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Selected Pre-1700 Imprints

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Albemarle, George Monk, 1st Duke of (1608-1670).

Observations Upon Military & Political Affairs…

In 1644 the Duke of Albemarle, army general and naval commander, was sentenced to prison by parliamentarian forces. He served a two-year term in the Tower of London, devoting himself to the writing of his Observations. This work, which was published posthumously in 1671, is described in the preface as a “Platform of Military Conduct, being a Collection of his Reading and Experience together.”

Anderson, Robert (fl. 1668-1696).

The Genuine Use and Effects of the Gunne…

Robert Anderson was a weaver by trade, but skilled in mathematics and its application to gunnery. In 1674 he published this treatise on gunnery which was to serve as a standard reference for the next generation.

To Hit a Mark…
To Cut the Rigging…

According to Anderson, these two tracts were published after considerable experimentation. In his preface he states that “in these last 15 Years, I have made more than a Thousand Experiments.”

Anghiera, Pietro Martire d' (1457-1526).

De nouo orbe, or The Historie of the West Indies…

As a member of the Council for the Indies, and a friend of Columbus and other contemporary discoverers, Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, popularly known as Peter Martyr, was uniquely qualified to undertake a history of the New World. His Decades, the first of which appeared in 1511, were widely recognized as works of unquestioned scholarship, and he is often referred to as the “first historian of America.”

By 1530 the entire collection of eight Decades had been published, and subsequently passed through many editions. This edition, which combines the translations of Lok with the earlier translations of Eden, comprises what is considered to be the first complete English edition.

Ashby, John, Sir (d.1693).

The Account Given by Sir John Ashby Vice-Admiral, and Reere-Admiral Rooke…

The victory of the Comte de Tourville over the allied English and Dutch fleets in the Battle of Beachy Head, 30 June 1690, has been described by Mahan as “the most conspicuous success the French have ever gained at sea over the English.” Vice Admiral Ashby and Rear Admiral Rooke served under the Earl of Torrington who commanded the Red Squadron during the engagement. Torrington was subsequently court-martialed, and although he was acquitted, the incident marked the end of his naval career.

The accounts of Ashby and Rooke appeared first in this London edition of 1691, and later the same year in a reprint edition published in Edinburgh.

Baïf, Lazare de (d.1547)

Lazari Bayfii Annotationes in L.II. De captivis, et postliminio reversis…

This book is a celebrated treatise on naval science, which is said to have served as a standard authority for nearly three centuries.

Lazare de Baif, French humanist and diplomat, studied in Rome and served as French ambassador to Venice and Germany. When his De re navali appeared in 1536, under the editorship of Charles Estienne, the newly published treatise was reviewed by Etienne Dolet, a scholar engaged at the time in a similar work. Charges of plagiarism against Etienne Dolet ensued, and in 1537 Estienne published an abridgment of De re navali, entitled De re navali libellus… in which he openly accused Dolet. This action prompted Dolet to publish in the same year, Stephani Doleti De re navali, that portion of his work under attack. His refutation of the charge was included as a prefatory letter.

Blondel, Francois (1618-1686).

L'art de jetter les bombes…

Francois Blondel, French architect, military engineer, and mathematician, was a member of the Academie Royale des Sciences and tutor to the Dauphin. Although he completed this distinguished treatise in 1675, it was not published until 1683, for fear that it might benefit the enemies of France.

Blundeville, Thomas (fl.1561).

Mr. Blundevil, His Exercises, Contayning Eight Treatises...

An English author, best known as a writer on horsemanship, Thomas Blundeville first published his Exercises in 1594. The work, which was issued in several editions, includes his Brief Description of Universal Mappes and Cardes, originally published in 1589.

 Brewster, Sir Francis (fl.1674-1702).

Essays on Trade and Navigation…

Sir Francis Brewster, a Dubliner who held various posts during his government career, served as lord mayor of Dublin in 1674. Although intended to be issued in five parts, his Essays on Trade and Navigation, which appeared in 1695, was published in one part only, followed in 1702 by his New Essays on Trade. In his preface, Brewster calls attention to the fact that he engaged “for Thirty Years at Home and Abroad in a Universal Trade.”

