The description of Leicester shire· containing matters of antiquitye, historye, armorye, and genealogy.

London, Printed [by William Jaggard] for Iohn White at the holy lambe in litle Brittaine neare vnto Aldersgate Street, [1622].


FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. [x], 320, [xii]. [2] pi1 [par.]⁴ A-2C⁴ ²pi1 2D-2T⁴ 2V². Roman letter, some Italic. Fine engraved allegorical title with inset plan of Burton’s home of Lindley, figures of Fame and Truth above, Leicester Shire and Antiquitye  at sides, emblem with device “Rilucera”, in roundel above, double-page engraved map by William Kip after Saxton, engraved portrait frontispiece with small emblem, with “Rilumbre” device, in roundel below, arms to corners, woodcut coats of arms in genealogical tables in text, small woodcut of a ring with arabic lettering, woodcut initials and headpieces, ’B Davison’ in contemporary hand at upper margin of title, ‘William Davison’ in later hand next to it, repeated on pastedown. Map with two tiny crease holes, with early restoration on verso of fold, light age yellowing, some minor mostly marginal spotting, a little heavier on last leaves (the table), ink spot on Y1-2. A good, crisp, copy, with good margins in eighteenth century polished calf, covers double blind ruled to a panel design, blind dentelle roll to inner panel, blind fleurons to outer corners, edges gilt rolled, neatly rebacked to match, corners restored, covers a little scratched, small loss to calf in lower cover, a.e.r.

First edition of this important history of the county of Leicester shire by William Burton (brother of Robert Burton, author of the ‘Anatomy of Melancholy’), a seminal work in English regional history, with an important and beautifully engraved map by C. Saxton of the County. William Burton “was the pivotal figure in a circle of antiquaries operating in the midlands from the 1590s to the 1650s”, the publication of The Description of Leicestershire establishing him “as a father figure to the next generation of local historians” ODNB “Burton knew Spanish and Italian, and studied the emblem-writers, but his interest lay chiefly in heraldry and topography. In 1602 he issued a corrected copy, printed at Antwerp, of Saxton’s map of the county of Leicester. On 20 May 1603 he was called to the bar, but soon afterwards, owing to weak health, he retired to the village of Falde in Staffordshire, where he owned an estate. He now began to devote himself seriously to his ‘Description of Leicestershire.’ From a manuscript ‘Valediction to the Reader’ (dated from Lindley in 1641), in an interleaved copy which he had revised and enlarged for a second edition, we learn that the book was begun so far back as 1597, ‘not with an intendment that it should ever come to the public view, but for my own private use, which after it had slept a long time was on a sudden raised out of the dust, and by force of an higher power drawn to the press, having scarce an allowance of time for the furbishing and putting on a mantle’ (Nichols, Leicestershire, iii. xvi). The ‘higher power’ was his patron, George, marquis of Buckingham, to whom the work was dedicated on its publication (in folio) in 1622. Nichols (ibid. p. lxv) prints a manuscript preface to the ‘Description’ dated 7 April 1604, and hence it may be assumed that the publication was delayed for many years. Burton was one of the earliest of our topographical writers, and his work must be compared, not with the elaborate performances of a later age, but with such books as Lambarde’s ‘Kent,’ Carew’s ‘Cornwall,’ and Norden’s ‘Surveys.’ Dugdale, in the ‘Address to the Gentrie of Warwickshire’ prefixed to his ‘Warwickshire,’ says that Burton, as well as Lambarde and Carew, ‘performed but briefly;’ and Nichols observes that ‘the printed volume, though a folio of above 300 pages, if the unnecessary digressions were struck out and the pedigrees reduced into less compass, would shrink into a small work.’”

ESTC S107138. STC 4178.


Print This Item Print This Item