Basilika. The Workes of King Charles the Martyr: with a collection of declarations, treaties, and other papers concerning the Differences betwixt His said Majesty and his two Houses of ParliamentKing Charles the Martyr
London: Printed by James Flesher for R. Royston. 1662.
First edition. Folio (355x228mm). pp. [xvi], 120, , 458, ; [viii], 733, . Engraved frontispiece of Royal Arms by Wenceslaus Hollar. Engraved pictorial half-title showing portrait of Charles I. Two folding engraved plates (of three). Engraved vignette on title page of second part. Preliminary pages printed in black with red rules. Parts of the transcript of the trial of the King are printed in red, most notably the death sentence. In addition to the principal title page, each of the two parts has its own title page. Contemporary panelled mottled calf. Raised bands to spine, red lettering piece with title in gilt. Some bumping to corners and rubbing to edges. Slight scuffing to upper cover and cracking to joints. The contents are in excellent condition, fresh, clean and tight, attractively printed with wide margins There are some dampstains in places to the upper margins and a very few minor chips to the edges but nothing affecting the text or its legibility. The half-title and title pages have the ownership inscription of Alex. Fraser Tytler who was a lawyer and historian. He was also a friend of and legal adviser to Robert Burns. There is a detailed note in Tytler's hand in the margins of "The Prayer in time of Captivity".
Basilika is a large collection of works by and about Charles I, King and Martyr. This 1662 first edition is the earliest example of Charles I’s works, including Eikon Basilike, (although this is often attributed to Bishop John Gauden) approved under Royal Licence by his son Charles II. The volume which is in two parts, contains Richard Perrinchiefe’s Life of Charles I together with the King’s Prayers, Letters, Speeches and Messages for Peace. Perrinchiefe’s Life is based on the draft prepared by William Fulman. However, Fulman died just before publication and Perrinchiefe completed the biography relying heavily on Fulman’s work. Perrinchiefe’s name is appended to the end of the Life but it has been printed on a separate slip of paper and attached to the page, testimony to his hasty completion of Fulman’s draft. Part one ends with an account of the trial and death of the King. The announcing of the death sentence and the names of those signing his death warrant are printed in red ink (slightly faded here to the reddish-brown of dried blood). Part two contains a full record of Declarations, Treaties and other documents setting out the disputes between King and Parliament. This large and handsome work is important not just as a record of Charles’s life and writings but also as a contribution towards the creation of the late King as a Royally sanctioned martyr.
This copy belonged to Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813). Tytler was Professor of Civil History at Edinburgh University from 1780 and then became a Judge Advocate in 1790 and a Lord Session in 1802. A friend of Robert Burns, he advised him to amend Tam O’Shanter by removing lines which were thought libellous to the legal profession. In a series of lectures on history and politics, Tytler argued that “pure democracy is a chimera” and that “All government is essentially in the nature of a monarchy”, ideas that would have endeared him to Charles I.
On leaf S4 of part one, Tytler has written a detailed note of thirty one lines about the King’s Prayer in time of Captivity. In his note, he explains how this prayer was used by leading members of the Commonwealth, most notably John Milton, to discredit the dead King and the cult that was growing up around him as a result of the huge popularity of Eikon Basilike during the years of the Protectorate. In his Eikonoklastes, Milton claimed that this prayer plagiarised Sir Philip Sidney’s Prayer of Pamela in his Arcadia. Not only, he argued, was this a shameless lifting of someone else’s work, but it was also the borrowing of a pagan prayer to a pagan god, thus confirming Milton’s prejudices about the quasi-Catholicism of the King. Tytler describes how the poet uses this “to vilify the character of Charles”. However, Tytler, borrowing evidence from Thomas Wagstaffe’s Vindication of Charles I, relates the story of how Milton forced the printer Dugard to add the Prayer to a later edition of the Eikon Basilike in an attempt to discredit the King: an “atrocious business” in Tytler’s words. Tytler sums up the matter by stating that on Milton’s character, “it reflects eternal disgrace”.
The question of whether and in what circumstances Charles I had used this Prayer in time of Captivity and of Milton’s possible role in its insertion into a later edition of Eikon Basilike was a source of serious and heated debate in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The fault-line which divided city from country, conservatives from radicals, high Anglicans from low and, later, Whigs from Tories, was frequently given human expression in the figure of Charles I. Tytler’s annotation is a good example of how conservative opinion, in the most elevated intellectual circles, continued to coalesce around the King nearly 150 years after his death.
ESTC: R9377. Wing 2075, 2157C.