The History of the Rebellion and civil Wars in Ireland, with the true State and Condition of that Kingdom before the Year 1640; and the material Passages and Actions which since that Time have contributed to the Calamities it hath undergone …

London: Printed by H. P. for J. Wilford … and T. Jauncy … 1720.

8vo., pp. [16], 381, [1], with an engraved frontispiece portrait of James Butler, first Duke of Ormond after Godfrey Kneller; M5-8 crinkled at upper inner margin, else a fine copy in a contemporary presentation binding of panelled red morocco, gilt, with floriate tools at the corners and clustered ornaments along the sides, spine elaborately gilt, black morocco label, gilt doublures, gilt edges; spine a little sunned and with small repairs at head and foot; preserved in a cloth box; bookplates of the Earl of Ormonde (late eighteenth-century, printed in sepia), and of a modern collector.


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First edition, a large paper copy in a presentation binding, from the family library of the Dukes of Ormond, the source of the manuscript from which it was published.

Unlike his monumental history of the English Civil War Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion and civil Wars in Ireland remained unpublished in his lifetime. Less a straight history than a spirited defence of the conduct in Ireland of James Butler, first Duke of Ormond (1610-1688), Clarendon’s close friend and political ally, it was apparently written in Cologne c. 1652 while both were in exile, and with the Duke’s assistance. Several contemporary manuscripts are known, but the one from which this edition was published (a copy with an autograph motto, now Clarendon MS 121 [C] in the Bodleian) came from ‘His Grace the Duke of Ormonds papers’. The Ormond papers at Kilkenny Castle were subsequently given to the historian Thomas Carte in 1728 by the first Duke’s grandson Charles Butler, Earl of Arran. Use of the manuscript was it seems repaid with this handsome copy of the printed text.

By 1720, the staunchly Jacobite second Duke of Ormond (1665-1745), the other grandson of the first Duke, was himself in exile – having served twice as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland he was stripped of his titles after the accession of George I and impeached for high treason in 1715. He fled to the Continent, living first in France then settling in Spain until 1732 were he led several failed attempts at a Jacobite restoration. The History, with its generous praise of Ormond and its commiseration with his misfortunes, must have have been read as an attempt to recuperate the family from charges of disloyalty, and was certainly contentious enough that attempts were made to obstruct its distribution in Ireland.

Whether this copy was owned by the second Duke in exile, or by his brother Charles, it certainly found its way to the Butler seat at Kilkenny Castle, from which library it was sold in 1935.

The Dublin edition dated ‘1719-20’ must in fact post-date the present, asserting as it does its superiority over the London edition; it does not include the Preface printed here, a reassertion of the brilliance and unjust punishment of the first Duke of Ormond, or the Appendix ‘of the several Massacres and Murthers committed by the Irish, since the 23d of October, 1641’.

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