English Literature

Contact Donovan Rees, Ted Hofmann or Alexander Laar

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. RAVENSCROFT, Thomas.

    A Briefe Discourse of the true (but neglected) use of Charact’ring the Degrees by their Perfection, Imperfection,...

    London, Printed by Edw: Allde for Tho. Adams 1614.

    First edition of a scarce and unusual work of music theory, with particular focus on various types of vernacular music – hunting songs, dances, drinking-songs, love-songs etc. The ‘Discourse’ is followed by twenty printed exempla in the form of part-songs for four voices, twelve by Ravenscroft...

    £16000

  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. CLARENDON, Edward Hyde, Earl of.

    The History of the Rebellion and civil Wars in Ireland, with the true State and Condition of that...

    London: Printed by H. P. for J. Wilford … and T. Jauncy … 1720.

    First edition, a large paper copy in a presentation binding, from the family library of the Dukes of Ormond, the source of the manuscript from which it was published.

    £12500

  4. AUGUSTINE, Saint.

    St. Augustine, of the Citie of God: with the learned Comments of Io. Lod. Vives. Englished by J. H.

    [London,] Printed by George Eld. 1610.

    First edition in English of Augustine’s City of God, translated by the traveller and gentleman’s steward John Healey. ‘Our earliest treatise on the philosophy of history’, as Voltaire called it, City of God is a cornerstone of Western thought, pervading the whole of the Middle Ages,...

    £12000

  5. 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

  6. DRYDEN, John, and John BLOW.

    An Ode, on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell; late Servant to his Majesty, and Organist of the Chapel...

    London: Printed by J. Heptinstall, for Henry Playford, at his Shop … or at his House … 1696.

    First edition of Dryden’s moving elegy to his friend Purcell. The musical setting by Blow, for flutes and two counter-tenors, is generally considered his finest work.

    £6500

  7. 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

  8. 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 to Firmin...

    £6000

  9. DICKENS, Charles.

    Great expectations ... In three volumes. Vol. I [-III]. Second edition.

    London, (C. Whiting for) Chapman and Hall, 1861.

    First edition, second impression, of one of the great Victorian novels, which was already in short supply in 1861. After Great Expectations had attracted a large readership in All the Year Round, Chapman and Hall were understandably cautious in their initial order for the novel as a traditional three-decker...

    £5500

  10. 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

  11. ALBERTI, Leon Battista.

    Momus [or De principe].

    Rome, Jacopo Mazochi, 1520.

    First edition of this political and social satire by the great Renaissance architect, theorist, scholar and man of letters, Leon Battista Alberti. There were two editions published in Rome in 1520, one (the present) by Jacopo Mazochi, the other by Étienne Guillery. Both carry papal privileges,...

    £4600

  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. [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

  14. JONES, Mary.

    Miscellanies in Prose and Verse …

    Oxford Printed; and delivered by Mr. Dodsley …, Mr. Clements in Oxford, and Mr. Frederick in Bath. 1750.

    First edition, printed on ‘royal’ paper; a subscriber’s copy, from the library of Edward Popham of Littlecote, with later Popham bookplate and label.

    £4500

  15. VERGIL, Polydore.

    Anglicae historiae libri vigintisex.

    Basel, Michael Isingrin, 1546.

    Second edition, much revised, of Vergil’s English History, dedicated to Henry VIII. It is seen as the beginning of modern English historiography, as an important piece of propaganda for the Tudor monarchy, and as an influence on Shakespeare’s history plays.

    £4400

  16. SHERBURNE, Sir Edward.

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

    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 divisional titles...

    £4250

  17. [WATTS, John].

    The Musical Miscellany; being a Collection of choice Songs [and lyrick Poems], set to the Violin and Flute [or With...

    London: Printed by and for John Watts … 1729 [–1731]

    First edition of an influential collection of over 450 songs and ballads, published in the years of the brief flowering of English ballad opera subsequent to The Beggar’s Opera (1728). For each song, Watts prints the melody (and from volume III on a bass continuo), the lyrics, and a flute or...

    £3850

  18. 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 pp. Exposición by the Toledo ascetic writer and scholar Alejo Venegas (1495?–1554?).

    £3800

  19. [SCOTLAND.

    ACT OF UNION.] A coherent tract volume of ten pamphlets, for and against the Union, published in 1705-6.

    The months leading up to the Act of Union in January 1707 were a time of heated debate in Scotland. Politicians, writers, the landed gentry, churchmen, and others joined in making their opinions known in tracts and speeches. To pressures from an England anxious to ensure a Protestant succession were...

    £3750

  20. 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