London: printed by Th. Harper [and Eliot’s Court Press], for Robert Bostocke, and are to bee sold at his shop in Pauls Church yard, at the signe of the Kings Head, 1635.
Octavo: 23.6 x 9 cm. , 192, 191-254, 250,  p. Collation: *8, **4, chi1 A-Q8, Aa-Qq8, [Rr]1. With an additional title page, engraved, signed: "Will: Marshall. scul:". The first leaf bears verses "Vpon the frontispice". ESTC gives the note: "Eliot’s Court Press pr[inted]. quires Aa-Qq; Harper the rest".
Bound in 19th c. morocco, gilt. Closely shaved at head occasionally touching the ruled border. Leaf G4 with rust hole to text with loss to a few letters, small loss to blank lower margin of G8. Complete with the engraved title page by William Marshall and the “mind” of the frontispiece. Provenance: Henry William Poor; John Camp Williams; Edward Hale Bierstadt (bookplates). Very rare. Held in 7 North American institutions: Folger, Newberry, Huntington, Harvard, NYPL, Newberry, LC, UT Austin.
The leaf “Upon the Frontispiece” puts the onus of interpreting the image on the reader. “Hee that in words explaines a Frontispiece, Betrayes the secret trust of his Device: Who cannot guess, where Mott’s and Emblemmes be, The drift, may still bee ignorant for me.” If you cannot decode the image, a verbal explanation probably won’t help you.
Sole edition of this allegorical forgery in prose and verse by the prolific satirist Richard Brathwait, who claims that he has translated a book by a certain 14th c. Italian, Mariano Silesio. No such person can be traced, and the four testimonies that open the volume all appear to be spurious (and three of the authors fictitious.) Of his “translation” Brathwait writes, “I have here sent you an Italian plant translated to an English platte… If this new dresse doe not become him, all that I can say in my owne defence is this, and no other: 'there is great difference betwixt Taylor and Translator.' Sure I am, that the loome is the same, if not the lustre; the stuffe that same, though not the colour."
In this complex and lively allegorical tale, Themista, The Arcadian Princess, descends to Earth where she finds her realm afflicted by moral and ethical maladies. She calls upon the mythological physician Aesculapius to remedy these social ailments.
The six “patients”, consuls in Themista’s “Praetorian”, are: Metoxus, Arcadia’s First Consul, representing the Body “and personating Partiality”, afflicted with Squinancy; Epimonos, “personating Pertinacy” suffering from Apoplexy; Uperephanos (Vaine-glory), in a Phrensie; Melixos (Pusillanimity), with Epilepsy; Upotomos (Severity) with a Plursie; and Amerimnos (Security) with a Lethargy.
Themista, elated but cautious, asks for details of their recovery. These reports are delivered by six new characters: Isotes (Equity) reports on Metoxos’ recovery; Epieices (Moderation) on Epimonus’; Tapeinos (Humility) on Uperephanos’; Iscuros (Fortitude or Constancy) on Meilixos’; Elecmon (Mercy) Upotomos’; and Epimeles (Industry) on the recovery of Amerimnos.
Each consul then gives an account of his own recovery. “This done, THEMISTA delivers her CHARGE to her restored and re-estated Consuls; wherein shee recommends to them the love of Iustice and Equity: closing with a thankefull remonstrance to AESCVLAPIVS: to erect lasting Trophies of living memory, to gratifie his successive Care in her Consuls recovery.” The book ends with Themista’s triumph.
Mariano Silesio, an Elaborate Fiction?
In the life of the author appended to the volume, Brathwait tells us that Silesio was a Florentine who, after the death of his wife, "became a recluse neare to the cliffs of Arpina, north-west from Corcyra (Corfu)," where he died in 1368, leaving behind a number of works, "Amongst which, he tooke especiale care that this worke should be fairely transcribed, and sent to Florence; where it was entertained with suche esteem, as it received a double honour, both for its owne worth, and memory of the author." Two of the vitae at the opening of the volume attest that he was buried in the “Lemnian Arch”, made of Thracian marble, with a pyramidal monument raised over him.
The preliminary matter contains the spurious testimonies of Sabaeus Amnianus, Corranus Amnensis, Adrianus Barlandus, and Conradus Minutius on the supposed author, Silesio, and his works. Only the third of these authorities, the Flemish humanist Adrien Barlandus (d. 1538), is a real person, and yet the work from which the excerpt is taken is not a true work.
The full text of Brathwait’s Life of Mariano Silesio:
Excellence of spirit is best exprest when most opposed; nor is there any better exercise than opposition, to set a true edge on resolution. This might bee instanced to life in the life of MARIANO SILESIO; who ever armed himselfe with the smoothest brow against the roughest braves of fortune.
