Generall Historie of the Turkes


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KNOLLES, Richard. Generall Historie of the Turkes, from the First Beginning of that Nation to the Rising of the Othoman Familie. London: Adam Islip, 1603. Thick folio (8-1/2 by 12-1/2 inches), period-style full dark brown calf, raised bands, red morocco spine label.

First edition of Knolles great history, with engraved historiated title page, 28 in-text engraved medallion portraits by Lawrence Johnson and one battle scene, and wood-engraved headpieces, tailpieces and initial letters throughout.

"One of the earliest histories to be written in the English language, praised as 'a monument of Elizabethan prose by several discerning judges,… Knolles remains without a true rival, for his book is still, despite its limitations, the most exhaustive that we have, a vast repository of much that we prize most highly amongst the sources for the rise and full resplendence of the Ottoman might'" (V.J. Parry). Knolles earned the praise of Samuel Johnson: "None of our writers can, in my opinion, justly contest the superiority of Knolles, who, in his History of the Turks, has displayed all the excellencies that narration can admit. His style,… is pure, nervous, elevated, and clear" (Rambler, No. 122). And Byron, shortly before his death, wrote, "Old Knolles was one of the first books that gave me pleasure when a child; and I believe it had much influence on my future wishes to visit the Levant, and gave perhaps the oriental coloring which is observed in my poetry" (DNB).

A long list of Byzantine historians and other authorities is given by Knolles, but he seems to have relied primarily on Boissard's Vitae et Icones Sultanorum Turcicorum (1596). In some instances, however, Knolles includes eyewitness accounts, as is the case with his description of the Battle of Lepanto, for which he interviewed a young Englishman who was present at the scene. "Knolles [places] emphases on the theatricality of Ottoman power as well as its 'slothfull and effeminate' attributes… It reads more as a drama for English readers" (Barbour). The fine medallion portraits by Lawrence Johnson of the Turkish kings, emperors and sultans, together with their (mostly) Christian adversaries, were skillfully adapted from Theodor de Bry's engravings for Boissard. Letterpress title page at page [129]. STC 15051. Lowndes, 1286. See Brunet III, 681; Graesse IV, 34. One page of manuscript notes about the book tipped to front free endpaper.

Only the occasional marginal spot or marking, text quite clean, binding attractive and fine. A very nice copy of this influential classic.

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