(London: [Printed by John Wolfe] impensis Geor. Bishop, 1584). 203 x 146 mm. (8 x 5 3/4"). 674, 659-750 (i.e., 764) pp. FIRST EDITION.
A FINE CONTEMPORARY OXFORD BINDING OF DARK BROWN CALF, covers with blind-ruled borders and with large blind-tooled oval medallion at center, hand-rubricated printer's waste pastedowns, remnants of the original cloth ties. Title page with ink signature of Lyonel Tolmach [Lionel Tollemache], and front pastedown with note in his hand, "Brought from Woodhey Oct. 1741." Milward 220; STC 20626. For the binding: David Pearson, "English Centre-piece Bookbindings 1560-1640" in "Eloquent Witnesses," pp. 107-26. Half a dozen tiny wormholes to joints and spine, and a couple of small rough patches from insect activity on front cover, other minor defects, but AN EXTREMELY APPEALING COPY, clean and crisp internally with only the most trivial imperfections, in a sturdy, scarcely worn, entirely unsophisticated binding with excellent impressions of the stamps.
Offered here in a rarely seen unsophisticated contemporary Oxford binding that is quite representative of its time and place, this is an uncommon copy of a substantial 16th century imprint recording one of an ongoing series of debates between a Protestant and a Catholic divine in Elizabethan times, with the purpose of demonstrating the open-mindedness of the sovereign. This apparent liberality did not, of course, extend to the possibility that the Catholic cause would be allowed to triumph; rather, it was hoped that the papist would see the light, recant, and accept the clemency of the queen. In the present work, Catholic John Hart, educated and ordained a priest at the English Catholic stronghold of Douai in France, faces an Oxford don, John Rainolds (1549-1607), best known as the most important member of the team of translators employed by King James to produce the Authorized Version of the Bible. This record of their debate--in which Rainolds, unsurprisingly, prevailed--was republished a number of times (ESTC lists five printings in English and two in Latin). Our binding is in the most popular English style of the last quarter of the 16th century, which David Pearson calls the "centre-piece" binding. The ornate arabesque medallion used on our boards is based on Islamic designs, and Pearson has identified this pattern as one "used in Oxford from about 1570 onwards" ("Eloquent Witnesses," pp. 117-18 and fig. 5, #1-2). The cover design, plain spine with raised bands, and printed waste endpapers are characteristic of Oxford bindings of the period. It is the kind of simple but sturdy binding that would be favored by an academic able to afford more than a cheap limp vellum binding but not wishing to pay for such fripperies as gilt tooling. As Pearson notes, plain leather bindings were uncommon in England before 1600. Former owner Lionel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart (1708-70), was a Scottish nobleman who came into an impressive inheritance at age 19 that included two of the great stately homes of England, Ham House in Surrey (where the library is now the bar in an exclusive hotel) and Helmingham Hall in Suffolk, owned by the Tollemache family from 1480 until the present. (ST14952)
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PJP Catalog: 73.034