PRIVY COUNCIL Instructions for Mvsters and Armes, and the use thereof

London, Bonham Norton and John Bill, 1623


FIRST EDITION. ff. 8 (xix). Large 4to. Italic letter. Royal arms woodcut on title page, floriated ornament woodcut with ‘A’ (misbound from first leaf), 19 leaves of woodcuts depicting 43 musket and 32 pike positions, arranged four per leaf. Woodcuts window mounted on thick C19 paper. Minimal marginal foxing, very good copy in C19 half calf over marbled boards. Bibliographical manuscript annotations to ffeps, bookplate of Henry B.H. Beaufoy (1786-1851), F.R.S. on inner cover.

This rare work, one of only five copies in the UK, provides instructions for the correct techniques and layout of musters. Musters were a means to gather together and quantify the amount of armed battle-ready men in localised areas of England. As well as this, the work contains 19 exquisite leaves each of four plates demonstrating a variety of positions and techniques for handling muskets and pikes. This book offers a fleeting insight into a time the army was undergoing immense change. By the end of the 17th century pikes had gone out of use in favour of bayonets and traditional muskets were being gradually replaced by weapons which were significantly more powerful and accurate. The intensely detailed instructions demonstrate the organisation and central control of the English army. Muskets were unruly and dangerous, necessitating a careful guide to handling gun powder and powerful weaponry. In Cockle (99): “An official publication, corresponding to our drill book. The instructions for the musket are confined to directions for the delivery of volleys, both in attacking and in retreating; for the manual exercise or ‘postures’ ‘His Excellencies Booke’ is named as the standard. The rest refers to the drill of Pikemen, and to the exercising and arming of the Infantry generally, and of the Cavalry, who are divided into Cuirassiers, and Harquebusiers and ‘Dragons;’ ‘the two terms seeming interchangeable’.”

Corresponding with textual commands are the numbered images with detailed descriptions written below designed to teach the reader about military discipline. Detailed guidelines teach the reader how to march, unshoulder, prepare, aim and shoot their muskets. Following on from this is a similar step by step guide demonstrating the correct usage of a pike. This publication “was a significant step toward bringing about the codification and standardization of militia training that had been debated since the Elizabethan period” (David Lawrence, The complete soldier, 2009, p. 136). The publishers, working on behalf of King James I, were the Privy Council of England. They advise the monarch on interdepartmental matters at select Privy Council Meetings.

Henry Beaufoy, the previous owner, was a Member of Parliament from 1783 to 1795. Educated at Edinburgh University, Beaufoy went on to join the Royal Society as a Fellow prior to his stints as Member of Parliament for Minehead and Great Yarmouth. He consistently pressed for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, which denied the civil rights of Roman Catholics and other non-conformists.

ESTC S117602; Cockle 99; Not in Lowndes.Four copies in the UK and only one in the US, at Harvard.
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