|Vergil, Polydore (1470?-1555); Langley, Thomas (d. 1581), translator|
An abridgemente of the notable worke of Polidore Virgile. Conteining the deuisers and fyrste fyneders oute aswell of antyquities, artes, ministeries, feactes and ciuill ordinaunces, as of the rites, and ceremonies, commonlye vsed in the churche: and the original beginnin of the same. Compendiouslye gathered and newlye perused by Thomas Langley
[Imprynted at London by Ihon Tisdale dwellyng in Knight riders streate, neare to the Quenes Wardrop, [ca. 1560]]
Octavo: 14 x 9 cm. , c.lii,  leaves A8, a-k8, L8, m-x8 (lacking the final blank x8) 176 leaves.
Black Letter with woodcut initials. With a four-part woodcut title page border, the lower register of which is re-used as a tail-piece on A8 recto, and a woodcut of Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac, restrained by an angel, altar prepared at left, kid in thicket at right on leaf x7 recto. Bound in eighteenth-century calf, rebacked. The text is in excellent condition with only light soiling and minor wear to the title page. The lower blank portion of the penultimate leaf was restored at an early date, without loss of printed matter. Early ownership inscription of "Jo[hn]: Pigeon" on the lower blank margin of the title
|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Dimensions: Octavo: 14 x 9 cm.|
|Primary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Antiques Books and Historical Books|
|Secondary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Religious Texts|
|FOURTH EDITION (1st ed. 1546) of Thomas Langley's abridgement of Polydore Vergil's humanist encyclopedia "On the Inventors and Discoverers of Things".|
I. The English Abridgment:
"The English version was made by Thomas Langley and first appeared in 1546, when Vergil was, of course, still active as archdeacon of Wells. In his dedication to Sir Anthony Denny, who was sympathetic to the Henrican Reformation and a member of Edward VI's council, Langley reveals his antipathy to the old religion but says little of significance aside from outlining the principle upon which he formed his abridgement:
'I thought it best to omit some parte, not bycause anything was superfluous, or otherwise written then wel, But for as muche as manye thinges mighte bee taken diversely, and other wise then thei wer ment. Therefore I have not admitted any thing in too this abridgmente, whereby the reader maie bee justley offended, nor have on the other side omitted any suche sentence, that either concerned the title, or that might in any parte please or profit the readers. And as Polidore in his booke written in Latin doothe pretende to replenishe and enriche Latin menne with delectacion and knowlage of things delectable and worthie knowlage, not myndyng to derogate any laudable ceremonies, or to define on any matter now or then being in controversie: even so I, much desirous, according to the little talent that God hath given me, to doe all menne good, have translated the saide booke of Polidore into oure Englishe tounge, to the ende, that also artificers and other persons not expert in Latin, might gather knowlage and take pleasure by the readying thereof.'
(Denys Hay, Polydore Vergil, (1906), pp. 66-69)
Langley's work, although greatly abridged from Polydore's original, went through numerous editions and is valuable to us - as all early English translations of the 16th century are - for providing a window into the attitudes and perspectives of the age and culture that produced it and for showing us just what the Latinless English reader would have known of Polydore Vergil's great work. As Hay points out, Langley makes "independent observations of his own which he fathered onto Vergil or at any rate which he did not distinguish in any way from the opinions of the text that he was summarizing."(Ibid, p. 68)
Modern bibliophiles will be delighted to find Polydore's notice (following his discussion of libraries) on the invention of printing by Gutenberg, Conrad Sweynheym's introduction of printing into Italy, and Nicolas Jenson's improvements on the process, preserved and rendered into mid-16th century Tudor English:
'Truly the commoditie of liberaries is right profitable & necessary, but in comparison of the craft of Printing, it is nothing, both because one man may Printe more in one day, then many men in many yeres coulde write: And also it preserveth bothe Greke & Latin auctours from the daunger of corruption. It was founde in Germany at Magunce by one J. Cuthenbergus a knight: he found moreover the Inke by his devyse that Prynters use. Xvi. yeres after Printing was found, which was ye yere of our lorde. M. cccc. Lviii., one Conradus an Almaine brought it into Rome: and Nicolaus Johnson a Frencheman did greatly polish & garnish it. And now it is dispersed through the whole world almost." (Folios ixiv- xlvi)
II. Polydore Vergil and "De Inventoribus Rerum":
"Polydore Vergil studied at the University of Padua, and possibly, although this is less secure, at Bologna under Filippo Beroaldo the elder. In 1496 he published in Venice an enlarged edition of Niccolò Perotti's Cornucopiae, a work that in turn influenced his own first books, the Proverbiorum libellus (Venice, 1498) and De inventoribus rerum (Venice, 1499). The former, a collection of proverbs, was retitled Adagiorum liber in later editions after a minor controversy over the primacy of each man's work arose between Vergil and Erasmus, whose own Adagia were published two years later in 1500. Erasmus and Vergil probably first met after Erasmus's second trip to England in 1505. They had many friends in common, exchanged many letters, and Erasmus later wrote that they had once laughed at table over their former rivalry. It is indeed significant that the two men were never seriously estranged by the dispute over their collections of adages. The popularity of Vergil's proverb book, though considerable, was nevertheless far exceeded by that of his second book, the De inventoribus rerum.
