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. [COLONNA, Francesco.]

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

    Venice, [heirs of Aldus], 1545.

    Second edition, scarcer than the first (also an Aldine, published in 1499), of the most beautiful illustrated book 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 has...

    £24000

  2. MACDIARMID, Hugh [i.e. Christopher Grieve], and Valda TREVLYN GRIEVE.

    A collection of 24 items, many signed or inscribed,...

    1955-1978.

    The poet and BBC broadcaster D. G. Bridson had been an avid reader of MacDiarmid since the ’30s, and organized a ‘comprehensive selection’ of his work for broadcast on 5 Feb 1951, followed by productions of In Memoriam James Joyce (31 May 1956) and Impavidi progrediamur (19 December...

    £5400

  3. MILNE, A. A.

    Autograph letter, signed, to ‘my dear Shepard’, his friend and collaborator the illustrator Ernest. H. Shepard,

    dated at the head 31.12.29

    A fine and touching letter between two of the most famous collaborators in all of children’s literature, in which Milne’s discusses his difficulties with a projected edition of Mother Goose.

    £5000

  4. [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

  5. [ANON.]

    The Mystic Cottager of Chamouny: a Novel …

    London: Printed for William Lane, at the Minerva Press … 1794.

    First edition, very rare, presumably a first novel by a young authoress – the ‘Address to the public’ calls it ‘the genuine dictates of a moment of imagination … traced by the pen of juvenility …. for the sole endeavour of raising a trivial sum for the benefit of a distressed Orphan,...

    £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. WALKER, George.

    Don Raphael, a Romance …

    London: Printed for G. Walker; and T. Hurst; by Exton ... 1803.

    First edition. ‘In order to satisfy the omnipresent needs of the Gothic industry, Walker apparently felt obliged to turn out a Gothic’s Gothic made up of fragments of Walpole, Beckford, Lewis, Radcliffe, and the cheap and tawdry Gothic chapbooks flooding the bookstalls. The dubious product...

    £3250

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. [HERVEY, Elizabeth].

    The Mourtray Family. A Novel …

    London: Printed by Millar Ritchie … for R. Faulder … 1800.

    First edition of the penultimate novel by Elizabeth Hervey (c. 1748–1820), elder half-sister of the writer William Beckford – her father, Francis Marsh, had died and her mother Maria (née Hamilton) remarried another Jamaica plantation owner, William Beckford senior, who also died in...

    £2500

  12. ELIOT, George.

    The Writings …

    Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1908.

    The Large-Paper edition of Eliot’s complete works, no. 184 of 750 sets.

    £2500

  13. [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

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. ORWELL, George.

    Nineteen Eighty-Four. A Novel.

    London, Secker & Warburg, 1949.

    First edition of a byword-novel, Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian future. The dust-jacket was issued simultaneously in red and green versions.

    £1750

  18. [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

  19. 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

  20. [FIELDING, Sarah.]

    The Adventures of David Simple: containing an Account of his Travels through the Cities of London and Westminster,...

    London: Printed for A. Millar … 1744.

    First edition, very fine. The first and most popular novel of Sarah, the sister of Henry Fielding, who was to provide a preface and a few revisions to the second edition. A Quixotic satire, it follows the fortunes of its hero, disillusioned by the discovery that his younger brother has attempted...

    £1500