BYNG, John, naval officer.

The Trial of Vice-Admiral Byng,

at a Court-Martial, held on board his Majesty's ship the St. George, in Portsmouth Harbour. For an enquiry into his conduct, while he commanded his Majesty's fleet in the Mediterranean, and particularly on the 20th of May, 1756. Together with the Admirals's Defence, taken down in short-hand. [Together with:] An Exact Copy of a Remarkable Letter from Admiral Byng to the Right Hon. W[illiam] P[itt], Esq; dated March 12, 1757, two days before his execution. London: J. Reason, 1757.

London: J. Reason, 1757 Stock Code: 113497
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"Pour encourager les autres"

First editions. The trial and execution of Rear-Admiral John Byng (1704-1757) was one of the great cause célèbres of the mid-18th century. "After his failure to relieve Minorca from the French (1756), he was court-martialled and shot on the quarter-deck of his own flagship, the Monarch for lack of resolution. This face-saving act by the government brought strong condemnation from many quarters" (Uden & Cooper eds., A Dictionary of British Ships and Seamen, 1980, p. 67). Byng's fate was the melancholy inspiration behind Voltaire's famous line in Candide (1759): "Dans ce pays-ci il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres" ("In this country it is thought well to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourager the others").

Rather uncommon: Library Hub and ESTC locate copies at only six British and Irish institutional libraries (BL, Oxford, York, Scotland, House of Lords, Southampton), WorldCat adds 5 copies worldwide; the Exact Copy is more common institutionally.

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2 works, octavo, pp. 44 & 22. Original blue-grey boards.


20th-century bookplate of Brian Edwards. Spine worn, front cover holding on the cords, light foxing to titlepage of first work, a little dust-marking internally otherwise a good unsophisticated copy in the original boards.


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