CAMDEN, William.


CAMDEN, William. Britannia.

London, George Bishop and John Norton, 1607.


FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION. Tall folio. pp. [16], 860, [24], numerous pagination errors. Roman letter, with Italic, occasional Greek. Engraved architectural title by W. Hole with Ceres and Neptune, and central map of the Britain and Ireland, woodcut arms of James I to printed title, 55 double-page and 2 single-page engraved county maps by W. Hole, 9 full-page engraved plates with ancient coins, medals or monuments (e.g., Stonehenge), 19 ¼-page woodcut ancient inscriptions, decorated initials and ornaments. Slight age yellowing, engraved title marginally dusty, small ink mark to fore-edge of first 4 ll., occasional spots, printer’s ink shading to lower margin of one map, small paper flaw to outer blank margin of Yyy1. An exceptionally good, clean copy in contemporary English polished calf, rebacked, original spine compartments relaid, lacking ties, single gilt ruled, gilt lozenge-shaped centrepieces to covers, raised bands, spine gilt, gilt-lettered morocco label, all edges painted yellow, few scattered light stains to covers. Bookplates of library of Saint-Augustin, Enghien (C19), V. Duchataux 1887, and J. Laget (C20) to front pastedown, near contemporary autograph ‘Lord Hatton’ to ffep.

Fine copy from the library of Sir Christopher Hatton (1605-70), 1st Baron Hatton, of Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire. His namesake father’s library had been transferred to Holkham Hall in the early C17, after Sir William Hatton’s widow married Sir Edward Coke. Sir Christopher’s library at Kirby developed from the 1620s; by 1637, as a collector and antiquary he was renowned: ‘Sir Christopher is a general searcher of all antiquities concerning the whole  kingdom, but chiefly Northamptonshire his own county. It doth cost him a hundred pounds per annum in abstracting records. Sir Christopher hath almost a hundred books of his own abstracting of very choice antiquities generally for the whole kingdom’, including rolls of arms, pedigrees, and ms charters and deeds (see Stacey, p.69). In the 1630s, he hired the antiquary William Dugdale as secretary and research assistant, becoming part of an important network of English antiquaries. 

The first illustrated edition of the first chorographical survey of Britain and Ireland – with the engraved title and 57 engraved maps of British counties by William Hole. ‘What took place in late C16 and early C17 England … was an “Historical Revolution”. … Camden’s place within this changing historiographical framework was critical. … Hugh Trevor-Roper has argued that this writer “placed historical studies on a new base of scientific documentation and in a new context”. … Denys Hay concluded that “Camden did more to unite Britain in the long run than did King James”’ (Richardson, p.112). The engraved title and maps were produced by William Hole, who would later work on the title and maps of Michael Drayton’s ‘Poly-Olbion’. ‘Such maps had been contemplated by Camden as far back as 1589 but it was not until this, the sixth edition, that county maps appeared, reduced from those of Saxton and Norden by William Kip and William Hole. For a frontispiece, Hole copied the engraved title by W. Rogers from the 1600 edition of the “Britannia”’ (Shirley n.279).

William Camden (1551-1623) was Clarenceux King of Arms from 1593, and the author of numerous works on the history of Britain. First published in 1586, ‘Britannia’ was the first work of its kind in English, on the history and geography of regions or counties of the kingdom, rooted in the study of epigraphy, old documents and material remains. It built on the research of Tudor antiquaries such as John Leland and William Lambarde, and on early Anglo-Saxon studies carried out by Laurence Nowell and Matthew Parker. The work beings with the Roman conquest, with several engraved plates of ancient coins, and continues with the customs of the Picts, Scots, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Normans, the division of Britain and the ancient institutions of England. Thence follow sections devoted to each county in England and Wales, illustrated with Norden’s handsome engraved maps after Saxton’s ‘Atlas’ of Britain (1570). Half a dozen woodcuts reproduce ancient insular alphabets (e.g., Anglo-Saxon) and inscriptions (e.g., in the ancient Cornish language), with which Camden sought to bring to life, what had been text in previous editions. Also famous is the full-page engraving of Stonehenge. The last two parts are devoted to Scotland and its main cities and regions (e.g., Stirling, Fife) and Ireland (e.g., Cork, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Dublin), with an account of O’Neal’s rebellion and the historical Annals of Ireland, and a final section on the smaller islands in the British sea, e.g., Anglesey, the Isle of Man (with a short account of its kings), Guernsey, and the Orkneys.