CHRISTINE DE PISAN (c.1364-c.1431). Faits d'armes et de chevalerie, in English: Fayt of armes and of chyualrye. Translated from French by William Caxton. [Westminster:] William Caxton, 14 July 1489.
Chancery 2° (258 x 192mm). Collation: \Kp\k2 A-R8 S6 (\Kp\k1r table of contents, \Kp\k2v blank, A1r text, S5r epilogue, S6 blank). 143 (of 144, without final blank) leaves. Text on O3v and 6r transposed in imposition. 31 lines. Type: 6:120G. Lombard initials, lombard with Maiblumen infill opening text. Sheet S2.5 in first setting as per GW. Paper: unicorn-marked paper throughout, except for F4.5 marked with a wheel. (Extreme outer fore-edges affected by damp and mended in places, corner of N4.5 renewed affecting a few letters in N5, repaired tear into text in P8 without loss, a few corners at end renewed, occasional small stains and repaired marginal tears.) Bound by Charles Lewis, probably for George Hibbert; light brown gold-tooled morocco, sides with central panel of single fillet with chivalric motifs at centre and corners, wide turn-ins tooled with intersecting fillets ending in a palmette at corners, violet glazed endpapers, gilt edges, signed by Lewis on front turn-in (small wormhole at spine). Provenance: contemporary annotations (washed), word 'pope' removed in accordance with 1533 Act of Supremacy -- George Hibbert (sale Evans, 25 May 1829, 15th day of sale, lot 3113, to Pickering for £37.16:) -- Philip Augustus Hanrott (sale Evans, 16 July 1833, lot 2497, to Longman for £30.9) -- Beriah Botfield.
FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH. An Italian by birth, Christine de Pisan was raised at the French court of Charles V, whom her father served as astrologer and secretary. She began writing poetry and prose when the death of her husband left her with three young children to support, and she was fortunate to find patrons among French nobility such as Philip the Bold, Jean, duc de Berry, and Queen Isabeau. Numerous sumptuous manuscripts of the Faits d'armes survive from the middle of the 15th century which may be associated with the Burgundian court, a court which was also responsible for Caxton's first commission as translator and printer: the Recuyell of the Histories of Troye (see lot 43). Caxton's translation and printing of the Faits d'armes, undertaken at the request of Henry VII, no doubt aimed for a similarly high-ranking audience. As Caxton states in his epilogue, he received a French manuscript from Henry VII on 23 January 1489 and finished printing it on 14 July. Political circumstances no doubt contributed to its publication; in the first half of 1489 Henry VII was engaged in battle in Brittany and in Flanders and was suppressing rebellion in Yorkshire against high taxation caused in part by funding these military expeditions (cf. Painter, p.170).
The Faits d'armes is a practical handbook of war. Christine deals with the traits of an ideal commander, his duties and training; methods of drawing up an army for battle; defence and assault of fortified places; military tactics for a variety of situations; and naval warfare, among other topics. It is largely based on Vegetius's De re militari ('the most influential military treatise in the western world from Roman times to the 19th century' [Willard p.184]), Honoré Bonet's Arbre des batailles, and, to a lesser extent, Frontinus' Stratagemata; in addition, Christine illustrates her material with events from her own time. One group of manuscripts (not that used by Caxton) survives in which Christine's name and her invocation of Minerva are suppressed and some masculine pronouns replace the feminine, presumably in an attempt to disguise the gender of its author. Caxton had already published in 1478 Christine's Moral proverbs, which she had written for her son.
An offset impression of \Kp\k1r, the first page of the table, is clearly visible on \Kp\k2v; owing to very partial impressions in the Morgan, Huntington and British Library copies, its text has hitherto not been identified. HC 4988=15918; GW 6648; Duff 96; Goff C-472; Klebs 1022.1; Needham, Printer & Pardoner, Cx 90; STC 7269; De Ricci Caxtons 28:35; C. Willard, Christine de Pizan (1984), pp.184-6, 214-6; EETS edition by Byles, 1937.