The Elizabethan Vergil

Virgil (Vergilius Maro, Publius) (70-19 B.C.)

The Thirteene Bookes of Aeneidos. The first twelve beeing the worke of the diuine poet, Virgil Maro, and the thirteenth, the supplement of Maphæus Vegius. Translated into English verse, to the first third part of the tenth booke, by Thomas Phaer Esquier: and the residue finished, and now newly set forth for the delight of such as are studious in poetrie: By Thomas Twyne, Doctor in Physicke.

London: Printed by Thomas Creede, 1607


Quarto: 17.6 x 13.1 cm. a4, A-V8, X4 (lacking blank leaf X4)

SEVENTH EDITION overall (first ed. 1554), the fourth complete printing (first 1584), and the last of the Elizabethan editions.

Bound in an exquisite binding of eighteenth-century mottled calf, highly polished and beautifully tooled in gold along the edges of the boards. The spine is separated into six compartments by the raised sewing supports, each of which, aside from that bearing the citron morocco label, is decorated with attractive floral tools. The large gilt armorial crest consisting of a Pegasus head and wings "LTHD" on upper cover, earl's coronet and "EDDE" on lower cover. The edges of the text block are stained a solid red. The binding is in exceptional condition, with only the slightest bit of wear. The text itself is in excellent condition. The text of the poem is set in Black Letter and is adorned with attractive woodcut initials and head- and tail-pieces throughout. Creede’s woodcut printer’s device appears on the title page. Excellent. Provenance: Tollemache, Earls of Dysart, Helmingham (supralibros, engraved armorial bookplate on title verso, note on front pastedown in hand of Lionel Tollemache, fourth Earl).

Thomas Phaer, "the first Englishman to attempt a translation of the whole work" (DNB) was also the first to translate the Aeneid into English verse (after Caxton’s prose and Douglas’ Scots translations.) Phaer died without completing the work. Thomas Twyne added a translation of the remaining three books of the epic (1573); the 1584 edition was the first to contain the "thirteenth book" or continuation of Maphaeus Vegius. "Root has shown that [Shakespeare] consulted the Aeneid both in the original and in Phaer’s translation" (Whitaker, Shakespeare’s Use of Learning, 26). "Phaer’s was the most popular of all the Tudor translations, having been published in whole or in part at least eight times. Phaer published the first seven books in 1558, and the first nine in 1562" (Pforzheimer, 1028).

"Vergil’s Nachleben is Western Literature. Anecdotal evidence suggests that already during his lifetime he was regarded not only by professional colleagues but also by many lay readers as Rome’s greatest living poet... For the Romans, with a speed and completeness that has few parallels in world literature, Vergil had already become a classic. His works are quoted so often in antiquity that even if they had been lost, they could still be reconstructed in large measure. During his own lifetime, fellow poets such as Horace and Propertius admired him, from a distance, and parodies of his works flourished, but apparently no poet earlier than Ovid dared to try to rival him.  Vergil continued to be read in Latin for centuries. Shakespeare probably knew at least the earlier books of the Aeneid in Latin, while Milton’s Paradise Lost attempts to provide an English equivalent not only for Vergil’s epic themes but even for his syntax, diction, and as far as possible, meter.” (Conte, Latin Literature, A History)

STC 24805; Harris, First Printed Translations into English (1573) p.159; cf. Pforzheimer Cataogue 1028; cf. Langland to Wither, 238