Two of the most important literary works of the English Renaissance, Together with Ascham’s Essay on Historiography - With Manuscript waste from a 15th c. Breviary with several lines in Middle English

Ascham, Roger (1514/15-1568)

The Scholemaster or plaine and perfite way of teaching children, to vnderstand, write, and speake, the Latin tong, but specially purposed for the priuate bringing vp of youth in Ientlemen and Noble mens houses b/w Toxophilus, the schole, or partitions of shooting b/w A Report and Discourse written by Roger Ascham of the affaires and state of Germany and the Emperour Charles his court, duryng certaine yeares while the said Roger was there.

London: Printed by Iohn Daye, dwelling ouer Aldersgate, [1571], London: In Fletestreate neare to Saint Dunstones Churche by Thomas Marshe, 1571, London, Printed by Iohn Daye, dwelling ouer Aldersgate, ca. 1570


Quarto: Three volumes bound as one: 19.5 x 14.2 cm. I. [manicule]2, B-T4. II. *4, A-H8, III. A-I4

SECOND EDITIONS of the “Schoolmaster”(1st ed. 1570) and "Toxophilus"(1st ed. 1545); FIRST EDITION of the “Report”.

Truly excellent copies, all three texts clean and very fresh, with just a small, very light ink mark on the second title page. With John Day's woodcut printer's device at the end of the Schoolmaster. "Toxophilus" with fine woodcut title with grotesque caryatids. The binding is original limp vellum with two of the four rawhide ties, soiled, defect at head of spine, cracking along foredge of rear board, but still quite appealing. With manuscript waste from a 15th c. English breviary in Latin with several lines in Middle English.

I. “The Schoolmaster”:

“The indispensable link between the earlier Tudor writers and the great Elizabethan and Jacobean writers of English prose”(Ryan, 292)

The Cambridge-educated Ascham, one of the best known of the English humanists, produced two works that had a great influence on the use of English as a literary language as well as on the education of children and the conduct of English gentlemen. The first of these was his “Toxophilus” (1545) [see next item in this volume]. In the second, “The Scholemaster”, Ascham set forth his pedagogical method- a system that he had perfected while tutoring the Princess Elizabeth- and established a philosophy of education as well as a code of ethical and moral behavior; in short, a philosophy of living.

“Between 1563 and the date of his death Ascham found some relief from his cares in the composition of his “Scholemaster”. In 1563, the year of the plague, Ascham dined at Windsor with Sir William Cecil, and among the guests were William Sackville, and his friends Haddon and Astley. After dinner Ascham was informed that certain scholars had run away from Eton for fear of a flogging, and the conversation turned on educational discipline, in which Ascham strongly condemned corporal punishment. Sir Richard Sackville was so impressed with Ascham’s remarks that he offered to educate Ascham’s son with his own under a master instructed in Ascham’s system, and others of the company begged him to write a practical treatise on education. He at once set to work, chiefly with a view to the bringing up of his own children. He freely confessed that his method was borrowed mainly from Sturm and from his old tutor Cheke, who had died in 1557, and whose memory he believed he might best honor by putting posterity in possession of the secrets of his teaching. For five years he was filling in a plan of the work, of which he sent a sketch to Sturm in the last letter he ever wrote, about December 1568.

“Of the greater portion, which he had then completed, the first book contained, with many autobiographical reminiscences, a general disquisition on education, arguments in favor of alluring a child to learning by gentleness rather than by force, a statement of the evils attendant on foreign travel, and an account of the immoral training acquired by young men at court. The second book detailed Ascham’s method of teaching Latin by means of a double translation which subsequent writers on education have invariably praised. He advised the master in the first place to explain in general terms the meaning of a selected passage, and afterward to let the pupil construe it and parse each word in two successive lessons. After an interval the child was to write out his translation, and after a further interval, was to turn his translation back into Latin. The teacher should then show him how the various constructions employed corresponded with, and were explained by, examples in the grammar book. The first reading book Ascham recommended was Sturm’s selections from Cicero, and the second a play of Terence. The advance to more difficult authors was to be gradual, and the boy was not to attempt to speak Latin until he was master of the grammar. Ascham added remarks on Latin prosody, which he looked forward to seeing adopted in English verse, and criticized the style of many Latin authors. But before the book had gone further, he died… His widow, [Margaret], published the “Scholemaster” in 1570 as her husband had left it, adding only a graceful dedication to Sir William Cecil, recently selected chancellor of Cambridge University.” (DNB)

“Ascham's principal project, and the most lasting memorial to him, was ‘The Scholemaster’. He saw it as showing his sons Giles and Dudley ‘the right way to good learning’ (Ascham, Works, 3.86). It consisted of two books: the first gives the character of the ideal tutor and scholar and draws heavily on Plato; the second treats the method of instruction by double translation using proper imitation of classical models, and draws equally heavily upon Cicero. He discussed how best to judge the aptitude of a pupil, how best to encourage a student, how best to inculcate a love of learning. He wrote in it: ‘that the youth in England, specially gentlemen, and namely nobility, should be by good bringing-up so grounded in judgment of learning, so founded in love of honesty as, when they should be called forth to the execution of great affairs in service of their prince and country, they might be able to use and to order all experiences, were they good, were they bad, and that according to the square, rule, and line of wisdom, learning and virtue.’ (Ibid. 3.138)

II. "Toxophilus"

In “Toxophilus” (1545), dedicated to Henry VIII, Ascham set forth both the dictum that physical exercise is an indispensable part of a gentleman’s education, and set a new model for English prose style.

