LEAKE, Stephen Martin. The Life of Sir John Leake, Knt. Admiral of the Fleet, &c. By Stephen Martin-Leake, Esq; Clarenceux King of Arms.

London, [no printer], 1750.


8vo. Contemporary tree calf, spine decorated with floral ornament in gilt, covers surrounded by gilt-ruled floral border, marbled endpapers; pp. [iii]-viii, [2, errata], 464, folding table, extra-illustrated: as frontispiece there ius an engraved portrait of Sir John Leake from the Original Picture in the Trinity House, published in 1800, one folding engraved map of Europe by H, Moll at the beginning of the main text, 6 18th-century maps and views of Cadiz, Gibraltar (2) Cartagena, Majorca and Minorca); re-backed at an early stage, internally vary clean.

First edition, one of 50 copies printed. Written by Leake's nephew, with a printrun of only 50 copies for friends, family and a few members of the Royal Navy, this is the biography of one of the most important members of the Navy who fought (and survived) numerous battles before, during and after the Spanish Wars of Succession. 'Sir John Leake was a very eminent naval officer, he was captain of the Eagle in the battle of La Hogue; he relieved Gibraltar when besieged, and performed other eminent services for his country. After the death of Queen Anne he was removed from all employment, and was obliged to retire upon a pension: the remainder of his life was spent either at the country-house which he had long had as an occasional retreat, at Beddington; or at a little box which he built by the waterside at Greenwich' (Daniel Lysons, 'Beddington', in The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey, 1792, footnote 38, online).

'The principal authority for the life of Leake is the Life by Stephen Martin Leake (privately printed, 1750), which, though written by a man full of prejudice, and ignorant of much that belongs to the naval service and to naval history, appears to be largely based on Leake's papers, and, as such, is by no means deserving of the very sweeping condemnation given it by Lord Stanhope in his History of the War of the Succession in Spain, solely on the ground that its statements are at variance with those in Carleton's Military Memoirs, and that it exalts Leake's reputation at the expense of Peterborough's, especially in the matter of the relief of Barcelona and the capture of Alicante. But if Lord Stanhope had examined the official correspondence he would have found that Martin Leake's story is fully substantiated' (ODNB Archive).

'Leake, Stephen Martin, son of Captain Martin, went through different ranks in the herald's office till he became to be garter king at arms … He printed, in 1750, a Life of Sir John Leake, admiral of the fleet, to whom he was indepted for a considerable estate, which the admiral devised to trustees for the use of his son for life, and upon his death to Captain Martin, who had married Lady Leake's sisiter, and his heir's, by which means it came to the captain's son, who in gratitude to the memory of Sir John Leake, wrote an account of his life, of which only 50 copies where printed' (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1842 edition).

Provenance: Contemporary armorial bookplate John Martin Leake inside front cover. 'John Martin Leake (1739 - 1836) the second son of this [the author's] marriage, was one of the younger Pitt's' new administrators' and an important Treasury official; his wife, Mary Calvert, inherited several farms around Bishops Stortford from her Calvert and Tooke relations' (National Archives, online). The book reained in the family, with 'included an Admiral, the Colonel of the Cheshire Regiment, a Civil Engineer who built Indian Railways, an army doctor - Colonel Martin Leake, VC of both the Boer and Great Wars, and an aeronaut who died in a crash in 1910' (ibid.). Tipped in on initial plank are two letters on H.M.S. Albermarle stationery, dated 1906, asking presumably a member of the Leake family for a photograph of 'the portrait of Sir John Leake, which was exhibited at the Naval Exhibition of 1891. The picture is of great interest as Sir John flew his flag in the ship the same name in the Maditerranean in the early part of the 18th century'. The second letter expresses gratefulness for having received the photograph. The early-19th-century ship is known to have collided in 1907 with another British battleship under the command of Captain Robert Falcon Scott of Antarcic fame. On rear fly-leaf is tipped in an early 19th-century note on the prtrait frontipiece and with biographical information.

This book can be offered together with an engraved portrait of John Leake (34 x 24 cm), after Kneller, in the original birds-eye maple frame with the same provenance for an additional £385. This portrait has a hand-written note on the wooden back panel reading Originally the property of John Martin Leake of Thorpe Hall - left by will to Stephen Martin Leake by Helen Jessie Lowe, who died 26th February 1921.

ESTC T146998 (mentioning one map only; with one leaf of addendea at the and and one more errata leaf, not present here). The last copy to appear on the marked was sold by a London bookdealer in 1963.