asser’s contemporary account of the King, who was commissioned by Alfred to write his biography. Asser presented Alfred as the embodiment of the ideal, but practical, Christian ruler. Later medieval historians William of Malmesbury, Gaimar Matthew Paris and Geoffrey of Monmouth further reinforced Alfreds favourable image. However, in the sixteenth century he became a symbolic champion for the emerging English Protestant church during the English Reformation. Powell builds on this tradition with his life of Alfred but particularly in his using the work in support of Charles I.