"In its first edition of 1499 De inventoribus rerum consisted of three books. Each chapter was devoted to a question of origins: "the origin of the gods, the beginning of things, the creation of men, the origin of languages, down to the origins of prostitution, the printing press, and the first warm baths. Then in 1521 Vergil published an expanded version in eight books, in which the five new books treated principally religious questions. These additional books were already substantially complete by 1517, the date of their dedicatory letter. In his discussions of beginnings Vergil typically went through all the Latin and Greek authorities known to him, before proceeding to the earlier treatments of the relevant questions in the Old Testament. At Urbino he had at his disposal one of Europe's most impressive collections of Greek and Latin texts, enabling him to make De inventoribus rerum one of the new humanist encyclopaedias, a book which, like Raffaello Maffei's slightly later Commentarii urbani (Rome, 1508), attempted to bring together the new learning made available by the efforts of Renaissance humanists…
"[When Polydore arrived] in England in 1502, he was received by Henry VII and 'ever after was entertained by him kindly', as he later wrote in the Anglica historia (Hay, 4). Already the author of two books, it seems likely that he was treated as a celebrity in an England that was eager for things Italian. Certainly he became well known to learned Englishmen, "Erasmus listed Thomas More, Cuthbert Tunstall, Thomas Linacre, and William Latimer as among Vergil's English friends. Like More, Vergil belonged to Doctors' Commons, and he appears to have been on good terms with Colet's St Paul's School. One measure of Vergil's success in England is his accumulation of church benefices…
"In 1508, while Vergil was just beginning work on the Anglica historia, Julius II deprived him of his subcollectorship of Peter's pence, conferring it instead on Pietro Griffo. Although Vergil's income from his benefices comfortably exceeded what he received as subcollector, he still made every effort to hold onto that office, and when Griffo arrived in England, Vergil refused to relinquish either the collectorship or its records and seals. Only after the pope sent a strong letter did Griffo obtain possession in 1509, but when he left England in 1512, Vergil took the office back, keeping it until 1515. In February 1514 Henry VIII wrote to Leo X to commend Vergil, who, he said, wished to visit his native land after twelve years' absence. Vergil duly travelled to Italy that year, visiting Rome first, where among other matters he discussed the issue of a cardinal's hat for Thomas Wolsey with his long-time patron, Cardinal Castellesi. He then proceeded to Urbino, where he paid a brother 600 florins to endow a chapel in the cathedral.
"In 1515 Vergil returned to London, only to find out that Henry VIII had begun to support Andreas Ammonius in a campaign to replace Castellesi as collector of Peter's pence. Ammonius, who had come to England about 1505, and had been Henry's Latin secretary since 1511, arranged to have Vergil's correspondence with Castellesi intercepted. Some letters critical of Wolsey were found, and their author was thrown into the Tower of London, where he remained from April until the end of 1515. For a while, his imprisonment became a cause célèbre. Leo X, Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, and the University of Oxford all petitioned the king to release him. But only after Wolsey had been made a cardinal in September, and then lord chancellor in December, was he released, probably at the new cardinal's instance. But his imprisonment made Vergil a confirmed enemy of Wolsey, and undoubtedly gave extra animus to the attack on the latter that Vergil published in the third edition of his Anglica historia. Vergil also lost his subcollectorship, but he retained his ecclesiastical benefices. In 1516 Leo X and Castellesi summoned him to Rome, and afterwards he also visited Urbino again, before returning to England and his benefices before the end of 1517. After this crisis, and for the rest of his life, he managed to steer clear of political controversy….
"Vergil stayed out of England's religious conflicts. Though his religious sympathies seem likely to have been conservative, he signed the articles of 1536 which effectively repudiated the pope's efforts to summon a general council, and in 1547 he subscribed the declaration for communion in both kinds. His ecclesiastical duties did not interfere with his literary activities or participation in London social life. He lived in a house in St Paul's Churchyard that was described in 1522 as consisting of a hall, a parlour, three chambers, and four beds. From 1546 he appears to have been preparing to return home to Italy, since he resigned the archdeaconry of Wells at the end of that year. In 1550 he was licensed to return to Urbino without forfeiting the revenues from his offices, but he probably did not leave England until 1553. He died at Urbino on 18 April 1555, and was buried in the chapel he had endowed in the cathedral. His house in Urbino, which he had bequeathed to his brothers Giovanni-Francesco and Girolamo, belongs today to the University of Urbino."(William J. Connell, ODNB)
STC (2nd ed.), 24658; Luborsky & Ingram. English Illustrated Books, 1536-1603, 24658; Pforzheimer, 1022; Tail-piece: Plomer #38
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