Reverend William Gunn made a trip to Rome in the late 1700’s, early in his career. He stayed there long enough to explore the books in the Vatican library and in area palaces. He found some goodies. One was the Manuscript by Mark the Hermit, considered to an early version of The History of Britain, attributed to Nennius, which is online on this site already. He also found some treatises and letters about the opinions of other countries relating to 16th century Tudor and Elizabethan Britain, regarding its the capability of English arms and the characteristics of their natives as fighters. Gunn’s translation of extracts from nine of these articles resulted in this extremely rare book.
While in Rome in 1793, Gunn had another notable experience. According to the journal article in Athenæum (No. 3337, October 10, 1891, Volume II, p. 489). Rev. Gunn was the only resident Protestant minister at that time, and he married the royal Duke of Sussex, Augustus Frederick, son of George III, to Augusta Murray, which was never approved by the king, so it was never officially recognized.
The full title of this book is Extracts, Describing the Ancient Manner of Placing the Kingdom in Military Array; The Various Modes of Defence Adopted for its Safety in Periods of Danger; and The Evidence of Foreigners as to the National Character and Personal Bravery of the English. Taken from Original State Papers of the Sixteenth Century Collected on the Continent, and hitherto Inedited.
The original book lists no author and is thus seen as “anonymous” by most people. According to the fascinating page of the Exhibition Guide, Revd William Gunn Archive, Gunn and his wife and young daughter, spent some months in Rome, 192-1793, and had permission to use the Vatican Library.
The extracts, here collected and translated, are short and the notes are great, as usual, with the good Reverend. Especially interesting (and it will bring a lump to your throat and clutch your heart,) is the speech of Queen Elizabeth to the people before the Spanish Armada, which she made during a visit to the camps of the defenders.
William Gunn was born in 1750. As an adult, he lived and worked in Norfolk. His wife, Ann, née Mack, died in 1826 at age 59, but Gunn lived to the great age of 91. He had 8 children, six surviving. His son, John Gunn, also a parson, was noted for his geological observations of the area in which he lived.
There is no table of contents in this very short book with paper wrappers, and it is very rare. It was printed before his hardcover edition of Nennius. There are a few typos, which are corrected and the error noted in the source code for the page. Also, the Notes are at the end of the book in the printed edition, but I have incorporated the appropriate footnotes to the extract pertaining to them, in the online edition.
In lieu of an official Table of Contents, here is a description of the Extracts:
I. A description of England in 1506. A paper which appears to have been written by Vincenzio Quirini, who was in the entourage of King Philip and Queen Joanna, of Castille, when it was detained in England by Henry VII, on the way home from a trip to Flanders.
II. Relation of the Magnifico Messer Daniel Barbaro,5 describing the Kingdoms and Countries of England and Scotland, read before the Doge and Senate of the Republic of Venice, May 1551.
III. Relation of the most noble Giovanni Michele, at his return to Venice, from an embassy to her most serene Majesty, Mary, Queen of England, in the year 1557. A Letter to the Senate about the geography, military forces, and traits of the soldiers of England.
IV. Heads, from which are deduced the Means of re-establishing the former Religion of England. An anonymous account of the state of Protestant England in the 16th century and its military preparedness.
V. Relation of Michael Soriano, Ambassador from the Republic of Venice to his Catholic Majesty, 1562. A short description of the current state of England and the temperament of its people: “The English are universally addicted to novelty and the love of change; etc.”
VI. An Account of some Particulars relative to the British Nation. A Treatise discussing England’s defensive capabilities and the character of its soldiers.
VII. of the Ports and Fortresses of England, in the Year 1588. An anonymous treatise on the fortresses and defenses of England just prior to the Spanish Armada, addressed to Tomaso Lospi.
VIII. An Account of the Construction of the Vessels of the Spanish Armada, and of the Winds considered favorable for its passage to England. Another anonymous treatise, by the same author, addressed to Tomaso Lospi.
IX. Relation of the Island and Kingdom of England, by the most illustrious and excellent Marc Antonio Correro, Ambassador from the most serene Republic of Venice. England and Queen Elizabeth hearing of the approach of the Spanish Armada.
Read these rare primary source translations and learn a little bit about England and its international relations during the 16th century.