English Literature

Contact Donovan Rees or Ted Hofmann

British literature and history from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on poetry, fiction, and drama.

We usually have a selection of literary works from the STC and Wing period (i.e. before 1701), and a broad range of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction and poetry, particularly the Romantics. We also have a selection of historical manuscripts, prints and broadsides, and works in translation.

Among important works which have passed through our hands are the editor's presentation copy of Milton's Lycidas, Swift's Modest Proposal, the autograph draft of Byron's She walks in beauty, the autograph manuscript of Jane Austen's only play Sir Charles Grandison, Dickens’s copy of Vanity Fair, Trollope's classical library, and, over the years, some fifty Shakespeare First Folios.

  1. THUCYDIDES.

    ΘΟΥΚΥΔΙΔΗΣ. THVCYDIDES.

    (Colophon:) Venice, Aldus, May 1502.

    A handsome copy of the first edition of the Greek text of Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, printed by the great Aldus Manutius, with an interesting provenance.

    £25000

  2. DONNE, John.

    Poems … with Elegies on the Authors Death …

    London. Printed by M. F. for John Marriot, and are to be sold at his Shop … 1633.

    First edition of what may arguably be called the greatest poetical collection of the seventeenth century. This is the issue (precedence not established, but presumably the first) without the inserted leaves 2A2 (‘The Printer to the Understanders’ and ‘Hexastichon Bibliopolae’) and with Nn1 in...

    £15000

  3. GIBBON, Edward.

    The history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire.

    London, printed for W. Strahan & T. Cadell, 1776–88.

    First editions of all six volumes of Gibbon’s ‘masterpiece of historical penetration and literary style’ (PMM). The first volume here is of the second variant (of two), with the errata corrected as far as p. 183 and X4 and a4 so signed.

    £14000

  4. ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica: or, a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and miscellaneous Literature; enlarged...

    Edinburgh and London, 1823-4.

    An extremely handsome set of the sixth edition, with the important Supplement of 1824. First published in 1771, ‘the most famous of all the encyclopaedias in the English language’ (PMM) had been expanded over successive editions from 3 to 20 volumes. The sixth edition was a largely a reprint of the...

    £10000

  5. WHY AND THE WHEREFORE (The):

    or, the Lady’s two Questions resolved. Question the first; why Men have not much to boast of their...

    London: Printed for J. Lamb … 1765.

    First and only edition, extremely rare, of an unusual work of erotic fiction. Despite the implication that this is a translation from Italian, it is in fact an English original.

    £7500

  6. CHAUCER, Geoffrey.

    The Workes of our ancient and learned English Poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, newly printed. To that which was done...

    London, Printed by Adam Islip. An. Dom. 1602.

    Second Thomas Speght edition (sixth collected edition), revised much for the better by Francis Thynne; this is the variant with Adam Islip rather than George Bishop in the imprint. The portrait of Chaucer, which first appeared in the Speght edition of 1598, is the first engraved representation of the poet.

    £6000

  7. WORDSWORTH, William [and Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE].

    Lyrical Ballads, with other Poems. In two volumes … second Edition. London:...

    by Biggs and Co. Bristol. 1800.

    Second, definitive, and first complete edition of Lyrical Ballads. To volume I (first published at Bristol in 1798, reissued in London in the same year) Wordsworth added his famous preface, the manifesto of the Romantic movement – calling for, among other things, a poetry of ‘common life’, adopting...

    £5000

  8. HALLAM, Arthur Henry.

    Remains, in Verse and Prose …

    [London,] Printed by W. Nicol … 1834.

    First edition, a presentation copy from the editor, the historian Henry Hallam, to his late son’s friend and fellow Cambridge ‘Apostle’ James Spedding. The prefatory memoir by Hallam senior includes a long letter from Spedding (‘one of his most valued friends’) written in tribute to...

    £5000

  9. ROBINSON, Mary, ‘Perdita’.

    The Widow, or a Picture of modern Times. A Novel, in a Series of Letters ….

    London: Printed for Hookham and Carpenter ... 1794.

    First edition of Robinson’s second novel. The widow of the title is presented with many bad options for re-marriage (such as Lord Woodley, who, robbed of feudal power by modern laws, asserts ‘since I cannot tyrannize over my vassals, I will over the women’), eventually chooses one, and dies...

    £5000

  10. VARCHI, Benedetto.

    Three signed letters, two of which are autograph and one of which is scribal, to the humanist Piero Vettori.

    Florence, 1535, 1553, [n.d].

