The Faerie Queen (with) The Shepherds Calendar: Together with the Other Works.

London, H. L. For Matthew Lownes, 1609 and 1611


FIRST COLLECTED EDITION. Folio, pp. [ii] 363 [iii] (last blank) + [x] 56 [ii] (last blank) [cl]. Double column, Roman letter. Large woodcut printer’s device on both titles of the Faerie Queen, smaller devices on each title of the second part, large woodcut foliated and grotesque woodcut initials of various sizes, extensive head and tail-pieces and other ornaments, epitome of each canto within ornate woodcut border, 12 large woodcuts illustrating each month to Shepherds Calendar, C18 autograph of ‘Alexr. Murray’ of Abercairny on title, repeated on A2, C18 large engraved bookplate of the ‘House of Abercairny’ on pastedown. First title fractionally dusty, very light age yellowing in a few leaves of second vol. A fine copy, crisp and clean, in fine early 19th century olive straight grained morocco, covers blind and gilt ruled to a panel design, large blind scrollwork roll to outer border, fine gilt blocks at corners of inner panel, spine with blind ruled raised bands, large gilt and blind ornaments in compartments, finely tooled at head and tail, title gilt lettered in one compartment, inner dentelles gilt, a.e.g. spine a little darkened, upper outer joint cracked.

The first folio edition, with minor variants, of the Faerie Queen, the pre-eminent achievement of Edmund Spenser and one of the flowers of Elizabethan literature, bound with the first folio ed. of his other poems, from the first issue of the first collected edition of poems. “This is the first edition with the two cantos of Mutabilitie… In 1609 Lownes published the present which either did not sell very well or was issued in a large edition, for two years later when he published a collected edition of Spenser’s works he included the sheets of this 1609 Faerie Queen with the title cancelled” Pforzheimer. This 1609 edition (not the reissue with the cancel title) is here bound with the second part of the 1611 edition to make the first collected edition of Spenser’s poetry.

Any note on Spenser’s works is really superfluous. He was the first great poet in England since Chaucer, the most learned apart from Milton, the most influential “poet’s poet” as described by Lamb, and acknowledged by Shakespeare as the master of “music and sweet poetry”. “He lives as an exquisite word painter of widely differing scenes, and as supreme poet-musician using with unrivalled skill a noble stanza of his own invention, unparalleled in any language” (Cambridge History of Eng. Lit.). His influence on subsequent literature cannot be exaggerated: Milton found him a ‘sure guide’ both as a thinker and a poet; Dr Johnson pointed out the derivation of ‘The Pilgrims Progress’ from the Faerie Queen; Dryden called the author his ‘Master in English. The Faerie Queene was a major influence in the writings of Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lamb and many others.

“Spenser was known to his contemporaries as ‘the prince of poets’, as great in English as Virgil in Latin. He left behind him masterful essays in every genre of poetry, from pastoral and elegy to epithalamion and epic…… Milton was later to claim Spenser as ‘a better teacher than Aquinas’, and generations of readers, students, and scholars have admired him for his subtle use of language, his unbounded imagination, his immense classical and religious learning, his keen understanding of moral and political philosophy, and his unerring ability to synthesize and, ultimately, to delight.” Cambridge University, ‘The Edmund Spenser biography’. A fine copy.

Abercairny is a great gothic house in Perthshire which belonged to the Moray or Murray family – noted for their fierce allegience to the Jacobite cause – for six centuries before passing by marriage to the Home – Drummonds. It is now known as Drummond castle.

STC. 23083 and STC 23083.3. Lowndes 2476-7. Grolier, Langland to Wither 234 and 239. “It is the first folio edition, and frequently occurs with other works of the author bound at the end” Pforzheimer 971 and 972.


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