The Annales of Cornelius Tacitus. The Description of Germanie.
London: By Arn. Hatfield, for Bonham and Iohn Norton], 1598.
Folio: 30 x 20.7 cm. , 271,  p. (1st 2 p. blank) Collation: [par.]⁴ A-Y⁶ Z⁴(1st leaf blank save sig. mark)
[Bound with, as issued:]
The End of Nero and Beginning of Galba. Fower Bookes of The Histories of Cornelius Tacitus. The Life of Agricola. The second edition.
London: [By Edm. Bollifant, for Bonham and Iohn Norton], 1598
Folio: 30 x 20.7 cm. , 271,  p. (1st 2 p. blank) Collation: [par.]⁴ A-Y⁶ Z⁴(1st leaf blank save sig. mark); , 12, 227,  p. (last 3 p. blank) Collation: [par.]⁶ A-S⁶ T⁴ V⁶(las leaf blank).
FIRST EDITION of the “Annales”. SECOND EDITION of the “Histories”. The “Histories” and “Agricola” were translated by Richard Greenwey. The translations of the “Annales” and “Germania” are the work of Sir Henry Savile (first ed. 1591). Bound in contemporary English calf (scuffed, moderate wear; skillfully rebacked, original spine elements preserved), boards ruled in gold and blind, gilt ornaments at the corners, large, ornate gilt arabesque at the center of each board. Text is excellent condition with a few trivial marginal tears, a few minor stains, and a closed tear to one leaf (not affecting the text.) Complete with the first leaf (blank except for sig. mark) and the final leaf, blank. Woodcut initials, large schematic engraving of a Roman military camp. Contemp. price in ink at head of title. Provenance: Viscount Mersey, Bignor Park (bookplate.)
Tacitus witnessed both the horror of Domitian's tyrannical reign -a reign that ended with the emperor's murder- and the benevolent rule of Trajan. The former marked the lowest point of corruption to which the principate had fallen. The latter brought with it the promise of a restored system of adoptive emperors, a model that Tacitus himself offered the greatest promise of maintaining a stable and cohesive empire.
Tacitus' two historical works, the "Histories" and "Annales", cover the years 69 to 96 A.D., the years from the death of Nero to the death of Domitian, and the earlier reigns of the Julio-Claudian emperors (beginning with the death of Augustus), respectively. Their tone is rather dark; the "Annales" begins with a discussion of whether or not Augustus' wife had poisoned him. The "Histories" opens with the chaotic power-grab that followed Nero's murder, the so-called "year of the four emperors". The picture that emerges is one of violence, dishonesty and injustice.
In contrast to this dark tone, Tacitus' "Agricola", in which he recounts the noble, honorable and heroic deeds of his father-in-law, Julius Agricola, stands as a testament to all that is positive and good in a true leader. Agricola, an imperial officer under Domitian, was responsible in large part for the conquest of Britain. In praising Agricola's character, Tacitus emphasizes how, as governor of Britain and head of an army at war, he had been able to serve the state faithfully, honorably and well even under a terrible tyrant such as Domitian.
“Tacitus’ historical work began while he was in the midst of public activity. The ‘Agricola’, whose subject is his father-in-law’s life and work (especially in Britain, with some ethnographical detail), seems to have been ‘published’ in 98; and the ‘Germania’, a primarily geographical and ethnographic work on that important area on the fringe of the empire, shortly thereafter.
“Of the major works of Tacitus, ‘Historiae’ and ‘Annales’ as they are now called, the former was perhaps already in progress when the minor works began to appear. The subject of the ‘Historiae’ is the years 69 to 96, and may have been completed by 110 in 12 or 14 books, of which only I-IV and part of V, covering the year 69-70, survive today. The end of Tacitus’ life was devoted to the writing of the ‘Annales’ in 18 or 16 books, in which he went back and began annalistic treatment ‘ab excessu divi Augusti’. Of this work there survive only Books I-VI and XI-XVI. (Ulery, ‘Tacitus’, CTC VI)
“Tacitus’ plan for a long historical work was already present in the Agricola, where, in one of the early chapters, Tacitus expresses his intention to narrate the years of Domitian’s tyranny and then the freedom recovered under the regimes of Nerva and Trajan. In the Histories the project appears modified. Although the extant part narrates the events of the years 69-70, from the reign of Galba to the Jewish rebellion, the work in its entirety was to extend to 96, the year of Domitian’s death. In the preface, Tacitus expressly says that he is saving for his old age the treatment of the principates of Nerva and Trajan, ‘richer and less risky material’. The Histories thus dealt with a gloomy period, one disturbed by civil wars and finished by a long tyranny.” (Gian Biagio Conte, “Latin Literature, A History”)
A Machiavellian Tacitus: Savile’s additional texts:
In addition to the Tacitean texts, the second volume includes two Elizabethan works, Henry Savile’s “End of Nero and Beginning of Galba” (praised by Ben Jonson) and “A View of Certain Military Matters, for the Better Understanding of the ancient Roman stories”, one of the first contributions by an English scholar to the study of classical antiquity (Sandys).
In the first of these two works, Savile bridged the void between the “Annales” and “Histories”, a void created by the loss of the final two and a half books of the “Annales”.
“The period of time that Savile had to cover in 'The Ende . . . ' is of the order of two years. But, since those two years contain the successful rebellion against Nero, they are years crowded with incident and character. Thus Savile's subject poses obvious problems of narrative. The events he must narrate occur in various theatres. He must keep his reader abreast of the happenings in all these locales, and also show the influence events in each exert on those in the others. It is not the least of the literary virtues of 'The Ende . . . ' that Savile managed to bring off this narrative juggling act, and produced a clearer account of this confused period than can be found in any of his classical sources… [Savile’s] main sources for the years 66 to 69 A.D. are Suetonius’ lives of Nero and Galba, Plutarch’s Life of Galba, and sections of Cassius Dio (largely Bk. LXIII.) Savile confined himself to these authors.. but when one looks more closely, one can appreciate that ‘The Ende…” is much more than a mosaic from classical writers… In writing ‘The Ende…’, Savile used wit, conjectures, and a profound knowledge of Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ when filling the blank spaces left by his sources.” (Womersley, Sir Henry Savile's Translation of Tacitus and the Political Interpretation of Elizabethan Texts, in The Review of English Studies , Aug., 1991, Vol. 42, No. 167 (Aug., 1991), pp. 313-342).
ESTC S117604 and S117603; STC 23644 and 23643; Luborsky & Ingram. Engl. illustrated books, 1536-1603, 23643