Boteler, Nathaniel (fl. 1640).

Colloquia maritima…

Nathaniel Butler (or Boteler), a captain of the Royal Navy, is referred to in official contemporary sources as “an able and experienced sea-captain.” His Colloquia maritima, first published in 1685 as Six Dialogues, outlines the customs, rules, and discipline prevailing in the seventeenth century Royal Navy, most probably during the period 1620-1630.

Sovereign of the Seas

The Sovereign of the Seas (known also as Sovereign, Sovereign Royal, and Royal Sovereign) was launched at Woolwich in 1637, a vessel remarkable for her size, armament, and richness of decoration. After participating in several actions of the Dutch Wars, she was accidentally burnt while laid up at Chatham in 1692.

One of the interesting features of this pamphlet is the inclusion, on pp. 24-26, of “A true relation of a most bloody, treacherous, cruell designe of the Dutch in New-Netherlands in America….” It is a reprint of a tract entitled, The Second Part of the Tragedy of Amboyna, which had been published in London for Thomas Matthews, also in 1653, to reveal a supposed Dutch plot to massacre the English colonists in New England.

Consulate of the Sea

lI Consolato del Mare…

An Italian translation of Le libre de consolat, this title was originally published in the Catalan language at Barcelona, Spain during the late fifteenth century. The first edition is thought to have been issued in 1494.

The work is a collection of maritime customs and ordinances embodying the rules of law by which the commercial judges, or consuls, of the maritime cities of the Mediterranean were guided. Included as an appendix to this publication is a 1584 edition of Il portolano del mare, attributed by some authorities to the Venetian explorer and trader, Alvise Ca da Mosto (1432?-1488?).

Courtilz de Sandras, Gatien, (1644-1712).

The History of the Life and Actions of That Great Captain of His Age the Viscount de Turenne…

Before embarking upon a literary career, Gatien de Courtilz, a native of Paris, served as a captain in the Regiment de Champagne. Most of his works were published under various noms de plume, and his “biographies” are considered for the most part to be simply historical novels, which he represented as the authentic memoirs of prominent contemporaries of the “biographees.”

The work on the Count de Turenne first appeared in 1685 as La vie du vicomte de Turenne par Dubuisson, capitaine du regiment de Verdelin. No officer of the name of Dubuisson was found to have served during this period in the Verdelin regiment, and the publication has been attributed to Courtilz. The family of the Count de Turenne found the work so objectionable that they arranged with the Abbe Raguenet to write an authorized biography.

Cuningham, William (b. 1531).

The Cosmographical Glasse…

William Cuningham (or Keningham), an eminent London physician and astronomer, was educated at Cambridge, and received his medical degree from the University of Heidelberg around 1559, the year in which his learned treatise, The Cosmographical Glasse, was published.

Cuningham, who claimed to be only twenty-nine years of age when his work appeared, was also a talented engraver. He contributed much of the illustrative material for which his work is so remarkable, referring in his preface to his diligence “in divisinge sundry newe Tables, Pictures, demonstrations, & praedeptes.”

Dolet, Etienne (1506-1646).

Stephani Doleti de re na vali. Liber ad la Zarvm Bay Fivm.
[Etienne Dolet, On Naval Matters, dedicated to Lazarus Bayfius, Lyon: published by Sebastian Gryphe.].

While French humanist and scholar, Etienne Dolet, was still at work on his Commentarii lingua latinae, rumors of plagiarism were circulating against him. The most serious charge concerned Lazare de Baif’s De re navali, published in 1536. The following year, Baif’s editor decided to print an abridgement of the treatise under the title De re navali libellus…, in which he openly accused Dolet of plagiarism. Dolet responded by publishing, also in 1537, the section of his Commentarii dealing with naval science. It appeared as Stephani Doleti De re navali, and was prefaced by a lengthy letter in which he refuted the charge.

Dolet, known as “the first martyr of the Renaissance,” was burned at the stake in Paris in 1546 after being condemned for his religious writings.

