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. 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

  2. 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

  3. [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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. [BECKFORD, William].

    Vathek, conte Arabe.

    A Paris, Chez Poinçot ... 1787.

    First Paris edition of Beckford’s gothic masterpiece in the original French, so considerably revised from the Lausanne edition (also 1787) as to amount to ‘almost a new version’ (Chapman & Hodgkin, p. 127). Beckford also took the opportunity to expand the notes from one to twenty-four pages.

    £3250

  7. STRAPAROLA, Giovanfrancesco.

    Le piacevoli notti di messer Giovanfrancesco Straparola da Caravaggio.

    Venice, Domenico Giglio, 1558.

    An early edition of both volumes of Straparola’s Facetious nights, first published in 1550–53.

    £2750

  8. NICOLAI, [Christoph] Friedrich.

    The Life and Opinions of Sebaldus Nothanker. Translated from the German … by Thomas Dutton, A. M. …

    London: Printed by C. Lowndes … and sold by H. D. Symonds … 1798.

    First edition in English, very scarce, of Nicolai’s Das Leben und die Meinungen des Herrn Magister Sebaldus Nothanker (1773-6), ‘probably the literary bestseller of the German Enlightenment’ (Selwyn), translated into many languages and much re-printed. It is sometimes considered the...

    £2750

  9. MORE, Thomas.

    The Common-wealth of Utopia: containing a learned and pleasant Discourse of the best State of a publike-Weale, as...

    London, Printed by B. Alsop & T. Fawcet, and are to be sold by Wil: Sheares … 1639.

    Fifth edition of More’s Utopia in English, translated by Ralph Robinson – the last edition of his translation, first published in 1551, and revised in 1556. Alsop printed a corrected edition in 1624, with a dedication to More’s grandson, Cresacre More, which is reprinted here.

    £2500

  10. [BAGE, Robert].

    Hermsprong; or, Man as he is not. A Novel … By the Author of Man as he is.

    London: Printed for William Lane, at the Minerva Press … 1796.

    First edition of Bage’s last and finest novel.

    £2400

  11. LE SAGE, Alain René.

    The Adventures of Robert Chevalier, call’d de Beauchene. Captain of a Privateer in New-France ... In two...

    London: Printed and Sold by T. Gardner ... R. Dodsley ... and M. Cooper ... 1745.

    First edition in English of Les avantures de monsieur Robert Chevalier (1732), a rousing tale by the master of the picaresque, the author of Gil Blas.

    £2400

  12. LUCIAN, of Samosata.

    Deorum dialogi... una cum interpretatione e regione latina nusquam antea impressi...

    Strassbourg, Johannes Schott, 1515.

    First edition edited and translated by the German humanist (and musician) Ottmar Nachtgall.

    £2100

  13. BINGFIELD, William, pseud.

    The Travels and Adventures of William Bingfield, Esq; containing, as surprizing a Fluctuation...

    London: Printed for E. Withers ... and R. Baldwin ... 1753.

    First edition of one of the most entertaining imaginary voyages of the eighteenth century.

    £2100

  14. RAMUS, Petrus. (Commentator) - VIRGILIUS MARO, Publius.

    Georgica, P. Rami professoris regii praelectionibus illustrata, ad Carolum...

    Paris, 1564.

    Second editions of Ramus' extensive commentaries on Virgil's two poems on country life, which he wrote in order to react against the dry doctrines of several French schools who based their teaching of nature on Aristotle's physics. He wanted to keep in contact with the concrete realities of nature and...

    £2000

  15. MIRANDA, Giovanni.

    Historia del valoroso cavallier Polisman, nella quale, oltre alla sua origine, vita, & imprese, si contengono...

    Venice, Lucio Spineda, 1612.

    Second edition (in fact a reissue of the first edition published in 1573) of a rare pseudo-Hispanic Italian chivalric romance, with a curious printing history.

    £1750

  16. [JOHNSON, Samuel].

    The Prince of Abissinia. A Tale. In two Volumes …

    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...

    £1600

  17. [HILL, ‘Sir’ John].

    The Adventures of Mr. George Edwards, a Creole.

    London: Printed for T. Osborne ... 1751.

    First edition of a novel written in the year that the self-styled ‘Sir’ John Hill, apothecary and quack, began writing the ‘Inspector’ essays that turned into the contrived and then real ‘paper war’ with Fielding and Smart.

    £1500

  18. ČAPEK, Karel.

    Meteor … Translated by M. and R. Weatherall.

    London, George Allen & Unwin, [1935].

    First edition in English of Povětroň [Meteor] (1934), with a signed presentation inscription from Čapek to Václav Palivec on half-title, dated 1936. In 1935, Palivec, the brother of Čapek’s sister’s husband, gave Čapek and his new wife as a wedding present the use of a house in...

    £1500

  19. FIELDING, Henry.

    The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. In six Volumes …

    London: Printed for A. Millar … 1749.

    Second edition, although not so designated, the errata corrected and the errata leaf in volume I omitted (the ‘Contents’ extended to c8 recto to fill the gap). The first edition (2000 copies) was almost completely subscribed before publication when this second edition (1500 copies) was ordered....

    £1350

  20. LE SAGE, Alain René.

    The History of Vanillo Gonzales, surnamed the merry Batchelor. In two Volumes. From the French …

    London: Printed for G. G. and J. Robinson … 1797

    First complete translation of Le Sage’s Histoire d’Estevanille Gonzalez, surnommé le garcon de bonne humeur (1734), itself a loose French adaptation of Vida y hechos de Estebanillo Gonzalez (1646), preserving only a few episodes of the Spanish original. Authorship of Vida y hechos...

    £1250