From his schooldays, Ascham had himself practiced archery and became quite skilled in the art. At the time of the composition of “Toxophilus”, Ascham was suffering from recurrent bad health—probably bouts of malaria—and during his convalescence from one such attack he took up archery again. He came under some criticism in Cambridge from those who scorned the leisure pursuits so popular among undergraduates and who questioned his reputation as a scholar, and so Ascham felt compelled to defend this accomplishment.

“Toxophilus takes the form of a Ciceronian dialogue between Philologus (lover of study) and Toxophilus (lover of the bow), the latter of whom was nonetheless an irreproachable scholar who had put his learning at the disposal of the commonweal.

“Toxophilus became a model for his contemporaries and near contemporaries in several respects: as the first learned defence of a pastime, and as a model of English vernacular prose writing in terms of both style and organization of subject matter. Characteristically Ascham achieved this by applying his understanding of classical literary theory to the English case. In the preface he wrote that to write well an author must:

“follow this counsel of Aristotle, to speak as the common people do, to think as wise men do, and so should every man understand him, and the judgment of wise men allow him. Many English writers have not done so, but using strange words, as Latin, French, and Italian, do make all things dark and hard.”

“So, unlike Thomas Elyot and John Cheke, he avoided coining too many words and borrowing from other languages, and succeeded in making his English work as a vehicle of wide communication. While the conversation between the two men is in a plain style, enlivened by homely metaphors, colloquial speech, and accurate observations, the discussion, dedication, and preface are presented in a much more formal style. Some of the passages describing the environment (for example, the way in which the wind could interfere with the aim of an expert archer) were vivid and at the time unparalleled in English writing. He also achieved a sense of interaction between the two speakers, whom he made both likeable and full of vitality.

“Ascham dedicated Toxophilus to Henry VIII, knowing his interest in the revival of archery. Eager for patronage from any source, he simultaneously sent copies of the book to the prince of Wales, to Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley, and to Sir Anthony Denny; to bishops Day, Gardiner, and Heath; to William Parr, brother of Katherine; and probably to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, William Paget, and Prince Edward's Irish companion, Barnaby Fitzpatrick. When Ascham wrote to Gardiner he explicitly mentioned that he had written the book either to secure a patron to replace Lee or to obtain a royal pension.

“Ascham achieved his aim. The privy council received the book favourably, and Henry VIII invited him to Greenwich. A royal pension of £10 doubled Ascham's university and college income at one stroke. Then Ascham was elected public orator of the university in Cheke's stead in 1546 at a fee of 40s. a year. It was a position he held until 1554.”(ODNB)

III. “A Report and Discourse”: Ascham’s Theory of Historiography in Practice

In September 1550, Ascham went abroad as secretary to Sir Richard Morison, ambassador to the court of the emperor Charles V. Beginning in 1552, Ascham began a journal of events on the Continent, covering such important topics as the Council of Trent, the Schmalkaldic War, and the fraying alliances between the various European powers. There is a particularly interesting section on the renewed hostilities between the Ottoman Turks and Charles V after 1550, including the siege of Tripoli.

The report is especially important for the inclusion of Ascham’s theory of historiography, which he sets out in a series of rules that he and John Astley, the Princess Elizabeth’s attendant, had agreed upon after reading Livy together at Hatfield House. In fact, the report is written in the form of a reply to a letter from Astley dated Oct. 1552, which opens the volume.

While Ascham’s rules are dependent on Cicero and Livy, Ascham is also conversant in the various schools of Renaissance historiography. He cites authors both ancient and modern as models, sometimes by way of contrast: Caesar and Paolo Giovio, Polybius and Philip Comines, Thucydides, Chaucer, and that paragon of English history writing, Thomas More, whose “pamphlet of Richard the Thyrd, doth in most part, I beleve, of all these pointes so content all men, as, if the rest of our story of England were so done, we might well compare with Fraunce, Italy, Germany, in that behalfe.”

“Despite Ascham's declaration that he was ill-fitted to the task, from this small beginning of journal and newsletters came a larger project: a history. On 7 July 1553 Ascham informed Cheke that he was writing a narrative of what occurred day by day in the imperial court. On 22 July Sturm appealed to him, as one who understood the principles of historiography, to compile a history of those events in Germany that he had observed, read about, or heard reported, not knowing that his friend already had the project well in hand. A fragment of the resulting history covering events down to February 1553 has survived in published form [i.e. this work.]

“Possibly, as Ryan argues, it was seen by Ascham as a work for Edward VI's council, predicting the course of Emperor Charles V's affairs and indicating how best to handle the emperor. Ascham had transcribed the correspondence between the privy council and the English ambassador at Brussels about the duke of Northumberland's proposed changes in foreign policy, and was therefore well aware of the relevance of his interpretation of the course of events and view of Charles V as a man fatally flawed and unreliable as an ally. This supposed political purpose in producing the Report could explain why Ascham discontinued the project after Edward's death, but internal evidence suggests that he intended to complete the work. It has been lauded by historians as a pioneering essay in pragmatic political history in which the subject matter was ordered not chronologically but according to the author's understanding of its importance judged in terms of cause and effect, and which certainly provided instructive lessons. Ascham appears to have used Machiavelli's History of Florence and Discourses as models.”(ODNB)

ISTC S100261, S100277, S100282; STC 834, 838, 830