First Edition of Coryate’s Bizarre Travelogue. A Fascinating Account of An Adventurer in Europe

Coryate, Thomas (1577-1617)

Coryats crudities; hastily gobled vp in five moneths trauells in France, Sauoy, Italy, Rhetia co[m]monly called the Grisons country, Heluetia aliàs Switzerland, some parts of high Germany, and the Netherlands; newly digested in the hungry aire of Odcombe in the county of Somerset, & now dispersed to the nourishment of the trauelling members of this kingdome

London: printed by William Stansby for the author, 1611


Quarto: 20.5 x 15.5 cm. π1 (engraved title page), π1 (printed title), a3, b4, π1(woodcut arms), a4-8, b8, c-g8, h-l4, B-C8, D1, (+D1-3), D2-8, E-Z8; Aa-Zz8; Aaa-Ccc8, Ddd4, [Eee]1, signed “Eee3”, [Fff]1 (unsigned).


Bound in contemporary blind-ruled English calf, spine richly tooled in gold and with a red morocco label, gilt. The joints are cracked but sound. A fine, complete copy, with a small defect to the upper corner of the 2nd plate, mended with only slight loss, otherwise without fault. Complete with the additional engraved title ("Coryats Crudities Hastily gobled up ") by William Hole, 4 engraved plates, engraved text illustrations by William Hole, full-page woodcut arms of the Prince of Wales, woodcut headpieces, and decorative initials.

First edition of one of the earliest travelogues in English, written by Thomas Coryate (1577-1617), one of the great English eccentrics and travellers.

“Coryate joined the household of Henry, Prince of Wales. Driven by curiosity he sailed from Dover in 1608 and arrived soon in Paris, 'which he found even filthier and smellier than London. At Fontainebleau he was befriended by members of Henri IV's garde écossaise and saw more of the royal household than would normally have been permitted to chance visitors. He journeyed on to Lyons, through Savoy to Turin, Milan, Mantua, and Padua. His description of how Italians shielded themselves from the sun resulted in apparently the first mention of "umbrella" in English literature. Table forks, almost unknown in England, were in general use in Italy; Coryate acquired one, imitated the Italian fashion of eating and continued to do so frequently when he came home ... Arriving in Venice on 24 June 1608 Coryate presented two letters of introduction to the English ambassador, Sir Henry Wotton, who, perhaps impressed by the letter which mentioned that Coryate was remotely related to the earl of Essex, did him many kindnesses. These included rescuing him in the ambassadorial gondola from a threatening crowd of Jews who objected to Coryate preaching Christianity to their rabbi. Later he was to risk reprisals for antipathy to Roman Catholic rites and, during his Eastern travels, for proclaiming against Islam. After six weeks of intensive quest and recording of information, he left Venice on 7 August by boat to Padua, then walked to Vicenza, Verona, and Bergamo. Coryate arrived in Zürich by boat and reached Basel on foot at the end of August. While in Switzerland he heard the story of William Tell. Coryate's admirable rendering appears to be the earliest in English. Arriving in Strasbourg by boat he then got lost, alone and on foot, in the Black Forest, but the sole threat of armed violence experienced in Europe was from a German peasant, who resented Coryate picking grapes from a vineyard. He was hospitably received in Heidelberg and walked to Mainz. After a detour to visit Frankfurt's fair he sailed down the Rhine, with a brief stop at Cologne, and continued by water down what was the temporary truce line between the armies of Spain and the United Provinces. After calling on the English merchants established at Middelburg he was entertained by the English garrison at Flushing. Thence he embarked on 1 October and landed in London on 3 October 1608. With the rector's permission Coryate hung his shoes in Odcombe church. Coryate drew on his experiences in writing Coryats Crudities (1611), which was intended to encourage courtiers and gallants to enrich their minds by continental travel. It contains illustrations, historical data, architectural descriptions, local customs, prices, exchange rates, and food and drink, but is too diffuse and bulky - there are 864 pages in the 1905 edition - to become a vade-mecum. To solicit "panegyric verses" Coryate circulated copies of the title-page depicting his adventures and his portrait, which had been engraved by William Hole and which he considered a good likeness. About sixty contributors include many illustrious authors, not all in verse, some insulting, some pseudonymous. Prince Henry accepted the dedication but insisted that all were published' (Oxford DNB). 

"There probably has never been another such combination of learning and unconscious buffoonery as is here set forth. Coryate was a serious and pedantic traveller who (as he states in his title) in five months toilsome travel wandered, mostly on foot, over a large part (by his own reckoning 1,975 miles) of Western Europe. His adventures probably appeared to his contemporaries as more ridiculous than exciting, but at this remove, his chronicle by its very earnestness provides an account of the chief cities of early seventeenth century Europe which is at least valuable as it is amusing. It was probably his difficulties with the booksellers that induced Coryate to solicit the extraordinary sheaf of testimonials prefixed to the volume. He secured contributions from more than sixty writers at the time. Among his panegyrists appear the names of Jonson, Chapman, Donne, Campion, Harington, Drayton, Davies of Hereford, and others, each contributor vying to mock poor Coryate with solemn ridicule. " (Pforzheimer 218) The Crudities boast probably the largest amount of commendatory verses of a book in prose, 55 in seven languages to be precise, among them works by John Donne (written in a macaronic language), Inigo Jones and John Hoskins, whose contribution is considered the first English nonsense verse of the 17th century.

In 1612, intending to write a travel book on the East, Coryate travelled in the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Kurdistan and India, and died in 1617 of dysentry in Gujarat, where he was buried.


ESTC S108716; Pforzheimer, 218