16th & 17th c. English Literature

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“A collection of the flowers of antiquities and histories” for the Elizabethan Reader

Allott, Robert (active 1600); Bodenham, John (active 1600)
Wits Theater of The Little World

London: Iames Roberts for Nicholas Ling, 1599

Octavo: 12.4 x 7.8 cm. [iv], 269, [7] lvs. Collation: A4, B-2M8, 2N4


“Wits Theater” was produced as part of a publishing project conceived by John Bodenham. The “series” began with Nicholas Ling’s “Politeuphuia: Wits Commonwealth” in 1597, and also included the poetic miscellany “Englands Parnassus” of 1600.

“Wits Theater”

Like the later “Englands Parnassus”, “Wits Theater” was compiled by Robert Allott and may be regarded as the prose equivalent of the poetical “Parnassus”.


STC 382; ESTC S100300; Grolier, Langland to Wither 15; Pforzheimer 1094; Hoe catalog I: 59

“The indispensable link between the earlier Tudor writers and the great Elizabethan and Jacobean writers of English prose” (Ryan, 292). One of the most important literary works of the English Renaissance

Ascham, Roger (1515-1568)
The Schoolemaster. Or, Playne and perfiteway of teaching Children, to understande, write, and speake the Latin toong, but specially purposed for the priuate bringing up of youth in Ientlemen and Noblemens houses: And commodious also for all such as haue forgot the Latin toong, and would, by themselues, without a Schoolemaister, in short time, and with small paines, recouer a sufficient habilitie, to vnderstand, write, and speake Latine. By Roger Ascham.

London: Printed by Abell Ieffes, 1589

Quarto: 18.8 x 13.3 cm [6] 64 lvs. Collation: A2, B-S4


“Between 1563 and the date of his death Ascham found some relief from his cares in the composition of his “Scholemaster”. In 1563, the year of the plague, Ascham dined at Windsor with Sir William Cecil, and among the guests were William Sackville, and his friends Haddon and Astley. After dinner Ascham was informed that certain scholars had run away from Eton for fear of a flogging, and the conversation turned on educational discipline, in which Ascham strongly condemned corporal punishment.


STC 836; Langland to Wither #7; Pforzheimer #16; The printer's device on the final leaf is McKerrow #253; Arber II. 788; Huntington C.L., II; Sinker T.C.C. Cat. No. 672; R.W. Gibson, St. Thomas More: A Preliminary Bibliography of his Works and of Moreana to the Year 1750

Archery, “an Imitation of most Ernest Things to be done in Manhood.” A Work of Great Importance for the Development of English Prose in the Age of Latin

Ascham, Roger (1514/15-1568)
Toxophilus: The Schoole, or partitions of Shooting contayned in two bookes . now newly perused . Pleasaunt for all Gentlemen and Yomen of England for their pastime to reade, and profitable for their use to follow both in warre and peace.

London: Published by Printed by Abell Ieffes by the consent of H. Marsh, 1589

Quarto: 19 x 13.5 cm. [vi], 63, [1] ff. Collation: ¶¶4, ¶¶¶2, A-H8 ff.


The Cambridge-educated Ascham, one of the best known of the English humanists, produced two works that had a great influence on the use of English as a literary language as well as on the education of children and the conduct of English gentlemen. The first of these was his “Toxophilus” (1545), dedicated to Henry VIII, in which he set forth both the dictum that physical exercise is an indispensable part of a gentleman’s education, and set a new model for English prose style.


ESTC S100281; Cockle 9; Pforzheimer 18

First Edition of William Watts’ translation of The First Great Autobiography

Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo (354-430 AD); Watts, William (1590?-1649), translator
Saint Augustines confessions translated: and with some marginall notes illustrated. Wherein, diuers antiquities are explayned; and the marginall notes of a former Popish translation, answered. By William Watts, rector of St. Albanes, Woodstreete.

