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(DE HOOGHE, Romeyn, illus.) PETTER, Nicolaes.

Klare Onderrichtinge der voortreffelijcke Worstel-konst,

Verhandelende hoeman in alle voorvallen van Twist in Handtgemeenschap, sich kan hoeden: en alle Aengrepen, Borst-stooten, Vuyst-slagen &c. verstetten.

Published: Amsterdam: Johannes Jansonius van Waesberge, 1674

Stock code: 103904

Price: £8,500

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First edition of this renowned manual of self-defence. The work is particularly notable for the telling combination of de Hooghe’s clear, but nonetheless dramatic, illustrations, and the simplicity and lucidity of Petter’s written instructions. Prof. Sydney Anglo describes it as “historically speaking, the most important treatise on unarmed combat ever printed … the finest of all wrestling books and deservedly the most famous” (The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe, p.190). While Eli Steenput, in the introduction to his English translation (Journal of Western Martial Art, October 2000), remarks that “It is probably unique in presenting an effective and complete unarmed combat system in a format from which it would be actually possible to learn”. In themselves de Hooghe’s plates are remarkable, fully justifying Otto Benesch’s description of him as “not only the greatest Dutch etcher of the period, but the only great artist Holland produced at the end of her classical era … one of the greatest illustrators of all time, comprehending within himself all the various faculties of the universal mind of the Baroque”. Wrestling-master Petter’s school of practical self-defence for the bourgeoisie on the dangerous streets of Amsterdam, clearly differentiates the book from the earlier tradition of wrestling books, such as the Ringbüchlein, or Fabian von Auerswald’s Ringer-Kunst, where smiling contestants are shown engaged in a sporting contest. Iinstead the plates portray well-dressed gentlemen tangling with grimacing, sometimes armed, street toughs. Petter died shortly before publication, and the book was seen through the press by his widow, and his pupil Robert Cors, who explains the principles that lay behind his master’s method; “The forces which were lent to the human understanding by nature, are not present alike in each art, and if they were, then they would nevertheless not be developed in the same way. Of two arts one is usually superior, this is in general the one based on knowledge. Most people do not seriously consider how they could secure themselves against all manner ofd abuse or assault, as might be levelled against them by evil-hearted villains, eager for violence. Our wrestler has studied this problem, first developing his mind, then looking for effective strikes and holds, by which one can defend against violent attacks with shoves, punches, or a knife. These he has practised diligently, and, to benefit the community, he has decided finally to compile this instructional book … Cruel Death has untimely taken him from us, before he could bring this project to conclusion. The images had already been prepared during his life, ordered and provided with explanatory captions to instruct the studious wrestler”. By way of advertisement, Cors mentions that he is “prepared to instruct interested parties in these techniques for reasonable remuneration and be reached at the Witwe house of Nicolaes Petter on the Prinsengracht in the Gustavusburgh not far from the combat academy”. Far from common institutionally, just 20 or so copies world-wide, with most of them in the Netherlands, and very rarely encountered commercially, particularly so in such wonderful, unrestored contemporary condition. This copy with an early anonymous bookplate and the later plate of Amsterdam doctor and bibliophile, Bob Luza, whose collection was sold in 1981.

Quarto (235 189 mm). Contemporary full vellum, remnant of ink lettering to the spine. 71 etched plates by Romeyn de Hooghe, plate 6 was originally duplicated and the duplication corrected at the time by the imposition of the correct plate numbered 7, over it, so neatly is this done that it is barely visible from the recto. A little rubbed, the front free endpaper somewhat creased and with some loss at the lower corner, light browning, a few faint damp-stains in margins, occasional finger-soiling, some minor chipping at the edges, but overall very good.

Bibliography: Hollstein 9; De Hooghe 968-1038; Landwehr, Romeyn de Hooghe 39; Lipperheide Tg5

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