THE FIRST LITERARY WORK PRINTED IN BRISTOL

Newes from the King’s Bath reporting Nothing but an honest Means whereby to establish an happy and much desired Peace, in all His Majesties Kingdoms generally …

Bristoll, Printed at the Authors Charge: 1645.

Small 4to., pp. [2], 82; marginal repair to F2, I2 trimmed touching the sidenotes, without loss, small hole to H4 with the loss of a couple of letters; a very good copy in mid-nineteenth-century brown hard-grain morocco; the Philip Bliss–Fairfax–Huth–Pirie copy, with Bliss’s typical ownership mark on B1 and the note bought ‘of Rodd'.

£2750

Approximately:
US $3441€3191

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First and only edition, rare, of a remarkable late flowering: Pricket’s final work, published thirty-eight years after his last book. It is one of the earliest books, and indeed the first literary work of any sort, printed at Bristol.

Pricket had served as a soldier in the reign of Elizabeth, and in the period 1603-1607 he turned author, publishing four volumes of polemical verse and two prose effusions. His zeal was principally anti-Papist (Times Anotomie, The Jesuits Miracles), but an ill-advised eulogy of the Earl of Essex just after his execution (Honors Fame in Triumph Riding, 1604), brought him temporary imprisonment. Pricket then abandoned literature for the Church, finding some preferment in Ireland, where he remained until the rebellion of 1641. He re-emigrated, destitute, to Bath, where in 1645, ‘alive as buried in my grave with wofull misery / Of honest, poore, dispised Poverty’, he broke his long silence.

Newes from the King’s Bath is a kind of time-capsule of Elizabethan workaday poetry: an autobiographical verse ‘Epistle’ followed by seven long adversarial ‘Songs’, addressed to famous Roundheads. Pricket’s rhyme and prosody have remained untouched by forty years of literary fashion:

   Through devious wayes & sundry suddain fears
   My Pilgrimage in this sad vale of tears
   Hath past, in Schools, Camp, and Court, poor I
   Have seen the change of times variety
   And learn’d to know world’s best prosperity
   Is but a state of wretched misery...

We could as easily be reading late Thomas Churchyard, or a slack part of The Mirror for Magistrates. The subjects of the ‘Songs’ likewise summon Pricket’s venerable memories, the present Earl of ‘SX’ compared with his rebellious father (‘His Fall I mourn'd, and from the dust did raise / His castdown Honour’), the Earl of Manchester with a ‘noble Father ... [who] For Fourty yeers I all his wayes observ’d’, and most strikingly, the Leveller William Browne with his namesake Robert the ‘Brownist’, and the Puritan controversialists of Pricket’s youth (Greenway, Barrow, Udall and Penry, the ‘Marprelate’ anti-hero).

ESTC records seven copies, including the present one (Fairfax, dispersed), the others being at British Library, Bodley, Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin; Huntington and Folger.

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