English Literature

Contact Donovan Rees

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.



    [Venice,] Vindelinus de Spira, 1472.

    Magnificent incunable edition of the works of Lactantius, a fine product of the first Venetian press, established in 1469 by Johannes de Spira and continued by his brother Vindelinus from 1470 until 1473. This was the fifth impression of the works of Lactantius, the hugely successful North African...


  2. [ROZIER.] 

    Le rozier historial de France contenant deux roziers.  Le p[re]mier rozier contient plusieurs belles rozes et boutons...

    Paris, [Gilles Couteau for François Regnault,] 26 February 1522 [i.e. 1523]. 

    First edition, the very handsome Fairfax-Murray copy, of the Rozier historial de France


  3. VIRGIL; Sebastian BRANT, editor. 

    Publii Virgilii Maro[n]is opera. 

    Strasbourg, Johann Grüninger, 28 August 1502. 

    First illustrated edition of the works of Virgil, one of the great German woodcut books of the Renaissance, with over 200 illustrations by the artist known as the Late Master of the Grüninger Workshop.


  4. [COLONNA, Francesco.] 

    Poliphili hypnerotomachia, ubi humana omnia non nisi somnium esse ostendit, atque obiter plurima scitu...

    Venice, [heirs of Aldus], 1545. 

    Second edition, scarcer than the first (also an Aldine, published in 1499), of the most beautiful illustrated books printed in Italy in the fifteenth century.  Known for its fine woodcut illustrations, mysterious meanings, and the cryptic inclusion of Colonna’s name, the Hypnerotomachia...


  5. BURNS, Robert.

    Autograph verse ‘Epitaph’ to ‘Grizzel Grim’

    c. 1792.

    A charming bawdy ‘epitaph’ by Burns, written seemingly impromptu on the back of a scrap paper relating to his job as an exciseman.


  6. SMITH, Albert.

    A large archive of printed and manuscript material, including drafts of shows and lectures, including portions of...

    [1820s to 1860s.]

    Albert Richard Smith (1816–1860) trained as a surgeon but shortly afterwards turned to the world of letters, becoming a regular contributor to Bentley’s Miscellany and Punch; he adapted works by his friend Dickens for the theatre and edited The Man in the Moon (1847–9). ‘During...


  7. 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.


  8. DONNE, John.

    Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, and severall Steps in my Sicknes ...

    London, Printed for Thomas Jones … 1627.

    Third (and last lifetime) edition of Donne’s most familiar prose work, composed during his convalescence in 1623–4 from the ‘spotted Feaver’ which nearly killed him. It consists of twenty-three ‘Stationes, sive Periodi in Morbo’, each comprising a meditation, expostulation, and prayer.


  9. MARKHAM, Gervase.

    Cavalarice, or the English Horseman: Contayning all the Art of Horse-manship, asmuch as is necessary for any...

    London, Edward Allde for Edward White, [1616–] 1617.

    A beautiful copy of the second edition, ‘corrected and augmented’, of Markham’s Cavalarice, exceptionally well-preserved in a contemporary binding, from the library of the antiquary Sir John Marsham.


  10. OVIDIUS Naso, Publius, and Pedro Sánchez de VIANA (transl. and ed.).

    Las transformaciones. [issued with:]...

    Valladolid, Diego Fernández de Córdoba, 1589.

    First edition, a copy of notable provenance, of perhaps the most successful early Spanish translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, by Pedro Sánchez de Viana (1545–1616), published along with his substantial commentary. In the age of Cervantes (another master of literary transformations), Ovid...


  11. PERRAULT, [Charles].

    Tales of passed Times by Mother Goose. With Morals. Written in French … and Englished by R. S. Gent. To...

    London: [but The Hague?] Printed for S. Van den Berg … 1764.

    First parallel-text edition of Perrault’s famous fairy tales, in English and French, with fine illustrations after Hendrik Immink. Perrault has long been eclipsed in fame by that of his stories – ‘Little Red Riding-Hood’, ‘Blue Beard’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Puss in Boots’, ‘Cinderilla’,...