London: printed by Iohn Norton, for Iohn Partridge: and are to be sold at the signe of the Sunne in Pauls Church-yard, 1631

Duodecimo: 14 x 8.1 cm. [12], 1012, [8] p., [1] With an added engraved title page. Collation: A B-2V 2X


First edition of William Watts’ translation, written in part as a response to the “popish” translation of Sir Tobie Matthew (1577-1655) printed at the English College press of St. Omer in 1620. Watts began his translation as a Lenten devotion, but, he tells us, “I quickly found it to exercise more than my devotion: it exercised my skill (all I had): it exercised my patience, it exercised my friends too, for ‘tis incomparably the hardest taske that ever I undertooke.


STC 912

An Irish Woman Poet’s First Published Collection of Poems. With additional Poems by Constantia Grierson and Elizabeth Rowe

Barber, Mary (ca. 1685-1755); Grierson, Constantia (1704/5-1732); Rowe, Elizabeth (1674-1737)
Poems on Several Occasions.

London: Printed [by Samuel Richardson] for C. Rivington, at the Bible and Crown in St. Paul’s Church-Yard. 1734

Octavo: 20 x 12.5 cm. xliv, 290, (14) pp. A8, b-d8, B-U8


In addition to Mary Barber’s own poems, this volume includes the first appearance of six poems by another Irish woman poet, Constantia Grierson, another member of Swift’s “triumfeminate”, and one poem by Elizabeth Rowe.

Mary Barber (ca. 1690-1757) was the wife of a Dublin tailor. In 1724 she wrote a poem to solicit charity for an officer's widow left penniless with a blind child, and sent it to Thomas Tickell, with the request that it be brought to the attention of Lord Carteret, then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.


Foxon p. 45; ESTC T42623; Maslen, Samuel Richardson, 21

Behn’s Only Original Volume of Verse

Behn, Aphra (1640-89)
Poems upon Several Occasions with a Voyage to the Island of Love. By Mrs. A. Behn.

London: Printed by R. Tonson and J. Tonson, at Gray 1684

Octavo: 17.6 x 11.5 cm. A8, (b)8, B-K8, L1; B-I8 (L1 bound last)


The poems of the celebrated Aphra Behn, with nine prefatory poems in praise of Behn and her writings, including one by Thomas Creech and an anonymous poem sometimes attributed to Dryden. Aphra Behn, best known for her contributions to Restoration drama, was the first professional woman writer to produce a substantial body of work in English. “In her own period Behn was held to be a considerable author, famous as a playwright, propagandist poet and panegyrist, novelist, and translator (Janet Todd, ODNB)

“Through her literary life she was writing verses, though these were published in her own volumes primarily in the mid 1680s when she clearly needed money from projects outside the theatre.


O’Donnell “Aphra Behn, an Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources” A18.1a; Wing B1757; Term Catalog 2, 73 (Easter 1684) Case “A Bibliography of English Poetical Miscellanies” 1521-1750), 184b

With Verses by Aphra Behn. A Fantastic, Large-Paper Copy

Behn, Aphra (1640-89); Aesop (ca. 620-564 B.C.); Barlow, Francis (1626?-1702)
Aesop’s fables with his life: in English, French and Latin. Newly translated. Illustrated with one hundred and twelve sculptures. To this edition are likewise added, thirty one new figures representing his life. By Francis Barlow.

London: Printed by H. Hills jun. for Francis Barlow, and are to be sold by Chr. Wilkinson at the Black-boy against St. Dunstan’s Church in Fleet-street, Tho. Fox in Westminster-hall, and Henry Faithorne at the Rose in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1687

Folio: 36.3 x 22.8 cm. [8], 40; 40; 17, 2-221, [3] p. COLLATION: π1(printed title), a2, B-L2; B-L2, B-Z2, Aa-Zz2, Aaa-Ppp2.


For this second edition of his magnificent production, Barlow commissioned Aphra Behn, then at the height of her popularity as a playwright and poet, to write verses to be engraved on the 110 plates illustrating the fables. In order to substitute Behn’s verses for those of Thomas Philipot (d. 1682), the lower area of the plate needed to be burnished down and the new verses engraved onto the plate in place of the earlier ones.


