THE MOST CELEBRATED BOOK OF SECRETS

The Secretes of the reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount: contayning excellent Remedies agaynste divers Dyseases, Woundes, and other Accidentes, with the Manner to make Dystillations, Parfumes, Dyings, Colours, Fusions, and Meltings … Translated out of French into Englishe, by William Warde.

London, Henry Bynneman, for John Wight, 1568.

[Bound with:]

—. The Seconde Parte of the Secretes … London, Henry Bynneman for John Wyght, [1568?].

[and:]

—. The Thyrde and last Parte of the Secretes … London, Henry Denham for John Wyght, [1566].

[and:]

—. A Very excellent and profitable Booke conteining six hundred four score and odde experienced Medicines, apperteyning unto Physick and Surgerie, long tyme practysed of the expert and reverend Mayster Alexis, which he termeth the fourth and final Booke of his Secretes … Translated out of Italian into Englishe by Richard Androse … London, Henry Denham, 1569.
Four parts in one vol., 4to, I: ff. [vi], 117, [11 (table)], II: ff. 75, [3 (table)], III: ff. [i], 75, [9 (table)], IV: pp. [xxxii], 56, 64, 56; K4 in Part IV short and probably supplied; woodcut device to title-pages of Parts I–III, Part IV title within a woodcut border, large woodcut arms on the verso, and a large woodcut initial on A2; a very good, clean copy in early panelled calf; rather worn, spine dry and chipped (later label), endpapers renewed; contemporary purchase note at end.

£4500

Approximately:
US $5687€5320

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The Secretes of the reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount: contayning excellent Remedies agaynste divers Dyseases, Woundes, and other Accidentes, with the Manner to make Dystillations, Parfumes, Dyings, Colours, Fusions, and Meltings … Translated out of French into Englishe, by William Warde.

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The Secrets of Alexis of Piedmont in English, complete in all four parts – fourth edition of part I, third editions of parts II and III, and first edition of part IV.

The Secreti of ‘Alessio Piemontese’ was the most famous and most influential of the sixteenth-century compendia known as Books of Secrets, its voluminous contents encompassing recipes medical, alchemical, gastronomic, and magical. First published in 1555 (with three further parts in 1558, 1559, and 1568) it was quickly translated into French (from which Pars I-III here were translated), German, English, Spanish, and Polish, most editions liberally adding new material, and continued to be published well into the eighteenth century. The ‘publication of the literature of secrets, medicinal and otherwise, received a great impulse from the appearance … of the Secrets of Alessio of Piedmont’ (Thorndike). Of the English translators not a great deal is known, but both were connected to Francis Russell, second Earl of Bedford, to whom they dedicated the work.

There is conflicting evidence, even among contemporary sources, about whether ‘Alexis of Piedmont’ was an editorial creation, a pseudonym for Girolamo Ruscelli (d. 1566?), or was an author in his own right – the biographical details that can be gleaned here are either conflicting or are tropes of the genre – he is learned in ancient and modern languages, and travelled for fifty-seven years before having an epiphany about sharing rather than hoarding his knowledge. Ruscelli meanwhile was more certainly the author of a continuation published in 1567, which he legitimised by claiming responsibility for the earlier collection.

STC 297, 302, 306, and 309.

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