  12. SCHÜBLER, Johann Jakob.

    Amor, vehementer quidem flagrans; artificiose tamen celatus, de Pantalonis custodiaque triumphans, intentato...

    Augsburg, Johann Michael Probst, [c. 1770?].

    Rare series of twelve engravings inspired by the Italian commedia dell’arte, one of the most beautiful books of the German Rococo, engraved by Johann Balthasar Probst after original illustrations by the architectural painter, sculptor, and mathematician Johann Jakob Schübler.


  13. DICKENS, Charles.

    The Nonesuch Dickens. The Complete Works of Charles Dickens.

    London, The Nonesuch Press, 1937-38.

    Limited edition of 877, of which 66 sets were destroyed when a bomb hit the bindery in September 1940, so at most 811 complete sets survive (Dreyfus, Nonesuch Press, 108). The steel plate included with this set is number 605, “Solemn reference is made to Mr. Bunsby” from Dombey and...


  14. [GOETHE.] 

    REICHARDT, Johann Friedrich.  Goethe’s Lieder, Oden, Balladen und Romanzen mit Musik von J.F. Reichardt.  Erste...

    Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel, [1809–11]. 

    Very rare first complete edition of Reichardt’s musical settings of Goethe’s poetry, comprising 128 settings of which thirty-nine appear here for the first time. 


  15. AESOP. 

    The Fables …  With a Life of the Author: and embellished with one hundred & twelve Plates … 

    London, Printed for John Stockdale … 1793. 

    Second Stockdale edition, a paginary reprint of the first with the text reset using a short ‘s’ throughout; the translation was that of Samuel Croxall.  Stockdale’s Aesop was notable for the extensive suite of illustrations, with plates by some thirty engravers including Stothard and Landseer,...



    The Sure Chance; or, a new Million Adventure.  Wherein all are certain of getting Something.  Invented...

    London, J. Whitlock, 1694. 

    First edition, very rare, a satire on the lottery vogue of the mid-1690s: ‘the whole Town, nay, the whole Nation … is addicted to the pleasant and sometimes profitable Diversion of Publick Lotteries; we have seen Lotteries for old Plate, new Cabinets, China Dishes, and Womens Dresses …’. 


  17. [COTTLE, Joseph].

    Poems, containing John the Baptist. Sir Malcolm and Alla, a Tale, shewing to all the World what Woman’s Love...

    Bristol: Printed by Bulgin and Rosser, for J. Cottle, Bookseller … and G. G. and J. Robinson … London. 1795

    First edition. The Bristol bookseller Joseph Cottle (1770-1853) had been introduced to Coleridge and Southey by Robert Lovell in 1794 when the two poets ‘were in Bristol courting the Fricker sisters and preparing for Pantisocracy (as they called their scheme to marry and set up a community on the Susquehanna...


  18. SHARPHAM, Edward. 

    Cupids whirligig.  As it hath bene Sundrie times acted, by the Children of his Majesties Revels. 

    London, Tho: Creede, and Ber: Alsop, and are to be solde by Arthur Johnson, 1616. 

    Third edition of an early Jacobean comedy based upon a tale in Boccaccio’s Decameron, with a contemporary London setting.


  19. GALLICO, Paul.

    An archive of thirty-four scrapbooks compiled by Gallico.


    A lovingly and meticulously compiled archive of the writing career of the novelist Paul Gallico. The scrapbooks are arranged chronologically and by book/film with letters, telegrams, publicity materials, photographs and ephemera neatly intermingled with copies of reviews and reactions from local,...


  20. [PALLAVICINO, Ferrante.]

    La rettorica delle puttane. Composta conforme li precetti di Cipriano. Dedicata alla università delle...

    ‘Cambrai’ (but Venice), [no printer], 1642.

    Extremely rare first edition, fourth variant (variant ‘V’), of a classic of seventeenth-century erotic literature, the masterpiece of the celebrated satirist Ferrante Pallavicino (1615–1644). Published anonymously in Venice with a fictitious Cambrai imprint, The rhetoric of whores...