Sir Walter Ralegh

Military exploits of Prince Maurice of Nassau, 1st ed.  in French; Fairfax/Osterley Park copy, with notes attrib. to Sir Walter Raleigh.

Jan Jansz ORLERS

Description & Representation de toutes les Victoires tant par eau que par terre, lesquelles Dieu a octroiees aux nobles, hauts & puissants Seigneurs, Messeignrs les Etats des Provinces Unies du Païs-bas, souz la conduite & gouvernement de son Excellence, le Prince Maurice de Nassau. Leiden: par Jean Jeanzoon Orlers & Henry de Haestens, 1612.

Folio (12 1/4 x 8 inches; 311 x 203mm). Pp. [iv], 282 pp. Half-title (“Les Lauriers de Nassau”). Letterpress title with elaborate engraved surround, the verso with a full-page engraved plate of Prince Maurice of Nassau’s coat-of-arms, faced by a full-page engraved portrait of the Prince. 43 double-page or folding engraved maps and plates (The destruction of the Spanish armada plate with heavy old ink-staining, lighter staining to the four following text leaves, some other spotting, about 5 plates with splits to the central folds, one heavily toned). Contemporary calf over pasteboard, the covers with large central arabesque plaque blocked in gilt, the borders ruled in gilt and blind, old re-backing with red morocco spine label (extremities worn, the upper joint split, some strengthening of the inner joints, free endpapers are later replacements).

Early provenance:

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618, pen and ink notes on folio 137 ‘mais bien arriere’; fol.138 ‘a moy seule’; fol. 138 ‘Jeay prix tous deux’; fol. 139 ‘en lequelle ils m’ont trompe’; fol. 139 ‘Par la refuse nous avons * 2 millions *perdu’). [William Oldys mentions these notes in his biography of Raleigh but in corrected French and not as written in this copy eg ‘J’ay’ for ‘Jeay’, ‘pris’ for ‘prix’, ‘laquelle’ for ‘lequelle’ and ‘seul’ for ‘seule’]. On folio 136, the number of ships is corrected in the margin from the printed 57 to a penned 67. (This marginalia is not mentioned by Oldys.)

Bryan (or Brian) Fairfax family (pen and ink notes on folio 198 ‘Sr. Fr: Vere’; fol. 199 ‘Sr. Charles Fairfax’ and ‘Sr. Horatio Vere’; fol.202 ‘Sr. Charles Fairfax’; fol. 228 ‘Sr. Charles Fairfax brother to ye first Lord Tho. F.’; fol. 238 ‘Coll; Charles Fairfax fut Governeur, et fut aussi tue.’



Bryan or Brian Fairfax (d.1749, see Prestage catalogue, by descent to);

Robert Fairfax, 7th Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1707-1793, sent to auction);

Mr. Prestage (auctioneer, prepared for auction starting April 26th 1756,  lot 945, but the entire library sold before the auction to);

Francis Child (d.1763, Osterley Park shelf mark: X.1.3.9 [1 prior shelf mark abraded, front free endpaper] included in Thomas Morrell’s ‘Catalogus Librorum in Bibliotheca Osterleiensi’ [1771], by descent to);

Victor Albert George Child Villiers (1845-1915, 7th Earl of Jersey, Osterley Park armorial bookplate to front pastedown, Osterley Park sale, Sotheby’s, 6 May 1885, lot  1187);

sold to Bernard Quaritch (‘Rough List, No.71, June 1885, item 145 ‘Nassau… 1.0.0.’);

Mary Olivia Nutting (1831-1910, 1st librarian at Mount Holyoke, Mass., inserted a 1p. typescript being an early version of the preface  of Ms. Nutting’s book “The Days of Prince Maurice…” [Boston & Chicago: 1894], portrait in the present work marked up for reproduction in Nutting’s book, by descent to her nephew);

George Hale Nutting (1867-1957, bookplate).

Andrew Stewart (armorial bookplate)

First edition in French; the Fairfax/Osterley Park copy, with a fair chance that it originally belonged to Sir Walter Raleigh.

This original attribution of this book to Raleigh is based on five manuscript notes, three of them in the first person, and all in the same hand. Because Walter Raleigh’s handwriting varies from year to year it is inconsistant, but the present marginalia certainly record his thoughts when reading the texts they accompany.