Wing (CD-ROM, 1996), A703

The Cornerstone of Prison Literature. The Heber-Britwell copy

Boethius, Anicius Manlius Severinus (480-525 A.D.); Coleville, George, translator (fl. 1556)
Boetius de Consolationae [sic] Philosophiæ. The boke of Boecius, called the comforte of philosophye, or wysedome, moche necessary for all men to read and know, wherein suche as be in aduersitie, shall fynde muche consolation and comforte, and suche as be in great worldly prosperitie may knowe the vanitie and frailtie therof, and consequently fynde eternall felycytie. And this boke is in maner of a dialoge or communication betwene two persones, the one is Boecius, and the other is Philosophy, whose disputations and argumentes do playnly declare the diuersitie of th lyfe actiue, that consisteth in worldly, temporall, and transitory thynges, ... Translated out of Latin into the Englyshe toungue by George Coluile, alias Coldewel, to thintent that such as be ignoraunt in the Latin tongue, and can rede Englyshe, maye vnderstande the same. And to the mergentes is added the Latin, accordynge to the boke of the translatour, whiche was a very olde prynte

London: In Paules churche yarde at the sygne of the holy Ghost, by Ihon Cawoode, prynter to the Kynge and Quenes Maiesties, 1556

Quarto: 20 x 14 cm. [A]4, B-Z4, Aa-Ff4 (blank Ff4 lacking)


Dedicated to Queen Mary Tudor, Coleville’s English translation of Boethius’ masterpiece is the only early English translation to include the original Latin text, indicating that, in addition to those readers with no knowledge of Latin, the author took into consideration the more educated, Latin-literate English audience. Coleville provides interesting marginal glosses and explanatory notes, including the tale of the sword of Damocles.


STC 3201

Two English Translations of Calvin’s Sermons

Calvin, Jean (1509-1564)
Sermons of M. Iohn Caluin, vpon the x. Commandements of the Lawe, giuen of God by Moses, otherwise called the Decalogue. Gathered worde for worde, presently at his sermons, when hee preached on Deuteronomie, without adding vnto, or diminishing from them any thing afterward. Translated out of French into English, by I.H.

London: Thomas Dawson for George Byshop, 1581

Quarto: 2 works bound as one. I. [4], 125, [1] lvs. Collation: *4 A-Hh4 Ii2. II. [6], 203, [1] lvs. Collation: *4 **2 A4 B-Cc8 (final leaf blank)


[Bound with:]

Diuers sermons of Master Iohn Caluin, concerning the diuinitie, humanitie, and natiuitie of our Lorde Iesus Christe: as also touching his passion, death, resurrection, ascention: togeather with the comming downe of the holy Ghoste vpon his Apostles: and the first sermon of S. Peter. The order of which you shall finde in the page ensuing.

London: Printed [by Thomas Dawson] for George Byshop, 1581



I. ESTC S109598; STC (2nd ed.), 4455. II. ESTC S107259; STC (2nd ed.), 4437

First Edition in English of Calvin’s Sermons on Timothy and Titus

Calvin, Jean (1509-1564)
Sermons of M. Iohn Caluin, on the Epistles of S. Paule to Timothie and Titus. Translated out of French into English, by L.T.

London: Imprinted [by Henry Middleton] for G. Bishop and T. Woodcoke, 1579

Quarto: 22.5 x 15.8 cm. [48], 1248 pp. Collation: [par.]-3[par.] (with blank leaf 3[par.]8); A-Z8, Aa-Zz8, Aaa-Zzz8, Aaaa-Iiii8


"Most prominent among the means Calvin used to reform the city (Geneva) was preaching. Every other week he preached every day in plain, direct, convincing fashion, without eloquence, but still irresistibly; and the life that the preacher led constituted his strongest claim to attention. The reports of his sermons are probably form notes made by his hearers; which was the easier done, because, being asthmatic, he spoke very slowly.


