The First Illustrated Edition

Ovid. Ovidius Naso, Publius (43 BC-17 AD); Sandys, George (1561-1629), translator

Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished, Mythologiz’d, and Represented in Figures. An Essay to the Translation of Vergil’s Aeneis. By G.S.

Oxford: J. Lichfield, 1632


Folio: 30 x 20 cm. π6 (-blank π1), ¶4, A-D4, E4 (-blank E4), F-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Ttt4, Vvv2. (Leaves Q2 and 3 reversed.) With an added engraved title, engraved portrait frontispiece, and fifteen full-paged engravings.

FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION (second edition overall) of Sandys’ translation.

In addition to the engraved title, there is a full-paged engraving (with a medallion portrait) of Ovid, and fifteen full-page engravings by Salomon Savery (1594-1665) after drawings by Francisco Clein. An excellent copy in 17th c. English calf.

This edition of Sandys’ translation also includes his translation of Book One of Vergil’s “Aeneid”. Sandys never accomplished the task of translating the entire poem. The work that he found “too heavy a burthen” was later taken up by his admirer, John Dryden. On the front end-paper of this volume is a manuscript quote, attributed to Dryden, which reads, “English poetry owes much of its present beauty to Sandys’ translations.”

“In 1621 Sandys arrived in Virginia, and during his residence there as secretary of the Colony he occupied his leisure time in completing his translation of Ovid on his estate in present day Sury, across the James River from Williamsburg, publishing it upon his return to England in 1626. His stay in this country was short, but his translation of Ovid is considered “the first utterance of the conscious literary spirit articulated in America”. (Quoted from Wither to Prior).

"With the ‘Aeneid’ Vergil had realized the grandiose project of a Homeric-style poem, a national epic for Roman culture. Ovid in realizing his ambitions for a work of great scope takes another direction. The outer form was to be epic (the hexameter is its distinctive mark), as was the ample scale, but the model, which is based on Hesiod, is that of a "collective poem", one that gathers a series of independent stories linked by a single theme… Ovid’s ambition is grand: to realize a universal work, one that goes beyond the limits of the various poetic creeds. The very chronology of the poem confirms this. It is boundless, going from the beginning of the world down to Ovid’s day, and thus realizes a project long-desired and hitherto only sketched out in Latin culture…

"The fundamental characteristic of the world described by the ‘Metamorphoses’ is its ambiguous and deceptive nature, the uncertainty of the boundaries between reality and appearance, between the concreteness of things and the inconstancy of their appearances. The characters of the poem behave as if lost in this insidious universe, which is governed by change and error; disguises, shadows, reflections, echoes, and fugitive semblances are the snares in the midst of which the humans move about, victims of the play of fate or the whim of the gods. Their uncertain action and the natural human disposition to err are the object of the poet’s regard, now touched, now amused; they are the spectacle that the poem represents." (Conte, Latin Literature, A History)

Bandini Annales p. 180