English Literature

Contact Donovan Rees

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. SENECA, Lucius Anneus. 

    Tragoediae pristinae integritati restitutae, per exactissimi judicii viros post Avantium & Philologum … 

    Paris, Badius Ascensius, 1514. 

    First edition edited by Erasmus and Badius Ascensius, a landmark in the history of Seneca’s textual tradition.  This key work, the product of a collaboration between two wholly committed humanists, cannot have been accomplished without some friction: Erasmus had allowed Badius to make use of...



    Τραγωδιαι οκτωκαίδεκα … Tragœdiæ octodecim, Hecuba, Orestes, Phœnissæ, Medea, Hippolytus,...

    Basel, apud Ioan. Hervagium ,1537.

    Second edition of the complete extant tragedies of Euripides, following the Aldine editio princeps of 1503.



    Aristophanis comicorum principis Comoediae undecim, e graeco in latinum ad verbu[m] translatae Andreae Divo Iustinopolitano...

    Venice, 1542 [colophon: apud D. Jacob a Burgofrancho papiensem, 1538].

    First collected Latin edition of Aristophanes, translated from the Greek by Andrea Divo.


  4. PLAUTUS. 

    M. Accius Plautus ex fide, atque auctoritate complurium librorum manuscriptorum opera Dionys. Lambini Monstroliensis...

    Paris, Jean Le Blanc for Jean Macé, 1577 [– October 1576].

    Reissue of the 1576 first edition of the plays of Plautus edited by the great French classical scholar Denis Lambin (1520–1572) and completed after his death by the Parisian professor of Greek, Jacques Hélie (d. 1590). 



    The Lives of the noble Grecians and Romanes, compared together by that grave learned Philosopher and Historiographer,...

    Imprinted at London by Richard Field for Bonham Norton, 1595.

    Second edition of North’s celebrated translation of Plutarch, first published in 1579, which has long been recognized as a major source for Shakespeare, providing not only the historical framework for Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus, but ‘long...


  6. MARKHAM, Gervase.

    Cavalarice, or the English Horseman: Contayning all the Art of Horse-manship, asmuch as is necessary for any...

    London, Edward Allde for Edward White, [1616–] 1617.

    A beautiful copy of the second edition, ‘corrected and augmented’, of Markham’s Cavalarice, exceptionally well-preserved in a contemporary binding, from the library of the antiquary Sir John Marsham.


  7. SHARPHAM, Edward. 

    Cupids whirligig.  As it hath bene Sundrie times acted, by the Children of his Majesties Revels. 

    London, Tho: Creede, and Ber: Alsop, and are to be solde by Arthur Johnson, 1616. 

    Third edition of an early Jacobean comedy based upon a tale in Boccaccio’s Decameron, with a contemporary London setting.


  8. MARKHAM, Gervase, and William SAMPSON.

    The True Tragedy of Herod and Antipater: with the Death of Fair Marriam ... as it hath...

    London Printed by G. Eld, for Mathew Rhodes ... 1622.

    First and only edition, first issue, of an uncommon play, first written by Markham before 1613 and later revised with Sampson’s help.


  9. NABBES, Thomas. 

    Microcosmus.  A Morall Maske, presented with generall liking, at the private House in Salisbury Court, and heere...

    London, Printed by Richard Oulton for Charles Greene … 1637. 

    First edition of an allegorical morality play (the Elements, the Senses, Love, Fear, Hope, Melancholy, et al.) which ‘may be the first English masque presented in a theatre with moveable scenery’ (Pforzheimer Catalogue).


  10. CARTWRIGHT, William.

    Comedies, Tragi-comedies, with other Poems … the Ayres and Songs set by Mr Henry Lawes, Servant to his late...

    London, Printed for Humphrey Moseley … 1651.

    First edition of the witty and elegant drama and verse of a celebrated ‘son of Ben’, who said ‘My son Cartwright writes like a man’. According to Evelyn, Charles I reckoned The Royall Slave ‘the best that was ever acted’ after he saw it as the main entertainment on the royal progress...


