VERSTEGAN, Richard A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence

Antwerp, by Robert Bruney. And to be sold at London by Iohn Norton and Iohn Bill, 1605


FIRST EDITION. 4to., pp. [xxiv], 338, [xiv]. + , ++ , +++ , A-2X . Roman letter, some Italic and Gothic. Small engraving on t-p in red and black, 11 engraved plates in text, woodcut initials head and tail-pieces, note concerning the prefatory poems in C19th hand on fly, index of the engravings, in the same hand, on following page, several C19th sale notices concerning this edition tipped in., bookplate of James Elwin Millward on pastedown. Title a little soiled and dusty with ink spot on engraving, verso of last dusty, occasional marginal stain or thumb mark, very minor marginal spotting in places. A very good copy, with good margins and good impressions of the plates, in C19th diced Russia, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands, ruled in blind, title and date gilt lettered, a.e.r.

First edition of Richard Verstegan’s (alias Rowland’s 1565-1620) important history of the Saxon invasions, the development of the English language, the formation of its surnames, and general early English lore. Verstegan displays a great knowledge of early English history and of Anglo Saxon, which he had studied at Oxford before leaving on account of his Catholicism. He removed to Antwerp, whence his grandfather originated, and set up a printing press. There he acted as agent for the transmission of Catholic literature (some of which he printed) and letters to and from England and the rest of Europe. He corresponded with Cardinal Allen and Robert Parsons and for a time was in their pay, he was a very well connected figure in the recusant world. “The Restitution was first published in 1605, but it continued to be reprinted long after Verstegan’s death, and it’s probably the book for which he is best known in England. It is very straightforward work, with the simple object of demonstrating the descent of the English from the Germanic peoples of northern Europe. This was not as foregone a conclusion as one might think today and Verstegan presented the book with all the trappings of authority he could muster.” The present work contains, amongst other exotica, the first account of the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, and a description of werewolves; “the werewolves are certayne sorcerers, who having annoynted their bodies with an oyntment which they make by the instinct of the devil, and putting on a certayne inchaunted girdle, doe not openly unto to the view of others, but to their owne thinking have both shape and nature of wolves so long as they weare the said girdle. And they do dispose of themselves as very wolves, in worrying and killing, and most of humane creatures”. Verstegan was one of the first generation of Anglo Saxon scholars, the work contains one of the earliest published Anglo Saxon word lists, predating Somner. It is dedicated to King James I whom Verstegan describes as “descended of the chiefest bloud Royall of our antient English Saxon kings”; followed by an epistle to the English nation and some 10 verses including one by Thomas Shelton, translator of Don Quixote, also a most useful table of contents. Verstegan begins his work by describing the origins of the English, that they were descended from Saxons whom he states are from Germany. However he says that the Welsh, Cornish, Irish and Scots retain their ancient origins and are not of Saxon descent, indeed they refer to the English in their own language as “Sasons, or Saxsonach”. Verstegan deals with every aspect of England’s history including stating in chapter 4 that England was once joined to France before the “flood of Noah”. He ends his work with a final chapter on the origins and purpose of “tithes of honour, dignities and offices”, and intriguingly the significance of “our English names of disgrace or contempt”. A very interesting gathering of anecdote and history, illustrated at key points with very detailed and clear engravings.

ESTC S116255. STC 21361. Gillow V p.556. Lowndes and Allison & Rogers have 1605 edn.
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