 Evelyn, John (1620-1706).

Navigation and Commerce, Their Original and Progress…

At the direction of Charles II, John Evelyn, an English man of letters, undertook to write an official history of the Second Dutch War. It is believed that Charles failed to approve the work, and only the first part was published, as Navigation and Commerce, in 1674. The work, which provides a general history of trade and navigation from classical times through the year 1649, was later suppressed at the demand of the Dutch ambassador and then reprinted in 1859.

Exquemelin, Alexandre Olvier (b. 1646?).

De Americaensche Zee-roovers

This is the original Dutch edition of Exquemelin’s famous work on the buccaneers of America, “the heroes among the pirates.”

Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin, a French Protestant surgeon, was himself a buccaneer. In the West Indies he served the freebooters as a ship’s surgeon, sharing in their exploits for nearly ten years before returning to Amsterdam in 1676 to complete his medical training and record his experiences. It is thought that he wrote his memoirs in French, with the publisher arranging for translation of the manuscript into Dutch.

De Americaensche zee-roovers enjoyed immediate popularity, and translations appeared in quick succession. The volume was expanded through contributions by Exquemelin, as well as several of his publishers. The work exerted a profound influence on the literature of piracy and served as one of the principal sources for the history of the West Indies.

Exquemelin, Alexandre Olvier (b. 1646?).

Bucaniers of America

Although Exquemelin personally arranged for the publication of a French edition of his work from his original manuscript, he was not involved in the issuance of the English editions.

This is a copy of the first English edition, translated anonymously from the Spanish version, and published in 1684. It was followed by a second edition three months later, and by an altered pirated version issued by Thomas Malthus soon thereafter.

Flacourt, Etienne de (1607-1660).

Histoire de la Grande Isle Madagascar

Etienne de Flacourt, born at Orleans in 1607, has been described as “an educated gentleman of the late Renaissance, a scientist with the mind of a humanist.” He served under the French East India Company as governor of Madagascar from 1648 until 1655. In the latter year he returned to France, disillusioned, to form his own company. In 1660 he sailed again for Madagascar in his own vessel, was attacked by corsairs off the Barbary Coast, and drowned.

The first edition of Flacourt’s history, written during his stay in France, appeared in 1658. The second edition, published in 1661, extends his coverage of events on the island from 1655 to 1657. The work was hailed as the first comprehensive history of the island and is still highly regarded, especially for the author’s botanical observations.

Gage, Thomas (1603?-1656).

The English-American his Travail by Sea and Land…

An Englishman by birth, Thomas Gage studied in Spain and entered the Dominican Order, serving as a missionary in the West Indies for several years. He returned to Europe in 1637, and eventually renounced his religion in London. He died in Jamaica in 1656 while serving as a Protestant chaplain. When his work appeared in 1648, it created a sensation, encouraging the English to compete with the Spaniards for the rich territories of the New World.

Although Gage has been charged with copying verbatim from an earlier volume on Mexico, his work is regarded as original in most respects. An enlarged edition, “beautified with maps,” was published in 1655, followed by several later editions including a number of translations.

Gassendi, Pierre (1592-1655).

Petri Gassendi Institutio Astronomica, Juxta Hypotheseis Tam Veterum quam Recentiorum

Pierre Gassend (or Gassendi), a celebrated French philosopher, was born in Provence in 1592. The fact that his many scholarly works were written in Latin and bore his name in the genitive case on the title pages led to his becoming more widely known as Pierre Gassendi.

Gassendi’s genius embraced nearly every discipline of the arts and sciences, and it is said that his interest in astronomy developed during his earliest childhood, persisting despite his many other pursuits. In 1645 he was appointed professor of mathematics at the Royal College of France, and in 1647 his lengthy astronomical treatise, Institutio astronomica, first appeared. The work, which included Galileo’s Sidereus nuncios and Kepler’s Dioptrice, also appeared in several later editions.

Gentleman, Tobias.

