CAMDEN, William.


CAMDEN, William Britannia

London, [printed at Eliot's court press] impensis Georg. Bishop, 1600


4to, pp. [16], 831, [27], 30, [2], [2] pls. Predominantly Roman letter, little Gothic, Italic, Greek and Old Saxon; engraved elaborate frontispiece by W. Rogers, with central map of British Isles and Neptune and Ceres at sides, title with large woodcut arms of Queen Elizabeth as dedicatee, half-title ‘Hiberniae’ with large printer’s device, two folding engraved maps of England under Roman Empire and Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, several engraved illustrations in text, a few full- or double-page, floriated or historiated initials, typographical or grotesque head- and tail-pieces; a few central leaves lightly age browned, very occasional light marginal foxing, clean tear to outer lower corner of p. 563. A fine copy in contemporary French red morocco, triple-fillet border, gilt-stamped armorial supralibros of Jacques-Auguste de Thou and his wife on covers, his monogram and title gilt on spine compartments, a. e. g.; minor repair to head and foot of spine and upper joint; on front pastedown, autograph and bibliographical note of Jean-Jacques de Bure (1765–1853), dated 10 October 1833, and bookplate of O. Vernon Watney; Pirie’s bookplate on front endpaper.

Exquisitely bound copy of the first comprehensive chorographical investigation of the British Isles, in the first edition with maps. Sir William Camden (1551-1623) was the most prominent antiquarian scholar of Elizabethan England. Educated at Oxford, Camden approached antiquarianism upon the encouragement of Philp Sidney and started a broad-ranging survey of the country which went on for nine years, eventually leading to the compilation of Britannia. The success of the work launched his career: Camden become headmaster of Westminster School, Officer of Arms and finally the official historiographer of Queen Elizabeth. Britannia is a county-by-county description of Great Britain and Ireland in relation to landscape, geography, antiquarianism and history. In addition the two folded maps at the beginning, the illustrations include antiquities, a series of Roman and ancient British coins as well as a view of Stonehenge (p. 219) and a map of Ireland. The final 30 pages addressing the reader contain Camden’s reply to Ralph Brooke (1553–1625), another Officer of Arms who had attacked the work in his A discoverie of certaine errours published in print in the much commended Britannia.

This beautiful copy comes from the library of a great collector, the French historian Jacques-Auguste de Thou (1553-1617). As typical of the many books forming his legendary collection, his arms are gilt on covers and his monogram is repeated over the spine. This binding was certainly made one or two years after the publication of the work, as de Thou’s arms and monogram are accompanied by those of his first wife, Marie Barbançon, died 1601 (Guigard, II, p. 452). In 1602, de Thou remarried and refashioned his binding style accordingly; bindings of this kind are far more common than those in the two earlier styles. In 1833, the book was collated by Jean-Jacques de Bure (1765–1853), scion of what was perhaps the most influential and learned dynasty of booksellers in France between the eighteenth and the early nineteenth-century. Jean-Jacques and his brother, Marie-Jacques, successfully took over their father’s business and sold some of the most significant collections of their times, including that of Mac-Carthy Reagh (1815). They offered for sale part of their own vast collection between 1835 and 1838, the rest being purchased by the Bibliothèque imperiale after Jean-Jacques’s death.

De Thou had only his most favourite volumes bound in this splendid red morocco and they constitute a small and highly prized part of his great collection.

ESTC S107386; CELM CmW 13.183 (record of this copy); Brunet, I, 1511 (mentioning this copy); Graesse, II, 24.

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