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. THUCYDIDES.

    ΘΟΥΚΥΔΙΔΗΣ. THVCYDIDES.

    (Colophon:) Venice, Aldus, May 1502.

    A handsome copy of the first edition of the Greek text of Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War, printed by the great Aldus Manutius, with an interesting provenance.

    £25000

  2. 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

  3. GUAZZO, Marco.

    Historie di M. Marco Guazzo di tutti i fatti degni di memoria nel mondo successi dal 1524 sino a l’anno 1549....

    Venice, Giolito, 1549.

    First edition thus, this copy owned by the future Pope Clement XII, of a remarkable history of recent and contemporary events, first published in 1540 and here updated by almost ten years, resuming the account of world event and Italian politics and including references to American history from 1522.

    £3600

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. [CARTOUCHE.]

    The Life and Actions of Lewis Dominique Cartouche: who was broke alive upon the Wheel at Paris, Nov. 28. 1721. N.S....

    London: Printed for J. Roberts … 1722.

    First edition in English, published in the same year as the French original. Louis Dominique Bourguignon, alias ‘Cartouche’ (1693-1721), began his life of crime stealing fruit from women at the gates of his Jesuit school and books from his wealthy classmates. To avoid punishment for theft he fled...

    £1750

  8. R., N.

    Proverbs English, French, Dutch, Italian and Spanish. All Englished and alphabetically digested …

    London, Printed for Simon Miller … 1659.

    First and only edition of a scarce collection of idiomatic phrases and proverbs, many translated from other languages, with a selection of 114 ‘Golden sentences’ at the end.

    £1750

  9. [TREATIES.]

    Volume of tracts on European treaties of peace and alliance.

    Vienna and Amsterdam, 1725-1731.

    A collection of scarce texts relating to the Peace of Vienna (1725) and subsequent treaties of Hanover (1725), Paris (1727), Seville (1729), and Vienna (1731), with contemporary manuscript additions in Italian and French clearly composed by someone in diplomatic service. The collection eloquently...

    £1750

  10. [RIVERS, David].

    Literary Memoirs of living Authors of Great Britain, arranged according to an alphabetical Catalogue of their...

    London: Printed for R. Faulder … sold also by T. Egerton … and W. Richardson … 1798.

    First edition of a collection of literary biographies, including perhaps the earliest brief life of Coleridge, whose first volume of Poems had appeared in 1796:

    £1500

  11. WORDSWORTH, William.

    A Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns: occasioned by an intended Republication of the Account of the Life of...

    London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown …1816.

    First edition. James Currie’s Works of Burns with a life and letters was first published in 1800 and several times reprinted and enlarged.

    £1500

  12. [GRANT, Charles, Vicomte de Vaux.]

    Recueil d’Essais, ou précis des opinions, et des mémoires, du Vte de *** …

    A Londres: De l’Imprimerie de T. Spilsbury & Fils. 1793.

    An interesting tract volume, containing the scarce collected thoughts of Charles Grant, vicomte de Vaux (a subscriber’s copy), a fine illustrated guide to Nîmes and the Pont du Gard, and three pamphlets relating to a controversy in the medical faculty in Edinburgh.

    £1500

  13. PERUCCI, Francesco.

    Pompe funebri di tutte le nationi del mondo, raccolte dale storie sagre et profane.

    Verona, Francesco Rossi, 1639.

    First edition of Perucci’s extensively illustrated account of funeral practices, inscribed by a Scottish antiquary and documented book collector. A fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and later the Royal Society, Walter Bowman (1699–1782) travelled extensively over the course of five decades...

    £1350

  14. [AUGUSTINE, Saint, attributed author.]

    The Meditations of Saint Augustine, from the Latin Original. By the Rev. J. Martin, O.S.A. …

    Dublin: Printed for the Author, by H. Fitzpatrick … 1798

    First edition of this rare translation of the pseudo-Augustinian Meditationum Liber, an eleventh-century devotional text very popular in the Middle Ages.

    £1250

  15. BURNEY, Charles.

    An Account of the musical Performances in Westminster-Abbey, and the Pantheon, May 26th, 27th, 29th; and June...

    London, Printed for the Benefit of the musical Fund; and sold by T. Payne and Son ... 1785.

    First edition. The Handel Commemoration Concerts of 1784, conceived the previous year by Viscount Fitzwilliam, Sir Watkins Williams Wynn and Joah Bates to celebrate the centenary of the birth of George Frederick Handel, were performances on a scale then unprecedented in England. On the morning of Wednesday...

    £1250

  16. DENNIS, John.

    The Grounds of Criticism in Poetry, contain’d in some new Discoveries never made before, requisite for the Writing...

    London, Printed for Geo. Strahan … and Bernard Lintott … 1704.

    First edition. Published as a ‘preliminary’ to a proposed, but never completed, masterwork, The Grounds of Criticism in Poetry comprises a Preface, Proposal and ‘Specimen’, the latter being an essay substantially on Milton, ‘one of the greatest and most daring Genius’s that has appear’d...

    £1250

  17. DENNIS, John.

    An Essay on the Genius and Writings of Shakespear: with some Letters of Criticism to the Spectator … London: Printed...

    London, 1704-1716.

    First editions of Dennis and Sewell, later edition of Gay with cancel title-page.

    £1250

  18. GARDINER, John Smallman.

    The Art and the Pleasures of Hare-Hunting. In six Letters to a Person of Quality …

    London: Printed by R. Griffith … 1750.

    First edition, scarce, an eloquent and amusing account of hare-hunting, the first monograph on the subject in English, comprising letters on the superiority of hare-hunting to fox-hunting (less dangerous, less laborious), on the best types of dogs, of trailing and starting hares, etc. Gardiner’s letter...

    £1250

  19. GENUINE ACCOUNT (A)

    of the Life and Actions of James Maclean, Highwayman, to the Time of his Trial and receiving Sentence at the...

    London, W. Falstaff, [1750].

    First edition, the scarcer of two contemporary pamphlet biographies of the ‘gentleman highwayman’ James Maclaine (1724-1750). The son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister, Maclaine, having squandered an early inheritance and his wife’s money, joined up with a down-at-luck apothecary, William Plunkett,...

    £1250

  20. LETTERS ON THE FRENCH NATION

    : by a Sicilian Gentleman resident in Paris, to his Friend in his own Country. Containing an useful...

    London: Printed for T. Lownds ... 1749.

    First edition of this translation, very rare, of a work first printed in French in Paris in 1700 (see below) and, in a different translation, in English in 1704 as An agreeable Criticism of the City of Paris.

    £1250