Englands VVay to VVin Wealth, and to Employ Ships and Marriners…

Although Tobias Gentleman was by his own description a simple fisherman, “more skilfull in Nets, Lines, and Hookes, then in Rethoricke, Logicke, or learned books,” his interest in encouraging the development of England’s herring fisheries led him to publish this little volume dedicated to the Earl of Northampton. Determined to succeed in his project despite what he saw as a lack of expertise among English shipbuilders, Gentleman ends his treatise with an appeal for assistance from those “Worshipfull Adventurers, that would have any directions for the building of these Busses, or Fisherships.”

 Gerbier, Sir Balthazer, (1592?-1667).

The First Lecture Touching Navigation Read Publiquely at Sr. Balthazar Gerbiers Academ.

The Second Lecture being an Introduction to Cosmographie…

Sir Balthazar Gerbier, a painter and architect, was born in the Netherlands of French Huguenot parents. In 1616 he settled in England under the patronage of the future Duke of Buckingham, entered the Foreign Service, and was knighted in 1628.

After falling from favor, Sir Balthazar, who was generally considered an eccentric, established an “Academy” at his house on Bethnal Green in 1649, offering instruction in the arts, sciences, and social graces. He arranged for the publication of many of his lectures, including the two cited above. Walpole’s description of one of his tracts as the “most trifling superficial rhapsody,” is typical of the regard in which Gerbier’s efforts were held by most of his contemporaries.

Hawkins, Sir Richard (1562?-1622).

The Observations of Sir Richard Havvkins Knight…

In 1593, Sir Richard Hawkins, naval commander and only son of the more famous Sir John Hawkins, embarked upon a voyage around the world which ended in 1594 with his imprisonment in Lima and later in Spain. In 1602 he was ransomed and returned to London where he was knighted the following year.

Hawkins’s Observations was in press at the time of his death and was published shortly thereafter. While the historical accuracy of many details of the work has been challenged, it has been acclaimed for the realistic view it provides of Elizabethan life at sea.

Hodges, William, Sir (1645?-1714).

Humble Proposals for the Relief, Encouragement, Security and Happiness of the Loyal, Couragious Seamen of England…

Sir William Hodges, a wealthy London merchant, became distressed over the oppression of British seamen and authored several pamphlets in their behalf. Among other abuses, he attacked the practice of paying the men, not in hard coin but in pay-tickets, which were notoriously difficult to cash legally. Men often served as long as nine years without wages, then only to become prey to the speculators engaged in ticket-buying. It is this practice which Hodges publicizes in his “Art of ticket-buying,” a discourse published as an appendix to his Humble proposals.

 Nicolay, Nicolas, de (1517-1583).

Le Navigationi et Viaggi Nella Tvrchia…

Born in France in 1517, Nicolas Nicolay, who served for a time as geographer-in-ordinary to Henry II, spent most of his adult life traveling throughout Europe and the Turkish Empire.

In 1568, Nicolay published an account of his travels under the title, Quatre premiers livres des navigations….The work is illustrated with sixty costume plates, the origin of which is not entirely clear. Some authorities claim that the woodcuts were done after sketches by Titian, while others hold that Nicolay himself, a talented artist, drew the original exotic designs during the course of his travels. The work appeared in several editions including this Italian translation by Francesco Flori published in 1577.

 Norton, Robert (d. 1635).

The Gvnner Shewing the Whole Practise of Artillery…

Robert Norton, engineer and gunner in the royal service, undertook in this work to adapt for the English reader the best of the writings of the continental authorities on gunnery. He anticipated the charges of plagiarism which were to follow, and in his preface offers a defense of his work and explains his decision to use the de Bry plates produced for Uffano’s Booke of Artillery.

Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662).

Traitez de l'Equilibre des Liqueurs, et de la Pesanteur de la Masse de l'Air…

With his treatise on the equilibrium of liquids, Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, scientist and philosopher, made a major contribution to scientific literature. The first edition was published posthumously in 1663. The 1698 edition is described in some catalogs as the third edition.

Raveneau de Lussan.