The confusion about Raleigh’s notes is increased by the fact that there was mentions of another copy of the present work with almost exactly the same notes attributed to him with ‘a black-lead pencil’. In the 1736 edition of Raleigh’s ‘History of the World’ the editor, William Oldys, prefaced the main text with his biography of Raleigh. The biography includes numerous notes a number of which refer to a copy of the present work with ‘black-lead pencil’ notes: see pages ci, cii, ciii and civ where Oldys transcribes the notes.  Oldys introduces the notes on, explaining that “This curiosity is in the possession of Thomas Brian esq. of the Inner Temple”. We have not been able to track down this phantom example, but its existence has been parroted and misdescribed by a number of subsequent authorities. For example: Walter Oakeshott noted that it was “was once owned by William Oldys (1696-1761)” – this does not ever seem to have been the case.  However, Oakeshott’s speculation about the Brian copy, is equally true of the present work “It is not impossible that this item was authentic: the work contains an account of the action at Cadiz, which would have been of obvious interest to Ralegh”.
Knowing Raleigh’s character and his penchant for self estime, it makes little sense for him to set the score in pencil, a medium that can easily be erased. A plausible scenario would be that the copy Oldys used for his Life of Ralegh was annotated in pencil from the present copy, in more modern French, if indeed the pencilled copy ever existed.

Can the attribution of the lost copy with pencil marginalia by Oldys be questioned when one looks at Oldys’ life. He is described by his contemporaries as “a noted antiquary and bibliographer but wholly ignorant of heraldry and known for being ‘rarely sober in the afternoon, never after supper’, and ‘much addicted to low company.”
His habits were irregular, and in 1751 his debts drove him to the Fleet prison. After two years’ imprisonment he was released through the kindness of friends who paid his debts. Not the best witness but one who has been quoted repeatedly on the matter of the Ralegh marginalia.

This work is the first edition in French of a work Orlers first published in 1610: ‘Den Nassauscgen Lauren-crans’. It offers a survey of the military exploits (on land and sea) of Prince Maurice of Nassau (1567-1625) during the Dutch Revolt against Spain during the Eighty Years’ War.

The maps, plans and plates are excellent. One of the more important images is the plate at fol. 36, alas stained with black ink,  which is “one of the very rare contemporary representations of the Armada battle” (Kraus, Sir Francis Drake, a Pictorial Biography, 35). The accompanying text gives a detailed listing of the composition of the Armada followed by a narrative of the battle. Also included is an account of the destruction of the Portuguese fleet by the Dutch at Banten, Java, in 1601 and a plate showing the arrival of the Dutch at Mauritius (named after Maurice of Nassau) in 1598.


There is another annotated book described by Walter Oakeshott in his article ‘Sir Walter Ralegh’s Library’, item 88: “Relatio del Diego de Torris D. de Torres, Relacion del origen y sucesso de los Xarifes .…….Ralegh’s copy seems to be that now in the B.M. (583. c. 4); it was pointed out to me by Dr. G. Ungerer of Berne, who rightly (as I think) suspected that the notes might be in Ralegh’s hand.”

A link to that book is provided below:

Compare with this copy

For comparison to Walter Raleigh hand writing here is a leaf from from his notebook listing his library holdings kept in the tower, written in his hand:

Marginalia folio 139
Marginalia folio 138
Marginalia folio 137
Marginalia folio 136


W. Raleigh. The Works… now first collected. Oxford: 1829. Vol.I p.245, etc.

Walter Oakeshott, ‘Sir Walter Ralegh’s Library’, The Library, 5th Ser. 23 (1968), pp. 285-327.


Prestage (auctioneer). A Catalogue of the … Library of … Bryan Fairfax… 1756. London: [1756] lot 945

[Thomas Morell]. Catalogus Librorum in Bibliotheca Osterleiensi. [London?:] 1771, shelf mark X.1.3.9

Sothebys (auctioneer). The Osterley Park Library. Catalogue …, the property of… the Earl of Jersey : which will be sold by auction… on Wednesday, the 6th day of May, 1885, and seven following days. [London:] 1885. Lot 1187 (sold to Bernard Quaritch for 12 shillings).

Bernard Quaritch. A rough list … including the choicer portion of Osterley Park library… [London: June 1885]. Item 145 (asking price 1 pound).

Mary Olivia Nutting. The Days of Prince Maurice. Boston & Chicago: 1894. See the portrait frontispiece.