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. 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

  3. (a). GOULET, Robert.

    Compendium recenter editum de multiplici Parisiensis Universitatis magnificentia, dignitate, et excellentia,...

    Paris, Toussaint Denis, 1517.

    First edition of the first account of the University of Paris, ‘probably the earliest monograph on any university’ – E. P. Goldschmidt.

    £12500

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. [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

  7. [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

  8. DONNE, John.

    Juvenilia or certaine Paradoxes and Problemes … The second Edition, corrected.

    London, Printed by E. P. for Henry Seyle … 1633.

    Second edition, published in the same year as the first, with the omission of the licences to print but adding twenty-three new lines to Problem I, ‘Why have Bastards best Fortune’ (‘Because Fortune herself is a Whore …’), a Problem which, Keynes remarks, ‘was particularly insulting to the...

    £3750

  9. DONNE, John.

    Six Sermons upon severall Occasions, preached before the King, and elsewhere: by that late learned & reverend Divine...

    Printed by the Printers to the University of Cambridge: and are to be sold by Nicholas Fussell and Humphrey Mosley ... 1634.

    First edition of all six texts, each one with its separate title page. Six Sermons comprises ‘Two Sermons Preached before King Charles, upon the xxvi verse of the first Chapter of Genesis’, ‘A Sermon upon the xix verse of the ii Chapter of Hosea’, ‘A Sermon upon the xliiii verse of the...

    £3750

  10. 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

  11. WILLIAMS, Anna.

    Miscellanies in Prose and Verse …

    London: Printed for T. Davies … 1766.

    First edition, scarce, of the blind poet Anna Williams’s Miscellanies, bound with the first edition of a volume of fifty Latin poems by Samuel Bishop.

    £3250

  12. DONNE, John.

    Letters to severall Persons of Honour ... published by John Donne Dr. of the Civill Law.

    London, Printed by J. Flesher, for Richard Marriot ... 1651.

    First edition, first issue. In 1651, John Donne’s son ‘issued a volume containing 129 Letters to severall persons of honour; these letters were not “edited” by him according to the standards of the present day, as, although printed with reasonable care, their arrangement is irregular and...

    £3200

  13. [LIBRARIANSHIP].

    An Ordinance by the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, for the Preservation and Keeping together for publique...

    London, Printed for Edw. Husbands, 1643.

    First edition, an important document for the preservation of libraries and archives in the Civil War. It deplores as ‘prejudiciall to the publique’ any ‘dispersing by sale or otherwise’ of books seized by the parliamentary Committees for Sequestration or Distresses, whether ‘Manuscripts or...

    £3000

  14. [JOHNSON, Samuel].

    A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland.

    London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell ... 1775.

    First edition, with twelve-line errata. Two thousand copies were printed as far as sheet S, when Strahan, sensing the demand, decided to increase the press run to 4000; the overrun sheets and a reprint of the earlier sheets were issued as the second edition, with six-line errata, often wrongly called...

    £2500

  15. 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

  16. [MILTON, John.]

    Of Reformation. Touching Church-Discipline in England: and the Causes that hitherto have hindered it. Two Bookes,...

    [London], Printed, for Thomas Underhill 1641

    First edition of Milton’s first prose work.

    £2400

  17. AMOS, William.

    Minutes in Agriculture and Planting … Illustrated with Specimens of eight Sorts of the best, and two Sorts of...

    Boston [Lincolnshire], Printed by J. Hellaby, 1804.

    First edition, rare. William Amos was the steward of the Brothertoft estate of the ‘father of reform’ John Cartwright, and author of an earlier work on The Theory and Practice of Drill Husbandry (1794). Here he provides descriptions, and samples, of both ‘artificial’ and ‘natural’...

    £2250

  18. DILWORTH, W. H.

    The History of the Conquest of Mexico, by the celebrated Hernan Cortes. Containing a faithful and entertaining...

    London: Printed for William Anderson … 1759.

    First edition, very scarce, of a history of the conquistadores for young readers, loosely derived from Antonio Solís de Ribadeneyra’s Historia de la Conquista de México.

    £1850

  19. MAY, Thomas.

    The Reigne of King Henry the Second, written in seaven Bookes. By His Majesties Command.

    London: Printed by A. M. and John Beale for Benjamin Fisher … 1633.

    First edition of a verse history dedicated to Charles I. May’s literary career had begun with his translation of Lucan’s strongly anti-imperial Pharsalia (1626-7), which also influenced several of his stage tragedies. But his republicanism was muted thereafter, and indeed his Continuation...

    £1850

  20. TANNER, Anodyne, M.D., pseud.

    The Life of the late celebrated Mrs. Elizabeth Wisebourn, vulgarly call’d Mother Wybourn; containing...

    London: Printed for A. Moore … [1721?]

    First edition of a scurrilous account of Elizabeth Wisebourn[e], a famous bawd, and the goings-on in the gilded apartments of her elegant London brothel in Drury-Lane. Born in 1653 and educated in Rome under the tuition of a Lady Abbess to whom ‘she ow’d all that she knew of her Business’, Elizabeth...

    £1850