NEVILL, Alexander

Norfolke Furies, and their Foyle

London: Printed for Edmund Casson. 1623.

Second edition in English. 4to. 175x130mm. Unpaginated. [118pp., lacking final blank P4]. Bound with a frontispiece engraved map of Norwich taken from Hermannides's Britannia Magna. Although the second edition of Norfolke Furies, this is the first appearance of the Description of Norwich (L1-4) which is the first published history of Norwich in English. Nineteenth-century tan calf with a decorated border in blind and gilt decoration to spine. Two morocco labels to spine, lettered in gilt. Front pastedown has the armorial bookplate of Charles Barclay, for whom the book was probably bound. A pencil note on a blank preliminary records that this copy was bought at the George Nassau sale in 1824 for £2 15s. Corners worn and and some slight fading and rubbing to spine. Some foxing and browning. The four leaves of gathering M have been cropped with the loss of a few words but otherwise this is a very nice copy of a rare book with a good Norfolk provenance. JISC Library Hub locates eight copies in the UK, with Worldcat adding a further two, plus four in the US and one in Germany. Only two copies appear in the auction records, both lacking the final blank.
Robert Kett was a wealthy Norfolk farmer and Lord of the Manor of Wymondham but he is best known as the leader of the 1549 rebellion that bears his name. The principal cause of the revolt was the enclosure of land. Although Kett had enclosed his own land, he recognised that his cause lay more with these rebels than with the grander gentry who were the real target. Kett agreed to the destruction of his own enclosures, joined the rebels and offered to lead them in what Nevill called their "wasting, burning, robbing". Clearly a man of some charisma, Kett found himself at the head of a small army of nearly 20,000 protestors. They marched on Norwich and set up camp on Mousehold Heath, common land on the edge of the city. When a royal army arrived to quash the revolt, a ferocious battle ensued, Kett was captured, sent to the Tower of London, tried, convicted and brought back to Norwich where he was hanged from the walls of the Castle and his body left to rot.
History being written by the winners, the early official accounts of Kett's Rebellion were uniformly hostile to poor Robert. Alexander Nevill's Norfolke Furies first appeared in Latin in 1575. It accused Kett "of an impudent boldnesse, an unbridled violence". But then Nevill was the establishment's man – his patron was the Archbishop of Canterbury. His was the account that would remain the accepted one until the nineteenth-century. Even so, it seems strange, given that Norfolke Furies deals with one of the most celebrated popular revolts against the ruling, landed, Latin-reading elite, that it was not published in English until 1615, when there appeared this translation first written in the 1590s by a local vicar, Richard Woods "who beheld part of these things with his yong eyes".
This copy has a nice Norfolk provenance. Charles Barclay was a noted bibliophile and a member of the East Anglian banking Quakerocracy. As well as being prominent philanthropists, the Barclays also used their wealth to do what most rich Englishmen do - buy lots of land. One hopes that Charles, on his Norfolk estate, read this book closely so that he would have learnt how to deal with a contemporary Kett keen to rattle the cages of the local landowners.

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