Roger Gaskell Rare Books

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AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ARTS AND SCIENCES, WITH A FRONTISPIECE INCORPORATING A FULL-LENGTH PORTRAIT OF HARVEY. FIRST EDITION.

WECKER, Johann Jacob (1528–1586) and R. READ.

Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature , being the summe and substance of Naturall philosophy, methodically digested. First designed by John Wecker Dr in Physick, and now much augmented and inlarged by Dr. R. Read. A like work never before in the English tongue

London: printed for Simon Miller at the Starre in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1660
Folio: a4 B2 C–2V4 2X8, 178 leaves, pp. [8] 346 (i.e. 336, 229–238 omitted) [12]. Index on pp. [1]–[8] at the end, advertisements on [9]–[11], last page blank. Woodcut printer’s device on title, woodcut head and tailpieces and initials, woodcut diagrams in the text.
Etched titlepage incorporating 5 busts and 2 full length portraits, signed ‘Ric: Gaywood sculp’.
Condition: 273 x 182mm. Paper slightly discoloured.
Binding: Contemporary blind ruled unlettered sheep. Short splits in joints; rubbed.
Provenance: Early paper shelf labels on spine; Earls of Macclesfield with South Library bookplate and embossed crest on prelims (sale at Sotheby’s London, 26 October 2005, lot 2098).
First edition. Reissued in the following year with a cancel titlepage. A translation by William Rowland of Wecker’s De secreti libri xvii, edited and augmented by ‘Dr R. Read’ or ‘Reade’.
Bibliography: Wing W1236; ESTC R12839; Ferguson 3, pp. 39–40 and supt. 3, p. 35; Krivatsy 12628.
£5,500

Based on Wecker’s De secreti libri xvii, first published in 1582 and by now a brand name for the genre, this was conceived as ‘an Encyclipaedia of Arts and Sciences, interwoven with facetious Conceits to recreate the fancy’. The compiler, Dr R. Read or Reade, whose portrait is incorporated in the engraved title, has not been identified. He gives a long list of ‘Authors made use of in this Treatise’ which adds, Culpeper, Digby, Galileo, Harvey, Hobbs, Lady Howard and Platt to those used by Wecker. He sneaks in his own name between Rondolet and Rhasis. Every imaginable topic of natural science, natural magic, arts, trades, sports and pastimes is included, each secret attributed to an authority – from which it is clear that the list of authors is incomplete.
The fine etched titlepage is by Hollar’s pupil Richard Gaywood (c. 1630–1680) and incorporates full length portraits of Harvey and Bacon, and busts of Alexis of Piedmont, Albertus Magnus, Dr Read, Wecker and Lull. Gaywood was one of the most prolific etchers of his generation, active between 1644 and 1668, taking over from Hollar as the principal supplier of etched, as opposed to engraved portraits, and a collaborator with Francis Barlow. Johnson, Catalogue of Engraved and Etched English Title-pages records 14 of his titlepages (mistakenly giving his name as Robert) but overlooks this one.
Harvey sat for a portrait in 1648 or 9, possibly to Hollar, which Evelyn records was ‘etcht by a friend of mine’. It was intended as a frontispiece to Harvey’s De generatione animalium (1651), but not used there, and shows Harvey as a rather sad old man. The etching is generally attributed to Gaywood, as is the engraved title to De generatione animalium. When he came to incorporate Harvey in the titlepage here, where Harvey and Bacon hold back the curtains to reveal the words ‘secrets of art and nature’, Gaywood gives Harvey the same cloak with buttoned sleeves, but he is a more dapper figure in knee breeches showing a shapely leg. Gaywood made several portraits of Harvey, the earliest in about 1649, and the oil portrait in the National Portrait Gallery is after one his etchings.
In 1884 Ferguson said the book was ‘far from being common’ and that his copy was ‘like all these books rather the worse for wear’. This is a rare copy in an excellent state, unrestored in its original blind ruled binding.
Literature: For Gaywood see Antony Griffiths, The print in Stuart Britain (1998), p. 169; for Gaywood’s earlier portrait of Harvey see Geoffrey Keynes, Life of William Harvey (1978), pp. 333–4 and plate XXVIII.
Keywords:     natural philosophy