(London: Thomas Marshe, 1571). 186 x 132 mm. (7 1/4 x 5 1/4"). 4 p.l., 63 leaves (without final blank). Second Edition.
Appealing Jansenist crimson crushed morocco by Riviere & Son (stamp-signed on front turn-in), gilt lettering to upper cover and spine panels, raised bands, densely gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Title page with allegorical wood-engraved frame containing printer's initials, historiated woodcut initial at opening of text. With a diagram of the contents of Book II. Printed in black letter. Cockle 9; STC 838; ESTC S100277. A touch of wear to head of front joint, leaves lightly washed and pressed (as customary at the time of binding), one page with faint ink stains, but an extremely pleasing copy, the text clean and still fresh, and the binding tight and lustrous.
First printed in 1545, this treatise on archery is, in DNB's words, "remembered specifically as the standard authority on physical training as an essential part of a gentleman's education." Ascham (1515-68) became proficient in archery during his youth and took up the sport again while teaching at Cambridge, where he suffered recurrent bouts of illness (probably malaria). Other Fellows at the university disdained physical activity as unworthy of a scholar, so Ascham penned what is considered "the first learned defence of a pastime," dedicating it to his fellow enthusiast Henry VIII in a successful attempt to gain much-needed royal patronage. Constructed as a Ciceronian dialogue between Philologus (lover of study) and Toxophilus (lover of the bow), the work maintains that a man need not neglect physical fitness in order to excel at scholarship. Also, as DNB observes, it is "a model of English vernacular prose writing in terms of both style and organization of subject matter." According to Pforzheimer, "Not only is this the most renowned work on the subject of archery in English or for that matter, in any language, but its publication marked the beginning of the decline of the prejudice in favour of Latin as the literary language of Englishmen for original compositions." One of the most learned Englishmen of the period, Ascham left an unfulfilling career at Cambridge to become tutor to the future Queen Elizabeth in 1548-50, reading both Latin and Greek authors with her. He desired to travel, however, and was appointed by Elizabeth's brother Edward VI to be secretary to Sir Richard Morysin, ambassador to Emperor Charles V. For the final 15 years of his life, Ascham served as Latin Secretary to Mary and then Elizabeth, a post of considerable importance, since nearly all of the diplomatic documents of the time were in Latin. Despite his proficiency in that tongue, his written works were among the first in English to be unencumbered with excess Latinity and Gallicisms. "His native English," said Disraeli, "is critical without pedantry and beautiful without ornament." Early editions of this work are rare: the first is almost unobtainable (the last copy at auction sold for $32,000 hammer), and the half dozen other copies of our second edition sold in the past 30 years were in significantly less appealing condition than the present item. (ST15845)
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PJP Catalog: 76.114