UBALDINI, Petruccio


UBALDINI, Petruccio Le vite delle donne illustri. Del regno d’Inghilterra, & del regno di Scotia

London, Appresso Giouanni Volfio, 1591


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. [xiv], 117, [iii]. A (-A1+[par.] ) B-Q . Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut ‘Fleur de lys’ device on title, woodcut headpieces and floriated initials, eleven line presentation inscription to William Cecil, Lord Burghley in Ubaldini’s celebrated Italic hand on verso of first fly, 1592, bookplate of Robert S. Pirie on pastedown. Light age yellowing, occasional marginal spotting, one or two quires a little browned, mostly marginal soiling and spotting in places. A very good copy in contemporary vellum over thin boards, covers bordered with a gilt rule, gilt-stamped oval at centre, a little soiled, recased.

A precious copy of the first edition, second issue, of this very rare work, beautifully inscribed by the author Ubaldini in his fine, clear Italic hand, for presentation to William Cecil,-Lord Burghley. Ubaldini (1545-1599), was born in the Florentine state and was learned in classical languages. He sought patronage in both Venice and England with his writings and settled in London. In May 1574 debts caused him to petition Lord Burghley, the lord high treasurer, for financial assistance from the crown. His inscription, in elegant italic, includes four lines of poetry and a seven-line dedication to Burghley “great treasurer of the Kingdom of England” dated “1592.”

“In Lewis Einstein’s words, Petruccio Ubaldini is ‘an example of the better type of the Italian adventurers then to be found at every European court’ (Einstein, 1902, p 190); and an adventurer he was, like many of the Italian expatriates in Tudor England. What is to be noticed in his self-introduction to ‘Militia del Gran Duca di Thoscana’, his last volume, published in London in 1597, is that Ubaldini emphasises his many years of service to the Tudors, first under Henry VIII in 1545 and later under Edward VI; having left for Italy on Mary’s accession to the throne, Petruccio is intentionally vague here about the date when he got back to England; .. as a matter of fact, he says in the passage referred to that he has been in the service of Queen Elizabeth since 1563. What this service consisted in is not clear at all: since Ubaldini was no longer young enough to be a soldier, a modern critic writes that ‘from 1562 onwards, he was able to fill the vacuum left by the rupture in official diplomatic and ecclesiastical contacts between England and Italy. He became almost the only well-placed Italian reporter of English affairs during the second half of the sixteenth century. … Ubaldini, .. corresponded with the secretaries of the Dukes of Florence and numbered Henrey Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, Walsingham, William Cecil, Lord Thomas Howard and other important personages amongst his acquaintances. Certainly Queen Elizabeth thought his services were valuable enough to grant him a salary.’ (Bugliani). .. Ubaldini is the author of 12 works, all of them composed and/or published in England between 1564 and 1597.” Giovanni Iamartino. ‘Representations of Elizabeth I in Early Modern Culture.’

This catalogue of the famous women of England and Scotland was a popular form of work at the period; there were many such catalogues such as Garzoni’s “Le Vite delle Donne illustri Della Scrittura Sacra” “Catalogues of women are lists enumerating pagan and sometimes Christian heroines, who jointly define a notion of femininity. They therefore offer a unique perspective on the problem of femininity by presenting women as entities participating in and formed by historical currents. Such an approach is of immense significance at any time of great change, when historical perspectives were under going transformations. G. McLeod. Virtue and Venom: Catalogs of Women from Antiquity to the Renaissance’ This work was written by Ubaldini and presented as a manuscript to Elizabeth I in 1576 (now lost).

William Cecil, Lord Burghley, was one of the great statesmen of the Elizabethan period, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, at the heart of most of the major events of the period. “From 1558 for forty years the biography of Cecil is almost indistinguishable from that of Elizabeth and from the history of England.” Pollard. He was also a great book collector. On his death in 1598, his will directed that his elder son, Thomas, should inherit ‘all my books in my upper library over my Great chamber in my…. house in Westminster’ together with ‘all my evidence and rolls belonging to my pedigrees’. On a sale of some of the Cecil family’s possessions in 1687, the inventory for books listed some 3,645 books and 249 volumes of manuscripts said to be his. The collection is now in four main parts – a great many are in the Cotton Collection at the British Museum, some are in the National Archive, a substantial portion is at Trinity College, Dublin, of which Cecil was Chancellor, and many remain at Hatfield House.

STC 24488; ESTC S118916. Lowndes 2738. Not in Erdmann.

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