STC (2nd ed.), 4441

“An ill cook cannot lick his own fingers”. Proverbs, Sir Thomas More’s most memorable witticisms, & The Lord’s Prayer in Anglo Saxon

Camden, William (1551-1623)
Remaines Concerning Britaine: Their Languages. Names. Surnames. Allusions. Anagrammes. Armories. Monies. Empreses. Apparell. Artillarie. Wise Speeches. Proverbs. Poesies. Epitaphes. Written by William Camden Esquire, Glarenceux, King of Armes, Surnamed the Learned. The fift Impression, with many rare Antiquities never before imprinted. By the industry and care of Iohn Philipot, Somerset Herald.

London: Thomas Harper for John Waterson, 1637

Quarto: 18.2 x 13.5 cm A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Hhh4 (lacking final blank Hhh4)


The rude rubble and outcast rubbish of a more serious work." Thus Camden, in his introduction, describes the present work. Despite these remarks, the "Remaines" is full of curious riches. This collection of genealogical, historical, and linguistic material proved immensely popular, going through seven editions in the seventeenth century. Camden originally collected this information for inclusion in an edition of his "Britannia" that never materialized.


STC 4526; The English Emblem Tradition, Vol. 4, Edited by Peter M. Daly and Mary V. Silcox (1999)

Elizabeth Takes Up Her Father’s Work. The Rare Second Book of English Homilies (1563)

Church of England
The seconde tome of homelyes of such matters as were promised and intituled in the former part of Homelyes, set out by the aucthoritie of the Quenes Maiestie: And to be read in euery paryshe Churche agreablye

London: in Powles Churcheyarde by Rychard Iugge, and Ihon Cawood, prynters to the Quenes Maiestie], 1563

Quarto: 18 x 13 cm. [2], 292 leaves. Collation: Aa-Rr8, Ss-Tt4, Vv-Zz8, Aaa-Ooo8, Ppp6


The “Book of Homilies” referred to in the 35th article of the Church of England originated at convocation in 1542, in the reign of Henry VIII, and a first volume was published in 1547, early in the reign of Edward VI. That first volume comprised 12 homilies.

This official prayer book was suppressed during Queen Mary’s reign but when Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1559, as one of her first official acts she ordered the “Prayer Book” and “Homilies” to be reprinted.


STC 13663.3

The Tudor Cicero

Cicero, Marcus Tullius. (106-43 B.C.); Grimald, Nicholas, (1519-1562), translator
Marcus Tullius Ciceroes thre bookes of duties, to Marcus his sonne, turned out of latine into english, by Nicolas Grimalde. Wherunto the latine is adioyned. Cum priuilegio ad imprimendum solum

London: In Fleete strete within Temple barre at the signe of the hande and starre, by Rychard Tottil, 1558

Octavo: 13.5 x 9.5 cm. [par.]-2[par.]8, A-X8


I. Cicero in Early Modern England:

English schoolboys of the 16th century were required to write “themes”, a type of essay, usually on a moral topic. For this exercise, “it was acknowledged that there was no substitute for studying the writings of ancient authors, above all Cicero, who, as always (in humanist eyes), provided benchmarks for technique and moral teaching in one package.


STC 5281.8

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).


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.


ESTC S108716; Pforzheimer, 218

The Protestant Martyrs. With the Ballad of John Careless, Later adapted by Shakespeare in King Lear

Coverdale, Miles (1488-1568)
Certain most godly, fruitful, and comfortable letters of such true saintes and holy martyrs of God, as in the late bloodye persecution here within this realme, gaue their lyues for the defence of Christes holy gospel: written in the tyme of theyr affliction and cruell imprysonment.

London: By Iohn Day, dwelling ouer Aldersgate, beneath Saint Martines, 1564

Quarto: 18 x 13.5 cm. [8], 46, 49-689, [5] p. Collation: A4, B-C8, D8(-D8), E-I8, K8(-K6), L-Y8 2A-2X8, 2Y8 + [hand]Y4 (Leaves D8 and K6 are canceled, as intended.)