Journal du Voyage Fait a la Mer de Sud…

Raveneau de Lussan was a Parisian nobleman who, by his own testimony, was filled from his earliest years with a desire for adventure. This natural inclination, together with his determination to acquire sufficient money to settle his debts, prompted him to sail in 1684 for the West Indies where he became associated with the freebooters.

Lussan’s journal, which carries the account of his adventures through 1688, was published in an edition bearing a 1689 imprint and another with a 1690 imprint. There is some question as to which was actually the first to appear. According to Joseph Sabin, the 1690 edition was also published as an appendix to a 1704 edition of Exquemelin’s History of the Bucaniers of America.

Sacro Bosco, Joannes de (fl.1230).

Sphera Volgare Novamente Tradotta…

John Holywood (or Halifax), better known by the Latinized form of his name, Joannes de Sacro Bosco, is thought to have been born at Halifax in Yorkshire and to have studied at Oxford. Much of his life was spent in Paris, where he died, possibly in 1256. Sacro Bosco is renowned for his “Tractatus de sphaera,” a treatise on astronomy which was regarded as a work of much merit during the Middle Ages, and which was to become the second astronomical work to appear in print. It was first published as Sphaera mundi in 1472, and more than sixty subsequent Latin editions have been identified. The translation by Fiorentino Mauro is one of four versions known to have been issued in Italian during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

 Selden, John (1584-1654).

Ioannis Seldeni Mare Clausum seu De Dominio Maris Libri Duo…

John Selden, an eminent English jurist, attempted in 1618 to justify England’s claim to dominion of the sea by composing an essay in answer to Grotius’s Mare liberum. For political reasons, James I, at whose command Selden is thought to have produced his treatise, failed to authorize its publication, and it was not until 1636 that the work was issued, under the title Mare clausum.

In his Vindiciae, which appeared in 1653, Selden presents an account of the circumstances surrounding the writing and publication of Mare clausum, which had been attacked by the Dutch jurist, Graswinckel, in 1652.

Smith, John (1580-1631).

An Accidence, or The Path-way to Experience…

Drawing on his extensive navigational experience, Captain John Smith published his Accidence in 1626, referring to his topic as “a subject I never see writ before.” It is true, at least as far as English literature is concerned that Smith’s discourse is usually considered to be the first published work on the subject of seamanship and naval gunnery. Although Sir Henry Manwayring’s Sea Man’s Dictionary was supposedly written in 1623, it was not published until 1644.

Captain Smith’s revised and much expanded edition of Accidence, published as A Seaman’s Grammar in 1627, served as a textbook for young seamen throughout the century.

Sutcliffe, Matthew (1550?-1629).

The Practice, Proceedings, and Lawes of Armes…

Matthew Sutcliffe, born in Yorkshire and educated at Cambridge, received his Doctor of Laws degree from Trinity College in 1581. He served as a royal chaplain under both Elizabeth I and James I, and was installed as Dean of Exeter in 1588, a post he held for more than forty years.

Sutcliffe’s popular treatise on military science appeared in 1593. In dedicating his work to the Earl of Essex, he stressed his strong belief that “with exercise of armes and observance of true discipline of war great enterprises most happily are achieved.”

Tartaglia, Niccolo (1500-1557).

Three Bookes of Colloquies Concerning the Arte of Shooting in Great and Small Peeces of Artillerie…

In 1537, Niccolo Tartaglia, a self-taught Italian physicist and arithmetician, published his Nuovas scienza, one of the earliest contributions to the theory of gunnery. In an attempt to answer the many questions posed by the readers of this work, Tartaglia issued his Quesiti et inventioni diverse in 1546.

An English translation of Books I, II, and III of Quesiti was published in 1588 by Cyprian Lucar, an English mechanician, as Three Bookes of Colloqvies. He annexed his “Lucar Appendix,” a treatise derived from “divers authors in divers languages,” and considerably longer than the Tartaglia translation.

Thevenot, Melchisedec (1620-1692).

The Art of Swimming…

This work is a translation of Thevenot’s L’Art de nager (1695), one of the few works on the natatory art published before the close of the seventeenth century.

