WILLIAMS, Roger, Sir


WILLIAMS, Roger, Sir The actions of the Lowe Countries.

London, Printed by Humfrey Lownes, for Mathew Lownes, 1618


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. [xii], 133, [iii]: [par.] , A², B-S . The first leaf is blank except for signature-mark “[fleuron]”; without last blank. Dedication dated 1618. [Variant: dedication dated 1617.ESTC]. Roman letter some Italic. Small woodcut printer’s device on title, floriated and historiated woodcut initials, grotesque woodcut head and tail-pieces, pencil inscription, ‘J. Arrowsmith, 30 Jan. 1794’, ‘Heber VIII b-b’ above also in pencil (Richard Heber, sale Sothebys part VIII, 29 Feb 1836, lot 3028, paper lot number on upper cover), pencil inscription ‘Gp M C-M, 11 Feb 1881’ at side, [Christie Miller, sold in his sale 30 June 1919, lot 885] ‘A.R.I’ in pencil below, with another pencil shelf mark below. Light age yellowing, minor browning at edges. A fine copy, stab bound in its original limp vellum, very slightly soiled.

A fine copy of the rare, posthumous, first edition of this most interesting and influential personal recollection of the wars in the Netherlands by Roger Williams whose 1590 treatise, A Briefe Discourse of Warre “is almost the only Renaissance military text written by an Englishman that is incontrovertibly authoritative and comparable in quality to the most advanced and influential Continental works on sixteenth-century warfare.” John X. Evans, ‘The Works of Sir Roger Williams’.

“This book had two editors, Hayward, and Sir Peter Manwood, who owned the manuscript and had formally lent it to Grimstone. The plan of it leads one to conclude that this is merely a fragment; ‘but whether the residue was never written, or whether it be perished, or whether it restesth in any other hand’ says Haywood, ‘I remain doubtful’. It came to him ‘in a ragged hand, and much maimed, both in sense and in phrase.’ Having restored it as nearly as he could to the style and meaning of the author, he and Manwood caused it to be published in the hope of drawing into light the residue, if there was any extant. Pp. 1-56 treats of the beginning of the troubles in the Netherlands, much of the information contained therein having been given to the author by William of Orange. Page 56 chronicles the arrival at Flushing in June, 1572, of Captain Thomas Morgan with 300 Englishman, among whom was Williams himself. This was the first band of British to serve the low countries against Spain. Previously, though there had been a considerable number of Englishman taking part in these wars, they were chiefly gentleman, serving independently. Morgan’s band was reinforced, in the autumn, by a regiment 1,500 strong, under the colonelcy of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who, however, returned with most of his men to England before the year is out. Another regiment was raised by Morgan in February, 1573; but, a year later, this, two, returned home, the officers having quarrelled with the Prince of Orange over their pay. Morgan’s regiment it was that established the use of the musket in England. Williams, ‘eager to see strange wars’, soon returned to the continent, where he joined Romero’s army, and fought on the Spanish side in the Naval Battle of Middleburg; and which point the narrative terminates. Williams excuses his defection on the grounds that his sovereign was not at that time at war with Spain; but later on he returned to the service of his first Masters, the States. The yielding up of  Sluys to Spain, in July, 1587, occasioned a great clamour in England, and Williams reaped his full share of blame, his reputation as a brave and experienced soldier enabling him, however, to withstand all attacks. In 1589, he took part in the expedition of Drake and Norris to Lisbon…. He died in 1595. Williams connection with Leicester, his advocacy of the new system of warfare and contempt for antiquated weapons, with other and private reasons, drew on him the wrath of Sir John Smythe, who, in a letter to Burleigh, complains that his book on weapons should be suppressed, … The following tribute to Williams occurs in Hayward’s preface to the later work: “Amongst those fewe who have written with knowlege, judgement and sincerity the Author of this Historie is worthy to be ranged:who doubtlesse was of endless industry; always in action, either with his sword, or with his penne.” Cockle.

A fine copy in its first limp vellum binding.

Cockle 93. ESTC S120160. STC 25731.
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