An important collection of writings by English Protestants, many of whom had been martyred, compiled and with a preface by Miles Coverdale. There are letters by Lady Jane Gray (1536/7-1554) (a letter written “to her syster the Ladye Katheryne, immediately before she suffered”), John Bradford (1510?-1555) (including a partial reprint of \"An exhortacion to the carienge of Chrystes crosse\", STC 3480.


STC 5886

Crashaw’s English Works bound Together with his Latin Poems

Crashaw, Richard (1612-1649)
Steps to the Temple, The Delights of the Muses and Carmen Deo Nostro. By Ric. Crashaw, sometimes Fellow of Pembroke Hall, and late fellow of St Peters Colledge in Cambridge. The 2nd Edition. London: In the Savoy, Printed by T.N. for Henry Herringman at the Blew Anchor in the Lower Walk of the New Exchange. 1670 [Bound with:] Richardi Crashawi Poemata et epigrammata, quæ scripsit Latina & Græca, dum Aluæ Pemb. alumnus fuit, et Collegii Petrensis socius.

London: In the Savoy, Printed by T.N. for Henry Herringman at the Blew Anchor in the Lower Walk of the New Exchange. 1670

Octavo: Two volumes bound as one. 16.6 x 10.6 cm. I. [16], 112, 115-208, [2] p., [1] leaf of plates. Collation: A-O8 (O8 blank and present.) With an added, engraved frontispiece of the temple. II. 28], 67, [1] p. A-F8


This collection of Crashaw’s poetry comprises the third edition (not the second, as the title states) of his “Steps to the Temple” (first 1646), the third edition of “The Delights of the Muses” (first edition 1648) and the second edition of the posthumous “Carmen Deo Nostro…Sacred Poems” (first edition 1652). "The Delights of the Muses” and the "Carmen Deo nostro te decet Hymnus" each has a divisional title page on leaves F8r and K5r respectively.


Bound in 19th c. morocco, gilt, very slightly worn. A nice copy with a few instances of light foxing. Complete with the engraved frontispiece.

The First Complete Edition of Samuel Daniel’s Poetry

Daniel, Samuel (1562-1619)
The Whole Workes of Samuel Daniel Esquire in Poetrie

London: printed by Nicholas Okes, for Simon Waterson, and are to be sold at his shoppe in Paules Church-yard, at the signe of the Crowne, 1623

Quarto: 18.4 x 14.3 cm. [12], 231, [1]; [6], 180, [19], 186-479, [1] pp. Collation: π2 (=Tt5-6), A-C4, D-Q8, R4, Aa-Ss8, Tt8 (see following note); Aa-Mm8, Nn4. This copy has blank leaf A4 and lacks blank leaf Nn4). Leaves Tt5-6 (the cancel title and the letter to Prince Charles) are bound between leaves A1(engraved title) and A2 (the dedication to the Countess of Pembroke). STC note: Part 1, a reissue of the 1609 edition of "The civile wares", is preceded by a new letterpress title page and dedication leaf. Quire A of this first part is often wholly or partly lacking.” This copy is perfect.


The contents are as follows. Dates refer to the year in which a given work was composed or, where that is unknown, when it was first published:

“The Civil Wars”(1595, complete 1609), with Daniel’s dedicatory epistles to Prince Charles and the Countess of Pembroke; “The Tragedie of Philotas”(1605), with a verse dedication to Prince Henry; “Hymen's Triumph”(1614); “Vlisses and the Syren”(1605); “The Queenes Arcadia: A Pastorall Trage-Comedie”(1605) with a verse dedication to Queen Anne; The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses (1604); “The Tragedie of Cleopatra”(1594) with a verse dedication to Mary, Countess of Pembroke, “A Letter sent from Octavia to her husband Marcus Antonius into Egypt”(1599) with a dedicatory sonnet to Margaret, Countess Cumberland; “Funerall Poeme: Upon the death of the Late Noble Duke of Devonshire”(1607); “A Panegyric Congratulatory” to King James I (1603); Certain Epistles, addressed to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Henry Howard, Lucy, countess of Bedford, Margaret, countess of Cumberland, Lady Anne Clifford, and Henry, earl of Southampton (1601); “Musophilus: Containing a Generall Defence of All Learning”(1599) with a verse dedication to Sir Fulke Greville; “The Complaint of Rosamond”(1592); “To Delia”(1592); “A Description of Beauty, Translated out of Marino”; “To the Angell Spirit of the Most Excellent Sr.


H. Sellers, A bibliography of the works of Samuel Daniel, 1585-1623, p. 44; Tannenbaum, Samuel Daniel, a concise bibliography, #215; STC 6238; ESTC S109853; Grolier, Langland to Wither, 64; Greg, I, 325(b); III, p. 1054-5

With the Engraved Portrait of Donne

Donne, John (1573-1631)
Poems, by J.D. VVith elegies on the authors death

London: Printed by M[iles]. F[lesher]. for John Marriot, and are to be sold at his shop in St Dunstans Church-yard in Fleet-street, 1639

Octavo: 13.5 x 9.1 cm. [8], 300, [4], 301-388, [32] pp. A-Z8, Aa-Dd8. With the engraved frontispiece portrait.


“The poetry of Donne represents a sharp break with that written by his predecessors and most of his contemporaries. Much Elizabethan verse is decorative and flowery in its quality. Its images adorn; its meter is mellifluous. Image harmonizes with image, and line swells almost predictably into line. Donne’s poetry, on the other hand, is written very largely in conceits— concentrated images that involve an element of dramatic contrast, of strain, or of intellectual difficulty.


STC 7047; Keynes 80; Pforzheimer 297

“No man is an Island”

Donne, John (1573-1631)
Deuotions vpon emergent occasions, and seuerall steps in my sicknes: digested into 1. Meditations vpon our humane condition. 2. Expostulations, and debatements with God. 3. Prayers, vpon the seuerall occasions, to him. By Iohn Donne, Deane of S. Pauls, London. The third edition.

London: Printed [by Augustine Mathewes] for Thomas Iones, and are to be sold at the signe of the Black Rauen in the Strand, 1627

Duodecimo: 13.8 x 8.4 cm. [8], 589, [1] p. A-Z12 (lacks blank A1); Aa-Bb12


“[The ‘Devotions’] present a more vivid and intimate picture of Donne than anything else written by himself or others.” –Sparrow

“Donne’s ‘Devotions’ is the source of the author’s famous meditation on the interconnectedness of all human lives: ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.


Keynes, G. Donne (4th ed.), 38; STC 7035a; ESTC S114971; Grolier/Donne 20 (this copy)

A fine Copy with the Portrait of Donne

Donne, John (1573-1631)
Poems, by J.D. With elegies on the authors death. To which is added divers copies under his own hand never before in print.

London: Printed for John Marriot, and are to be sold by Richard Marriot at his shop by Chancery lane end over against the Inner Temple gate, 1650

Octavo: 14.2 x 9 cm. [8], 392, [32] p. A4, B-Z8, Aa8, (aa)8, (bb)4, Bb-Cc8. Lacking blank A1. With an added portrait frontispiece.


“The poetry of Donne represents a sharp break with that written by his predecessors and most of his contemporaries. Much Elizabethan verse is decorative and flowery in its quality. Its images adorn; its meter is mellifluous. Image harmonizes with image, and line swells almost predictably into line. Donne’s poetry, on the other hand, is written very largely in conceits— concentrated images that involve an element of dramatic contrast, of strain, or of intellectual difficulty.


Wing D1869; ESTC R32767; Grolier/Donne 86 (this copy); Grolier/Wither to Prior 290; Keynes, Donne 82

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