Thevenot, a French explorer and scholar, who was appointed Librarian to the King of France in 1684, claims his work to be “the first Treatise of this kind that has ever appeared in the French tongue.” The preface on “artificial swimming” was contributed by the unidentified translator.

Tindal, Matthew (1653?-1733).

An Essay Concerning the Laws of Nations…

Matthew Tindal, an English jurist, who characterized himself as a “Christian deist,” served as consultant to the King’s ministers on matters of international law. In 1693 he rendered a controversial opinion to the effect that certain individuals could be tried for piracy despite their contention that they were acting under a royal commission. His Essay Concerning the Laws of Nations, originally published in 1693, was reissued in 1694 with an appendix relating to this question of piracy.

Violet, Thomas (fl. 1634-1662).

A True Narrative of the Proceedings in the Court of Admiraltie…

A goldsmith and alderman of London, Thomas Violet was imprisoned in 1634 for exporting gold and silver from the realm. One of the conditions of his pardon was to seek out similar offenders. In 1652 he became involved in prosecuting suits against the owners of the vessels Sampson, Salvador, and George, and thereafter published this narrative, which first appeared in 1656.

Welwood, William (fl. 1578-1622).

An Abridgement of all Sea-Lavves…

William Welwood, Scottish professor of mathematics and law, published his first treatise on maritime law in 1590. It was followed in 1613 by the first edition of An Abridgement of All Sea-Lavves, a work regarded as the first comprehensive manual on maritime law published in England. Welwood’s commentary on Grotius’s Mare liberum, the most celebrated work in the field at that time, appears as Chapter XXVII. This chapter, together with Grotius’s manuscript reply to Welwood, is included in a facsimile edition of Mare liberum published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1952.

Zeno, Niccolo (1515-1565).

De I Commentarii del Viaggio in Persia…

The first published account of the voyage of discovery to the North Atlantic allegedly made by the brothers Nicolo and Antonio Zeno in 1380.

This controversial work, which was published anonymously, is reputedly from the pen of Nicolo, the younger brother, and is accompanied by a map claimed to have been reproduced from a fourteenth century manuscript chart. The question of the authenticity of both the map and the narrative has long been in dispute, with reputable historians taking directly opposite views in the debate.


British Museum. Department of Printed Books. General Catalogue of Printed Books. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1931-.

Bibliotheque Nationale. Catalogue general des livres imprimes: Auteurs. Paris: Impr. Nationale, 1900-.

Brunet, Jacques C. Manuel du libraire et de l’amateur de livres, contenant 1º. Un nouveau dictionnaire bibliographique…2º. Une table en forme de catalogue raisonne…5. ed. originale entierment refondue et augm. d’un tiers par l’auteur…6 vols. Paris: Firmin-Didot freres, 1860-65.

Church, Elihu D. A Catalogue of Books Relating to the Discovery and Early History of North and South America, Forming a Part of the Library of E.D. Church; Compiled and Annotated by George Watson Cole. 5 vols. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1907.

Cockle, Maurice J. A Bibliography of Military Books Up to 1642. 2d ed. London: Holland Press, 1957.

Grasse, Johann G. Tresor de livres rares et precieux; ou, Nouveau dictionnaire bibliographique contenant plus de cent mille articles de livres rares, curieux et recherches… 7 vols. Dresde: R. Kuntze, 1859-69.

National Union Catalog, A Cumulative Author List Representing Library of Congress Printed Cards and Titles Reported by Other American Libraries. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1961-1993.

Pollard, Alfred W. and G.R. Redgrave. A Short-title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640. London: Bibliographical Society, 1926.

Sabin, Joseph. Bibliotheca Americana. A Dictionary of Books Relating to America, From Its Discovery to the Present Time. Begun by Joseph Sabin, Continued by Wilberforce Eames and Completed by R.W.G. Vail for the Bibliographical Society of America. 29 vols. New York: Sabin, 1868-92; Bibliographical Society of America, 1928-36.

Wing, Donald G. Short-title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700. 3 vols. New York: Index Society, 1945-51.


Published: Mon May 11 15:35:01 EDT 2015