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The Historie of Tithes.

That is, the practice of payment of them. The positive laws made for them. The opinions touching the right of them. A review of it is also annext, which both confirmes it and directs in the use of it.

[London: no publisher stated,] 1618 Stock Code: 129239
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First edition. John Selden (1584-1654) was perhaps the most notable jurist and legal scholar of the first half of the 17th century; John Milton declared him in the Areopagitica "the chief of learned men reputed in this land". The Historie of Tithes marked a major refinement in Selden's theory and practice of history, and was meticulously researched, buttressed with extensive marginal notes and a full bibliography of manuscript sources, including the author's own collection, the collection of Robert Cotton, and the documents in the Tower of London. The work "offered political advice on an issue of burning contemporary relevance. Between 1605 and 1613 George Carleton (who became successively bishop of Llandaff and of Chichester), Thomas Ridley (a prominent civil and canon lawyer), and Foulke Robarts (a Norwich divine) had drawn upon the interpretation of medieval canon lawyers and some historical evidence to make strident attacks upon the lay ownership of tithes.... Listing many references to lay consecrations of property and income to the church found in early manuscripts, Selden concluded that before the reign of King John lay tithing was voluntary, and thus many of the so-called appropriated tithes traced their 'chief originall from these arbitrarie Consecrations' (pp. 290-91). This brilliant reading of manuscript sources creatively reinterpreted the meaning of parishes in the early English church and stressed the positive role of laymen in the endowment of the church. Underlying the occasionally flaming heat of the Historie of Tithes stood a profoundly protestant version of Christianity which envisaged a church governed by the prince and parliaments, integrated into society, and enriched by the creative talents of laymen, as well as those of the clergy King James and his favourite, the marquess of Buckingham, forced Selden to withdraw Historie of Tithes from circulation, apologize to the privy council for the mistake of its publication, and endure in silence the attacks on it made by his critics. However, he would neither admit that it presented false evidence or interpretations nor retreat from the central thesis that the law of God found enforcement only in the laws of particular jurisdictions" (ODNB).

ESTC records four variants of the edition with minor typographical changes, without assigning priority. Pforzheimer lists two states, which he deems as different editions, one being a close reprint of the other. The present copy matches the typographical changes he lists as probably indicating a reprint of the first, "although there is no decisive sign of priority", allowing the book to still be tentatively assigned as a first edition. The book was also reprinted in 1680 with a 1618 date.

Provenance: The Lawes Agricultural Library, with their shelfmarks and stamp to front pastedown. The library was assembled in the early 20th century by Sir John Russell, director of the Rothamsted agricultural research institution in Hertfordshire, and ranked as one of the finest English collections of agricultural material.

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Quarto (189 x 133 mm). Early calf, rebacked with brown morocco, red morocco label to spine.


Light rubbing to covers, slight stain in gutter of title page, light toning and tiny chips at head of initial few leaves, minor running ink stain to contents pages, contents pages with contemporary manuscript corrections to irregular chapter numbering, chip to p. 207 grazing text, a few trivial minute wormholes, spillburn to p. 105, short closed tear at head of p. 295, a few pages lightly creased. Overall a well-preserved, crisp copy.


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