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LLWYD, Humphrey

The breuiary of Britayne. Together with the geographicall description of the same.

London, By Richard Iohnes, 1573.

£9,500

FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. ff. [xxii], 96 leaves. A 2*² [par.] [par.]* B-N. Black, Italic and Roman letter. Title within typographical border, grotesque woodcut initials and tail-pieces, typographical ornaments, armorial bookplate of Albert Ehrman on pastedown, his library stamp with monogram A. E. on rear pastedown,  bookplate of Fox Pointe collection on rear f.ep. Very light age yellowing. A fine copy, crisp and clean with good margins, a few deckle edges, in handsome early 19th century vellum, covers bordered with a gilt scrolled rule, fleurons gilt to corners, central arabesque gilt, red morocco label gilt lettered on spine, very slightly soiled.

First English translation of a historical, linguistic and topographical tour of Britain, originally sent by the dying author to the famous geographer-mathematician Abraham Ortelius of Antwerp, that he might “Take therfore, this last remembrance of thy Humfrey, and for ever Adieu” (Llwyd’s dedication). The Latin text (Adams L 1378) was published in Cologne in 1572.

Llwyd (1527-1568), geographer, astrologer, antiquary and M.P. for Denbigh, was the private physician to Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl Arundel, a book-collector whose library, much of which is now in the British Library, contained not only many of Cranmer’s library-books but also arguably the finest geography collection of Elizabethan times, to whose assembly Llwyd lent his expertise, along with his friend John Leland. Llwyd also numbered amongst his friends Elisabeth I’s astrologer Dr. John Dee. His original Latin text was described by Lowndes (IV, 1377) as an “excellent work,’ much followed by Camden’ (Nicholson)”.

Twynne (1543-1613), physician, master of Canterbury free school, and another friend of Dee, made this translation with a full index. He includes a list of authors cited and, at the end, a list of ‘Certayne Welsh, or rather true British woordes, conuerted into Latin by the Author, & now translated into English’. “Llwyd] wrote the Commentarioli Britannicae descriptionis fragmentum, a short historical and geographical description of Britain which he dispatched to Ortelius on 3 August 1568; it was published in Cologne in 1572 and is dedicated to Ortelius. It was translated by Thomas Twyne under the title The Breviary of Britayne and published in 1573. It was the first attempt to compile a chorographia of Britain as a whole. Central themes of Llwyd’s work are his defence of Geoffrey of Monmouth (particularly countering the attacks of Polydore Vergil), and his belief in the integrity of the early British church.” DNB.

“For Humphrey Llwyd, writing in or before 1568, the Welsh are ‘the very true Britaynes by birth’, a nation which, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, could trace its descent back through Arthur to Britain’s founding father Brutus, grandson of the Trojan warrior, Aeneas. Llwyd writes that his welsh contemporaries had inherited the warlike spirit of their Trojan ancestors and were themselves ‘most valiant in warlike affayres’, a Welsh myth of origin that persisted into the seventeenth century and found echo even among writers, like Camden, otherwise sceptical Galfridian lore.” Stewart Mottram ‘Ruin and Reformation in Spenser, Shakespeare, and Marvell.’

A fine copy of this rare work from the library of Albert Ehrman, distinguished collector and generous benefactor whose collection was partly presented to the Cambridge University Library in 1978 and now forms the so-called “Broxbourne Collection” (after the village of Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, where Ehrman lived); the rest of the library was sold at auction (Sotheby, Parke, Bernet & Co., 14 Nov. 1977-8). See `The Broxbourne Library’, BLR 10 (1979), 78-80. Nicolas Barker, `Albert Ehrman’, Book Collector, 19 (1970), 455-64; `News and comments’, Book Collector, 27 (1978), 83-7, 552-3; John Bidwell, `Albert Ehrman’, in Grolier 2000: A Further Grolier Club Biographical Retrospective in Celebration of the Millennium (New York, 2000), 84-7.

ESTC S108126. STC, 16636. Lowndes IV 1377.

L3000