  11. SCARRON, Paul. 

    Le Marquis ridicule, ou la comtesse faite à la haste.  Comedie … Suivant la copie imprimée a Paris. 

    [Leiden, Elzevier], 1656. 

    First Elzevier editions, very rare, of these two plays by Scarron, pirated after the text of the first editions printed in Paris.  A finely bound volume with excellent Elzevierian provenance. 


  12. DAVENANT, William, Sir.

    Two excellent Plays: the Wits, a Comedie: the Platonick Lovers, a Tragi-Comedie. Both presented...

    London, Printed for G. Bedel, and T. Collins … 1665

    First collected edition of two plays first published in 1636, probably published to fill the revenue gap after the temporary closure of the theatres in 1665 because of the Plague.


  13. ETHEREGE, George.

    The comical Revenge, or Love in a Tub. Acted at his Highness the Duke of York’s Theatre in Lincolns-Inn-Fields ...

    London, Printed for Henry Herringman ... 1669.

    Fourth edition of Etherege’s first play, preceded by two editions of 1664 and one of 1667; this is the scarcer of two printings for Herringman in 1669, with ‘fields’ rather than ‘Fields’ in the title, and the catchword ‘hope’ not ‘the’ on A2r.


  14. [SHEFFIELD, John, Earl of Mulgrave, afterwards Duke of Buckingham.]

    An Essay on Poetry.

    London, Printed for Joseph Hindmarsh … 1682.

    First edition, a verse satire in imitation of Horace’s Ars Poetica. There are indirect attacks on Rochester (‘Bawdry barefac’d, that poor pretence to Wit’), and Cowley, who has poetic fury but ‘ill expression’, while Sheffield reserves praise for Dryden, who took the blame for...


  15. [MAGRATH, Cornelius.]

    ‘Ein Irländer Riss …’

    Nuremberg, 1756.

    A delightful promotional image for the Continental tour of ‘The Irish Giant’ Cornelius Magrath (1736/7–1760), ‘To be seen in Nuremberg in the month of July 1756’.


  16. NADAL, [Augustin,] Abbé

    Herode: Tragedie nouvelle. 

    Paris, Pierre Ribou, 1709. 

    First edition of Nadal’s tragedy on King Herod, the second in the series of Biblical plays over which he quarrelled with Voltaire. 


  17. SCHÜBLER, Johann Jakob.

    Amor, vehementer quidem flagrans; artificiose tamen celatus, de Pantalonis custodiaque triumphans, intentato...

    Augsburg, Johann Michael Probst, [c. 1770?].

    Rare series of twelve engravings inspired by the Italian commedia dell’arte, one of the most beautiful books of the German Rococo, engraved by Johann Balthasar Probst after original illustrations by the architectural painter, sculptor, and mathematician Johann Jakob Schübler.


  18. [JOHNSON, Charles].

    Caelia: or, the perjur’d Lover. A Play. As it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane, by His Majesty’s...

    London: Printed for J. Watts … 1733.

    First edition. Caelia, Johnson’s last theatrical production, is an attack on the fashionable libertinism of the day. As the Preface explains, however, he refused to take Barton Booth’s advice and expunge the vivid brothel scenes, and a fastidious audience answered with their pockets. The play,...


  19. [LAFONT, Joseph de.]

    Hypermnestre, tragedie, mise au theatre de l’Academie Royale de Musique de Lyon, pour la prémière fois...

    Lyon, de l’imprimerie d’Aymé Delaroche ... aux dépens de l’Académie Royale de Musique, 1742.

    Very scarce Lyon edition of the libretto for the tragedy Hypermnestre by the French playwright Joseph de Lafont (1686-1725). First performed in 1716, with music by Charles-Hubert Gervais, the play was initially criticised for its fifth act, but after rewriting by abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin enjoyed...


  20. CAREY, Henry.

    The Dramatick Works …

    London: Printed by S. Gilbert, 1743.

    First collected edition, published in the year of Carey’s death, with his final revisions, ‘not only free from the errors of false and spurious editions, published without my knowledge and consent, but (upon this occasion) revised and improv’d, even from my own original copies’.