Britannia’s pastorals. The first booke

London, printed by Iohn Hauiland, 1625.


FIRST EDITON thus. Two vols. in one. 8vo. pp. [xvi], 140 [i.e. 142], [xiv], 179, [i]. A-Y⁸. “Variant 1: (second) title page is a cancel, with ‘Haviland’ in the imprint.” ESTC. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Woodcut printer’s device on first title, two woodcuts in text of first vol., ‘arguments’ within typographical borders, woodcut initials, grotesque woodcut head-piece, typographical ornaments, ‘Lewis Anwill’ contemp. autograph at head of title, 6-line verse in his hand on front free endpaper, addressed to the author drawn from Du Bartas, engraved Porkington Library label on pastedown. Light age yellowing, light water-stain throughout, heavier in part of second work, second title, a cancel, loose from its stubb, the odd marginal mark or spot. A good copy in fine contemporary English polished vellum, covers bordered with a triple gilt rule, fine strap-work corner-pieces, with criblé ground, gilt stamped to corners, central gilt lozenge made up with gilt cherub head and star tools, semée of flaming heart tools, spine quadruple gilt ruled in compartments, with scrolled gilt tools, later olive morocco label, gilt lettered, all edges gilt, a little stained and soiled, small hole to upper edge of front cover.

A very good copy of the first complete edition of Browne’s best-known pastoral poem, probably a presentation copy, in a fine contemporary binding, with the contemporary ownership inscription of Lewis Anwyl and his manuscript verses dedicated to the Author. The binding on this copy is very similar, both in design, and choice of the tools used, to one in the British Library, which has a centrepiece of gilt feather motifs that probably relate to Charles I as Prince of Wales, BL Shelfmark C28a3. It is on a group of almanacks from 1624 and is nearly identical in style, with the same semi of flaming heart tools and elaborate corner-pieces gilt on vellum, around a central lozenge. Both these bindings, made at the same time, are suggestive of either authorial or editorial presentation copies. The cherubs head tool with wings used on this binding is also found on another presentation binding in the British library, on a manuscript dedicated to James I, Shelfmark Royal Ms 8 E VIII,  with his arms gilt at centre, also on a fine vellum binding. Finally, identical blocked corner-pieces and cherub tools, used as a central lozenge, are found on another vellum binding, again on a group of Almanacks, BL Shelfmark, Davis99, this time with a semi of ermine tools. The flaming heart tool on the covers  of this binding also echo the woodcut printer’s device on the first title which has the same motif, which could possibly point to an editor’s presentation copy.

Lewis Anwyl of Llanfrothen, Merioneth, died 1641, was the father-in-law of William Owen and owner of a Shakespeare second folio. He was a patron of poets and “There can be little doubt that the first member of the family interested in pure literature, as distinct from the literature of politics, law and theology was Lewis Anwyl, of Parc” (The National Library of Wales Journal, vol. 5 no. 3, 1948). The nature of the binding with his inscription and his position as a wealthy patron of poets all point towards a presentation copy of this work. The Porkington or the Brogyntyn Library at Brogyntyn Hall in Shropshire also contained a hugely important collection of Welsh books and manuscripts donated by the third and fourth Lord Harlech to the National Library of Wales. They included a psalter and a version of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniæ, both from the thirteenth century, a fifteenth century miscellany in Middle English, a volume of the Welsh laws of Hywel Dda, and pedigrees, genealogy and heraldry of families in Wales.

“Edmund Spenser was Browne’s poetic model throughout his career, most obviously in Britania’s pastorals, although he was influenced by Italian pastoral drama (specifically by Torquato Tasso’s Aminta). In Britannia’s pastorals, Browne mixes the pastoral and romantic genres, as Spenser did in the Faerie Queene, and, like Spenser, Browne attempts to write an epic that will be thoroughly English. …His greatest quality was probably his talent for natural description . The passages in which he describes what is recognizably his native Devonshire are especially fine. …In his own lifetime Browne was considered an important English poet, but his fame did not last. Still, it has often been argued that not only Milton but also such later poets as Keats, Tennyson, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were influenced by his work, and in particular his treatment of nature.” The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature.

A very interesting, rare and finely bound copy of this important work of English pastoral poetry.

STC 3916. ESTC S105932. Lowndes I 292. Not in Pforzheimer.


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