UNRECORDED VERSE BY POETESS OF THE 1600s

Ad Serenissimum, Potentissimum, ac Invictissimum principem ac Dominum, Dn. Matthiam Secundum.

Liepzig, Valentin. Am Ende. 1612.

£5,400

FIRST EDITION. 4to. Four unnumbered leaves. (-)4, (last blank). Italic letter, some Roman. Title within typographical border with small woodcut ornament, woodcut initial, typographical headpieces, large grotesque woodcut tailpieces, early manuscript page numbering to outer blank corners. Light, even age browning (poor quality paper). A very good clean copy, unbound.

Extraordinarily rare first, and only separate edition of the final published poem of the Elizabethan and Jacobean poetess Elisabeth Weston, written in praise of Mathew II on his election as Holy Roman Emperor. This first edition of one of the earliest published female British poets is lacking, as far as we can see, to all British and American libraries.

Elizabeth Weston (1582 – 1612), poet, was born in London, but her recusant father was forced out of England in her infancy and settled at Brux near Prague. Her youthful Latin verses, chiefly dedicated to awakening sympathy for an impoverished widow and her orphaned daughter, attracted considerate attention and were admired by a humanistic circle including Scaliger, Heinsius, Gerrardius, Lipsius, and Dousa. Her works were collected and edited by the Silesian noble Georg Martin von Baldhoven, who printed them in 1602 together with his encomium of the author, at his own expense. Elizabeth was a considerable scholar, speaking and writing perfectly in English, Greek, Italian, Latin, German, and Czech.

Her poems consist of addresses to princes, including James I, who it is said had recommended her to the Emperor, together with epigrams, translation of Aesop and epistles to friends. Farnaby includes her works in his ‘Index Poeticus’ (1634), and Elizabeth is the only woman to appear in his list of distinguished Latin writers, past and present; Evelyn specifically mentions her poem in praise of typography. “The coronation encomium that Weston wrote for Matthew II on his election as Holy Roman Emperor in Frankfurt in 1612, just four months before she died, is far more ambitious (than her encomium to James I on his coronation). It opens with an extended simile in which Alexander the Great is compared, of course unfavourably, with Matthias, the greatest of kings, who has conquered ‘hearts, not only bodies’ (22-23). Unlike the Macedonian king, Matthias has shed no blood. The contrast continues in a series of five antitheses: Matthias has conquered through ‘bono pacis non belli … tumultu’; his victory is ‘pietatis opus … /Non feritatis,’ his preference is ‘Demulcere malos mavis quam sumere poenas’; he not surprisingly favours disarmament but quells armed uprisings and brings peace, not bloodshed (10-19). There follows a chronological list of Matthias’s successes: wresting kingdoms from his brother, Rudolf, obtaining the Germans’ votes to become Holy Roman Emperor, and finally establishing himself as ‘Monarcha mundi’ (27-31). Respecting tradition, Weston ends on a note of appeal and prays for his reign to last for centuries through his offspring, a pious wish since in 1612 the middle aged Emperor had none, although he had married the much younger Anna of Tyrol in the previous year, and she asks for it to extend ‘ab occasu … Solis ad ortum.’ Weston is using conventional vocabulary, yet in reversing the usual order, ‘from sunrise to sunset,’ ‘east to west’ she is foreshadowing her explicit appeal twelve lines on to wage war against the Turks, exterminating the ‘Mohammedan foes’ to the root. Only then will the true faith extend worldwide and the church take on greater power.” Brenda Hosington.

“The well-wrought verses of an unknown bard. Renaissance Englishwomen’s Latin poetry of praise and lament. Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Upsaliensis.Vol. I.” An exceptionally rare first edition of one of the earliest published British female poets; we have found no copy of this edition on Worldcat or in German libraries online.

Not in Shaaber or BM STC Ger. C17. See Cheney and Hosington, Introduction to the Collected Writings.

L1839

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