Folio volume comprising two tracts about Elizabeth I: i) George Puttenham, An Apology or True Defence of Her Majesty's Honourable and Good Renown; ii) Sir Philip Sidney, A Letter to Queen Elizabeth touching her Marriage with Monsieur.
[N.P.]: c. 1630.
[N.P.]: c. 1630. Folio volume, containing two manuscripts both in the hand of the professional scrivener known as the Feathery Scribe, together 60 leaves (283 x 185 mm). Later half vellum. Puttenham: copy, headed “Queene Elizabeth's Apologie ffor hir Proceedinges against the Queene of Scottes, anno 1587”, with comments on the treatise at the end in a different hand, on 100 folio pages. Sidney: copy, headed “A Letter written by Sir Phillip Sidney unto Queene Elizabeth touchinge hir Marriage with Mounseer”, 19 folio pages. Headings in italic, the texts in secretary hand, written within ruled margins, with catchwords, obscured word (a name?) at end below the final flourish. Watermark of a pair of pillars surmounted by a bunch of grapes with a cross-bar bearing the letters GAD, similar to Heawood 3494, a watermark Heawood dates 1633. Excellent condition.
A handsome manuscript containing two tracts on Elizabethan political controversies, last seen in commerce in 1933, when it was described as written "in a very neat old Court Hand", now identifiable as the distinctive and highly attractive hand of the prolific 17th-century scrivener known as the Feathery Scribe, who flourished particularly in the period 1625–40.
Although these texts are Elizabethan and written mostly in the secretary hand of that era, the Feathery Scribe was at his most prolific during the 11-year period of Charles I's personal rule. These and similar tracts were disseminated in that period of political turmoil with a view to establishing historical precedents. The second treatise here, in which Sir Philip Sidney respectfully petitions his monarch Elizabeth to abandon her proposed marriage to a Catholic, is the work which the Feathery Scribe copied more than any other. The polemical text was generated during the controversy over Elizabeth's projected marriage to François, duc d’Alençon (who had become duc d’Anjou). It had sharp relevance in the Stuart period, especially after Charles's marriage in 1625 to the French Catholic Henrietta Maria. It was first published in Scrinia Caeciliana: Mysteries of State & Government (London, 1663) and in Cabala: sive Scrinia Sacra (London, 1663).
Sidney’s work and its textual transmission is discussed, with facsimile examples, in Peter Beal, In Praise of Scribes, Chapter 4, pp. 109-46 (with most MSS catalogued as Nos 1-37, with comments on their textual tradition, in Appendix IV, pp. 274-80). In this copy the text concludes with Sidney’s original ending and a final spiralling flourish of the pen, rather than the additional valedictory coda discussed by Beal, p. 137.
The first tract is George Puttenham’s treatise on the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, beginning “There hath not happened since the memorie of man…”. "This prose defence of Mary's execution presents sophisticated legal and political arguments in support of the government's decision to condemn Mary to death. The tract … is assigned to Puttenham in two contemporary manuscripts (BL, Add. MS 48027, Harley 831), and there are no conflicting attributions" (ODNB). George Puttenham (1529–1590/91) is generally acknowledged to have been the author of The Arte of English Poesie, published anonymously in 1589. The tract circulated widely in manuscript but was not printed until 1867, as “A Justification of Queene Elizabeth in relation to the Affaire of Mary Queene of Scottes”, in Accounts and Papers relating to Mary Queen of Scots, ed. Allan J. Crosby and John Bruce, Camden Society, 93, pp. 67-134.
The manuscript has comments on the Puttenham treatise at the end in a different hand (presumably a 17th-century reader who was a lawyer): “This apology in the reading answered not my expectation: it mainly insists on the lawfullnesse of detaining the Queene of Scots prisoner. But as for her crimes, it gives the world noe satisfaction on that point, and a maine one is that shee twice designed to bee married. The manner of her Triall is pitifully defended and some ignorance shewed of our proceedings at law in cases of Triall; and (which is worst of all) it uses the great massacre of the Protestants in ffrance as a medium to justify the execution of the Scottish Queene.”
Provenance: Formerly Mostyn MS 261, from the library of Mostyn Hall, near Holywell, Flintshire, Wales, seat of Sir Thomas Mostyn, second Baronet (c.1651-1700?) and of Sir Roger Mostyn, third Baronet (1675-1739). With the armorial bookplate of Sir Thomas Mostyn, fourth Baronet (1704-1758), inscribed with his name, the date of 1744, and "no 55"; in addition, the book label of his library at Gloddaeth, Carnarvon and numbered "MS. No. 261" (inside front cover). Recorded in Great Britain Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 4th Report (1874), Appendix, p. 361. The third Lord Mostyn's sale, Sotheby's, 13 July 1920, lot 35, to Maggs. Maggs's sale catalogues Nos 423 (1922), item 1127, and No. 550 (1931), item 987.
Literature: CELM PtG 5 & SiP 215, listed under “Untraced, miscellaneous”; the volume mentioned in Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558-1640, pp. 151-2. Sidney: Peter Beal, In Praise of Scribes: Manuscripts and their Makers in Seventeenth-Century England, Oxford, 1998, No. 37; Feuillerat, III, 51-60; Duncan-Jones & Van Dorsten, pp. 46-57. (Item #4268)