    A unique source for Cinquecento Florence studies: the first edition, the rare first issue complete with the mention of Farnese’s crime on p. 639, of Varchi’s controversial (and therefore unpublished for 200 years) history of Florence, accompanied by a mini-archive consisting of three letters from...

    £4750

  11. [JOHNSON, Samuel].

    The Prince of Abissinia. A Tale ...

    London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley ... and W. Johnston ... 1759.

    First edition of Johnson’s only novel, written in the evenings of a single week to pay for his mother’s funeral. Its rapid execution is said to have been due to the fact that he had been pondering its chief topics all his life. It soon became his most popular work. Although now inevitably called...

    £4500

  12. DONNE, John.

    Poems … with Elegies on the authors Death …

    London, Printed by M. F. for John Marriot, and are to be sold at his Shop … 1635.

    Second edition, adding seventeen new poems by Donne (and eleven false attributions), and three more elegies on his death. The poems have been rearranged into sections, headed ‘Songs and Sonets’, ‘Elegies’, ‘Epithalamions’. ‘Satyres’, and ‘Letters’, ‘Divine Poems’, etc. Two poems...

    £4500

  13. CHAUCER, Geoffrey. FRINK, Elizabeth, illustrator.

    Etchings illustrating Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’. Introduction...

    [London,] Waddington, 1972.

    First edition of Frink’s monumental Canterbury Tales, one of 50 copies in the standard edition, numbered B 70 and signed by Frink, from an entire print run of 300 copies.

    £4250

  14. SHERBURNE, Sir Edward.

    Salmacis, Lyrian & Sylvia, Forsaken Lydia, the Rape of Helen, a Comment thereon, with severall other...

    London, Printed by W. Hunt, for Thomas Dring ... 1651.

    First edition of a charming book of Caroline poetry, original and translated, in a most sympathetic and well-preserved collector’s binding. This is the first issue; it was reissued in the same year under the title Poems and Translations, amorous, lusory, morall, divine, reflecting the...

    £4250

  15. TYRTAEUS and CALLINUS.

    Les chants...traduits en vers par Firmin Didot.

    Paris, Firmin Didot, pere et fils, 1827.

    One of only 100 copies - all hors de commerce - of this deluxe folio Didot edition of some of the oldest martial elegy verses of the Western tradition: the surviving works of the Spartan poet Tyrtaeus and the Ephesian poet Callinus (7th-6th century BC). The text is preceded by an engraved Lettre...

    £4000

  16. ALBERTI, Leon Battista.

    El Momo. La moral e muy graciosa historia del Momo; compuesta en Latin por el docto varon Leon Bapista...

    Alcalá de Henares, Joan Mey Flandro, 1553.

    First edition in Spanish of Alberti’s Momus [or De principe], translated by Augustín de Almaçan and with an introductory 8-page Exposición by the Toledo ascetic writer and scholar Alejo Venegas (1495?–1554?).

    £3800

  17. AUSTEN, Jane.

    Mansfield Park: a Novel. In three Volumes … Second Edition.

    London: Printed for J. Murray … 1816.

    Second edition, revised. This is the only one of Jane Austen’s novels with textual revisions of any significance. She ‘seems in general to have prepared the text for the first editions of her novels with the greatest care, so that they contain few misprints, and the alterations made in the later...

    £3750

  18. POCKLINGTON, John.

    Altare Christianum: or, the dead Vicar’s Plea. Wherein the Vicar of Gr. being dead, yet speaketh, and pleadeth...

    London, Printed by Richard Badger. 1637.

    First edition, from the library of Robert Southey, with an ownership inscription an eleven-line note in his distinctive diminutive hand.

    £3750

  19. FLETCHER, Giles, the younger.

    Christs Victorie, and Triumph in Heaven, and Earth, over, and after Death …

    Cambridge, Printed by C. Legge. 1610.

    First edition of an important poem, a ‘worthy link’ in the chain which connects Fletcher’s great master, Spenser, with his great successor, Milton (Hugh de Selincourt, CHEL). This is the first state, with a fleur-de-lis device on the title-pages – three copies are known with the title-pages reset...

    £3500

  20. [HABINGTON, William].

    Castara … the second Edition. Corrected and augmented.

    London, Printed by B. A. & T. F. for Will: Cooke, and are to bee sold at his Shop … 1635.

    Second edition, adding to the contents of the first edition (1634) a commendatory poem that reveals Habington’s identity; a ‘second part’ with twenty-six new poems; and three prose characters: ‘A Mistris’ and ‘A Wife’ to introduce the two parts, and ‘A Friend’ to introduce the section...

    £3500