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His devine weekes and workes translated

London, Humfrey Lownes, 1613.


4to., pp. (xxxii) 819 (xlvii) 87 (ix). Roman letter. Engraved title page by William Hole after C. Swytzer (Johnson 26:4), title within arch, Royal arms above supported by two pairs of pillars on which are resting terrestrial and celestial globes, medallion depicting the creation of woman, surmounted by pediment inscribed with the Hebrew name of God, angels at either side, further biblical panels at foot. Verses within arch made up of printers rules on next two pages, woodcut portrait of author on third. Eleven pages with printed central column containing the name of a Muse, printed title pages with astronomical diagrams, dedicatory verse to Philip Sidney in the form of a pyramid with his armorial hedgehog at head, each section of text commencing with woodcut headpiece and ‘Argument’ within typographical border, woodcut tailpieces, full page woodcut of the Garden of Eden on p. 214, white on black ‘memento mori’ on p. 669, full page woodcut of the Resurrection on p. 671; ‘History of Judith’ with separate title page with device, woodcut monogram of James I after dedication, large woodcut printer’s device on recto of last, contemporary ex-libris “George Parkins”on fly, “Mich: Constable; – 1620” at head of title, Light age yellowing, very occasional marginal soiling, and minor marginal water stains. A very good, clean copy in contemporary calf, covers bordered with triple blind rule, expertly re-backed, raised bands ruled in gilt and red morocco label, a.e.r.

A handsome copy of the fourth edition, corrected and augmented of Joshua Sylvester’s first English translation of Du Bartas’ (1544-1590) principal works, his great ‘La Sepmaine’ on the creation of the world, ‘La Seconde Sepmaine’ on the deeds of the early heroes, ‘Urania’- a poem in praise of poetry which James VI of Scotland personally translated, an epic of the history of Judith and a very extensive collection of diverse poems. In his day Du Bartas’ works were enormously popular; La Croix de Maine recorded thirty six eds. in six years apart from translations into English, Latin, Italian, German and Spanish. Nowhere was the Hugenot Du Bartas more appreciated than England where his religious tone and fanciful style earned the author the epithet ‘divine’ and he was placed an equal of Ariosto. Spenser, Hall and Johnson all speak of Du Bartas in the highest terms and Milton was clearly in his considerable debt. To a great extent this was due to Sylvester whose very free translation (almost a paraphrase) in rhymed decasyllabic couplets was so successful that Southey describes him as the most popular poet of the reign of James I.

To the modern reader a particular point of interest are the numerous references to the New World. The 22 page chapter ‘The Colonies’ mentions Drake, Newfoundland, Columbus, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Patagonia, Magellan, as well as the places’ notable physical features, distinctive animals and plants and most important produce. This is not just a list of names, but descriptive eg. “And Plate’s flat Plains, Where flowers another Nile”. The ‘Index of the hardest words’ (an admirable feature) explains Vespucci as America’s first discoverer, the habits of South American ‘cannibals’ and ‘Americans’ and ‘the French disease’, brought first from the Indies etc. There are also many references and descriptions relating to the East Indies and elsewhere.

STC 21652. Lowndes II 679. Grolier I 244 (3rd edn., which has the same collation but not identical composition). Alden 613/51.