A Florentine borne; generously descended; and gracefully endowed. Seasoned he was with the elements of all Learning; wherein he became so highly improved, as his rare expressions, relishing of no inferiour spirit rendred him both admired and loved. Yet in that affluence of friendly observers, He wanted not some private detractours; who the more they laboured to darken his lustre, the more they lost their labour: and (what they least expected) gave spreading wings to his fame and honour. Much of his youth hee spent in Court-attendince; where he bestowed more pretious houres in usefull observance, than youthfull dalliance. So as that very place, which commonly becomes an effeminatour of others, became an improver and rectifier of his manner. Complie hee could not with corruption; nor affect that, which in the eye of vertue deserved not approbation. Insomuch as, being one day in the Court of Florence, and hearing a Lady of suspected fame much admired for her agility and quicknesse in dancing, replied, my admiration shall cloze in this; ‘O that a Soule so heavie, should present so light a body!’ [As may likewise appeare by his free reproof of Madame Alisia Lensona for her incontinent life: though at that time a Mistris to the Dukes especiall favorite.]
An inimitable faculty hee had for elegance of Phrase in prose and an incomparable facillity for neateness of invention and sweetnesse of dimension in verse. Both which with such a free-streaming Current naturally flowed, as with a pleasing disdaine they scorned to be forced. Which caused him to be much imployed in his younger yeares, in the invention and setting forth of Court-maskes and other Princely presentments (impressive obiects of infinite delight to refined Spirits) all which hee performed with such height of Art; as no place but held it selfe honoured by his person; nor, no bounty too amply extended, to enlarge his pension. Albeit, out of the freedome and largenesse of his mind, He would ever returne this answer too such liberall bestowers: ‘It will detract from the Muses to bee Mercinaries: And, Liberall Arts should have liberall Hearts and slow receivers’. Hee could never endure vulgar praise nor titular applause, drawne from selfe-afectation or that ambitious ground of gaining opinion. This he styl'd Opinionate Idolatry, which transformed selfe-fancy into a desperate Frenzie. He was wont to say of Poggius and Pierus,two reputed Wits in those dayes; that hee could not endure Poggius’ conceit, because it made too bold with Heaven; nor Pierus, because he tasted to much of Earth.
Soone after his retire from Court, Hee matcht himselfe in a Noble family. A Consort so exquisitely accommodated, and richly adorned with all gracefull perfections, as her Name, like some precious perfume, still preserves her memory in Florence. But see the mutability of humane happinesse! Shortly made death an exchange with his choice: to whose vertuous memory hee addressed his continuate Anniversaries. Poems of an high and enlivened Spirit: where every Stanza reteines his owne native weight; and expresseth its own thought without an enforced state. With such obsequious teares, and choice funerall composures, Hee discharged that exequiall office, which Hee, devoted to her memory, was owing, and of whose divine vertues hee was so much enamoured, living: as he expressed (nor were his expressions feigned) in these lines by him addressed to her, during his remove from her:
‘Health crowne mine hopes in thee, for in thine health,
Mine health, helpe, hope consist; my weale, my wealth.’
After her death, hee became a Recluse neare to the Cliffs of Arpina, North-west from Corcyra; where his friends resorted to him, in hope to weane him from that course, by proposing to him many eminent favourites in Court, and to bring him backe to Florence: but his fixt resolves on retirement, returned them this answer:
Diswade me not; for nee'r could I bestow
Such freedome on my better part as now;
Where th'Duke himselfe, were hee not th'man hee is,
Would wish in's heart but to enjoy my blisse:
Whose choice content affords me so much power,
As I may vye with greatest Emperour.
But fearing the solicitous importunity of such prevalent friends, (powerfull Advocates to a relenting Nature) with much secrecy, hee removed into a part more desert and remote, wherewith a selfe-contenting privacy, hee bestowed the remainder of his daies in Contemplation: sealing his portell with this inscription: INVISVS VIDEO.
To describe him, hee was of a middle stature; pleasing Countenance; gratefull presence; present discourse; pregnant wit; rich fancy; rare memory; an affable disposition, though naturally a little subject to passion; which hee ever so sweetly tempered with discretion, as it never overmastered reason. To such an excellent Soveraingty in the Command of his affections had hee aspired, as his innerhouse to no disquiets stood engaged.
Sundry workes during the time of his retire; Hee composed; wherein were expressed such height of wit and clearenesse of judgement, as they received the Character of divers tongues. Amongst which, Hee tooke especiall care, that this Worke should bee fairely transcribed, and sent to Florence; where it was entertained with such esteeme, as it received a double honour, both for its owne Worth, and memory of the Author.
His last dying words, or invitation of Death (as is reported) were these:
‘I have got my-Selfe, as much out of the world as I could, though not so much as I would; Come then my friendly Messenger, and take me out of this Creeke, where I have hitherto retired, that after so long bondage, I may be freed.’
Hee lived to a ripe age; being both in yeares and vertues numerous.
ESTC S117416 (STC: “A translation of an untraced Italian work by Mariano Silesio. Possibly an original work by Richard Brathwait.”); Hoe Catalogue p. 36, under Brathwaite; A Bibliographical Catalogue of Italian Books Printed in England 1603–1642, number 453; Collier, Bibl. acct. of early Eng. lit., v. 1, p. 98: "it is not stated from what authority [the life] is derived and it may be doubted."