Wright.   Michael     - One of the largest engraved plates of a dinner table
Roger, Earl of Castlemaine's Embassy,
AN ACCOUNT OF HIS EXCELLENCE Roger Earl of Castlemaine's Embassy, From His Sacred Majesty JAMES the 11d. King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, &c. To His Holiness INNOCENT X1. PUBLISHED FORMERLY IN THE ITALIAN TONGUE, By Mr. MICHAEL WRIGHT, Chief Steward of His Excellences House at Rome. And now made English, With several Amendments, and Additions. Licensed Roger L'Estrange. LONDON, Printed by Tho. Snowden for the Author. 1688.
FIRST ENGLISH EDITION. Large 4to. 1fep. An engraved portrait of Maria D.G. (wife of James 11) Title page. 2pp dedication 'To the Queen' 1p engraving of Pope Innocent X1th. 1-116. 1fep. 14 engraved plates and one that is a folding double page plate measuring 115cm x 31.5cm. (It had some tears that have been expertly repaired with no loss). Original slightly patchy full brown calf (Patchiness due to polishing) with wonderful ornate blind tooling on the boards and spine compartments with raised bands. The title 'Castlemaine's Embassy' length ways in gilt in one compartment. On both covers there is a fresh gilt coat of arms for "The Society of Writers to the Signet" Very slightly scuffed on the corners. Pages very slightly browned at edges and some dusty. Expertly repaired tears to pages 11&13 with no loss. Overall a very nice, desirable copy with wide page margins.
- The first English edition of Michael John Wright's (1625?-1700) description of Roger Palmer, the Earl of Castlemaine's (1634-1705) embassy to Pope Innocent X1. The first edition was in Italian, published in Rome one year earlier. Castlemaine was a member of King James 11's secret council of Catholics. When James 11 decided to establish relations with Rome, Castlemaine was appointed ambassador and he departed from Greenwich on 25th February 1685. Apparently despite all the pomp and circumstance of Castlemaine's entrance, the Pope gave him a cold reception and was ultimately put-off with Castlemaine's zeal in trying to strenghthen James 11's ties with Rome. During this trip Wright was Castlemiane's majordomo and his Account describes the feasts and festivities of Castlemaine's efforts to impress Pope Innocent X1. The book is of great culinary interest because of its description of the foods created for and eaten by Castlemaine and his entourage, as well as for the wonderful baroque plates engraved by Arnold Van Westerhout (after drawings by Giovanni Battista Lenardi) of the banquet Castlemaine organised for the Pope. Foods eaten include pickles, parmesan cheese, 'Bologna-Sauciges', meat courses announced with wind instruments, ortolans, 'Taratufoli' (Truffles), sweetmeats, wines, fruits, liquors etc etc. The plates depict Castlemaine's banquet table arrayed with numerous 'Trionfi' (triumphial) sculptures of historical and mythological figures made from sugar' Quoting from the text, Michael Wright states; "The breadth of the said Table was eight foot, and thro' the middle of it, from one end to other ran a Range of Historical Figures, some almost half as big as life. They are made of a sugar paste, (similar to modern Pastilliage) but modelled to the utmost skill of a Statuary. Afterwards they are sent as presents to the greatest Ladies. Their use at entertainments is to gratifie the eye as the Meat, Musique, and Perfumes, do the other Senses." The very large folding table plate depicts this banquet table and most of the additional plates illustrate the most elaborate of the trionfi as well as the fantastic and beautiful ornate coaches Castlemaine used. This copy was owned and bound by the Society of Writers to the Signet. The Society's special coat of arms stamped in gilt on the book's covers was the private seal of the early Scottish Kings and the 'Writers to the Signet' were those authorised to supervise its use and later to act as clerks to the Courts. The earliest recorded use of the Signet was in 1369, and Writers to the Signet were included as members of the College of Justice when it was established in 1532, but the Society did not take definite shape until 1594, when the King's Secretary, as Keeper of the Signet, granted Commissions to a Deputy Keeper and eighteen other writers. The function of the Society has of course, much changed since then, but every summons initiating an action in the Court of Session still "passes the Signet", meaning that it is stamped with the Royal seal. The present Signet was made by the Royal Mint in 1954. The Society is particularly noted for its ownership of the Signet Library, Edinburgh, housed in one of the finest Georgian buildings in the country. It contains about 65,000 books, of which almost half are legal. Of the rest, about 20,000 are of Scottish interest. The Library, begun in 1810 to a design by Robert Reid, with principal interiors by William Stark, originally comprised a Lower Library for the Society, completed in 1815, and an Upper Library for the Faculty of Advocates, completed in 1822, in time for the famous visit of King George IV to Edinburgh. A fascinating book and quite rare.

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Antiquarian category
ref number: 10985