An Abridgment of the English Military Discipline. By his Majesties permission[English Army]
London: Printed by John Bill, Christopher Barker, Thomas Newcomb, and Henry Hills, Printers to the Kings Most Excellent Majesty. 1678.
Second edition. 8vo. (150x90mm). pp. [ii], 150, [1 bl.]. Contemporary Royal binding by Samuel Mearne. Dark red morocco, decorated on upper and lower covers with triple fillet gilt panels at the corners of which are the cipher of Charles II, a crowned pair of addorsed Cs between two palm fronds. Four raised bands to spine with five compartments all decorated with the Royal cipher. All edges gilt, marbled endpapers. A sumptuous example of Mearne's work for the King in immaculate condition. Internally, the book is in excellent condition with only very modest and occasional spotting and browning. Two full page diagrammatic illustrations. Contemporary annotations to the blanks at the beginning and the end. Front pastedown has two bookplates. One is an unidentified armorial plate with the monogram OHP and the motto "Never Failing Friends", the other a small gilt plate of Cortlandt F. Bishop, the collector, bibliophile and owner of America's largest art auctioneers. The title page has the ownership inscription of W. Gillard 1770 and page one is inscribed with the name Christ. Coleman. Tipped in are two old catalogue entries for this book and loosely inserted are cuttings relating to a later edition and to Royal bindings. ESTC locates three copies of this second edition. The first edition was published in 1676, and only one copy is recorded.
Charles II combined a taste for high and dissolute living with a serious love of fine books. In this he was not unusual. He was, of course, unusual in having access to the best books, printers and binders. The foundation of his private library at St James’s Palace was the purchase of the collection of John Morris, the antiquary and bibliophile who died in 1659 (the year before the Restoration). There were about fourteen-hundred books bought by Charles, all of which were then beautifully rebound by Samuel Mearne. The binding on this copy of English Military Discipline matches these bindings indicating that it was part of Charles’s St James’s Library. The book is divided into numerous short sections with titles such as Of the Exercise of the Foot, Directions for the Postures in Exercise of the Pike, Firing the Street-way, Of the Exercise of the Horse.