Europe and the Middle East

The Schulich-Woolf Collections contains several histories and chronicles about countires across Europe and the Middle East. These works are in number of languages including Latin, non-English vernaculars, and English. The books in English are either the first English translation or an early edition.
De rebus in Hibernia gestis

This is the first full account of Irish history, written in Latin by Richard Stanyhurst (1547-1618), who contributed to the first edition of Holinshed’s Chronicle (1577). On display is the title page, showing the printer’s device of Christopher Plantin, the greatest printer of his era.

In 1581, Stanyhurst, a Catholic, went into self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, after the execution of his friend and co-religionist, Edmund Campion. His account begins with a description of contemporary Ireland, but the majority of the book deals with the early history of Ireland, up to the Norman settlement around the year 1200. Because of the satirical cast of Stanyhurst’s comments on the clergy and customs of his country, his book was denounced by other Irish Catholics in exile, and indeed his book was burned by the Inquisition in Portugal and prohibited by the Inquisition in Spain. It remains, however, an important and beautifully printed work, a keystone of Irish historical literature.

The Schulich-Woolf copy formerly belonged to the important manuscript collector, Henry Yates Thompson (1838-1928), who served as the private secretary to Earl Spencer, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, from 1868 to 1873.

Itinera mundi

Rabbi Abraham Farissol (1451?-1525?), of Ferrara, was a Jewish humanist intent on making scientific material available in Hebrew. To this end he composed the first comprehensive cosmography and geography in Hebrew, carefully drawing upon the best sources available. This edition, printed in Oxford, provides the text of several manuscripts found in the Bodleian, along with a Latin translation and copious notes referring to Latin, vernacular and Arabic sources. On display is text relating to Ireland (“Hibernia”), with its long note explaining etymologically the term “galera”, for the kind of boats used by merchants and others to reach the island.

Thomas Hyde (1636-1703), the translator and editor, was the Bodley Librarian, professor of Arabic (from 1691, when this edition was published) and professor of Hebrew (from 1697). He was conversant with many other oriental languages, and we see some Chinese cited in one of the additional notes.

At the end of the volume is added a short treatise,“De Turcarum liturgia” by Albert Bobovski, a Polish convert to Islam, who took the name Ali Ufkî.

Royal genealogies

This is the second edition of Anderson’s massive chronological and genealogical work, originally designed as a translation of Johann Hubner’s Genealogische Tabellen. Anderson reorganized the information and increased the size of the work threefold, borrowing from other sources. This edition was further enlarged and cross-references inserted to increase utility. The final section presents the tables for the “Britannick Isles.” All the tables are quite complex, and varied in their presentation. It must have been a gargantuan task to set the type for this book!

James Anderson was born in Scotland, became a Presbyterian minister and then leader of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster. He was the author of The constitutions of the Free-Masons (1723), which first codified Masonic rites and regulations.

A generall historie of France

This is the second edition of Grimeston’s English translation of Jean de Serres’s Inventaire général de l'histoire de la France. De Serres (1540-1598), a Calvinist, was employed as official historian by the French King, Henri IV. On display is the beginning of the section on François I, who ruled from 1515-1547. The history is organized consecutively by monarch, each of whom is portrayed by a medallion portrait within a woodcut border.

The first English translation of de Serres’s history appeared in 1607, the work of Edward Grimeston, who also produced translations of histories of the Netherlands (1609), Spain (1612) and Venice (1612). This second edition continues the text to 1610. Grimeston’s translations were the source of historical dramas by Elizabethan playwrights such as George Chapman.

The Schulich-Woolf copy has interesting manuscript annotations; a strip of early manuscript waste used to reinforce the binding, and a manuscript contract, dated 1799, on the rear fly-leaf.

A generall historie of France

François I

Jean de Serres, A general historie of France, 1611

Present state of the Ottoman Empire

This is the fourth edition of Rycaut’s The history of the present state of the Ottoman Empire, which first appeared in 1665. On display we see the print title-page and the added engraved title-page. (It was not uncommon in this period to have both.) In the engraving we see obedience paid to the Sultan, a display of military power and Constantinople in the background.

As a young man, Paul Rycaut served as the private secretary to the Ambassador to Constantinople, the Earl of Winchelsea. His history of the Ottoman Empire was thus derived from first-hand knowledge and his goal was to ensure that his Christian readers did not underestimate or look down on the Turks. At this time, being prior to the decisive Battle of Vienna (1683), Turkish power and expansion was ever increasing. Rycaut gives a picture of the government, customs, dress, religion and military organization of the Ottomans. The well-illustrated history went through numerous editions.