HERBERT, George The Temple. Sacred poems and private ejaculations.

[Cambridge], T. Buck, and R. Daniel, 1634


12mo. [viii], 192, [iv]; [par.] , A-H¹², I². Roman letter, entirely ruled in red. Title-page within ornamental typographical border, floriated woodcut initials, typographical and woodcut head and tail-pieces, engraved armorial bookplate of Henry, Duke of Kent on front pastedown 1713, Thomas Philip, Earl de Grey (b. 1781) Wrest Park engraved armorial bookplate, on fly, Robert S. Pirie on verso. Light age yellowing, cut a little close in upper margin just touching a few running headlines. A very good copy, crisp and clean is stunning slightly later (circa 1650) English red morocco, covers bordered with a double gilt rule, richly worked to a panel design, outer panel with gilt triangular foliate border and corner-pieces, with small gilt thistle tools, large ornate gilt floral corner-pieces, central panel composed of two gilt foliate sprays and four gilt corner pieces, all richly worked with small, and pointillé tools, spine with raised bands, densely gilt in compartments with fine tooling, green morocco title label gilt lettered, edges and inner dentelles gilt, marbled endpapers, tail of spine expertly restored.

Rare third edition of the poetical works of George Herbert (1593 – 1633) Anglican priest and one of the greatest religious poets in the English language, in a stunning near contemporary English morocco binding. The use of pointillé tools, the richly decorated spine, and the densely worked centre and corner-pieces are some of the characteristics of this binding shared with others by Thomas Dawson of Cambridge. It is a binding using the highest quality materials and of very fine workmanship in excellent state of preservation.

Herbert gave up a promising career (he was the official Orator of Cambridge University) to become a country priest, but died of tuberculosis only 3 years after taking holy orders. On his deathbed, he left his poems and writings to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, describing them as “a picture of spiritual conflicts between God and my soul before I could subject my will to Jesus, my Master.” Ferrar published all of Herbert’s poems as The Temple in 1633. The collection itself is based around the architecture and symbolic meaning of a church; the poems use creative shapes and metres to express Herbert’s intellectual vivacity and, most of all, his love for God. “Herbert’s metrical forms… are both original and varied. To have invented and perfected so many variations in the form of lyrical verse is evidence of native genius, hard work and a passion for perfection… [they show] evidence of Herbert’s care for workmanship, his restless exploration of variety, and of a kind of gaiety of spirit, a joy in composition which engages our delighted sympathy. The Temple show a resourcefulness of invention which seems inexhaustible, and for which I know no parallel in English poetry.” -T.S. Eliot.

“Herbert shares his conflicts with John Donne, the archetypal metaphysical poet and a family friend. As well as personal poems, The Temple includes doctrinal poems, notably ‘The Church Porch,’ the first in the volume, and the last, ‘The Church Militant.’ Other poems are concerned with church ritual. The main resemblance of Herbert’s poems to Donne’s is in the use of common language in the rhythms of speech. Some of his poems, such as ‘The Altar’ and ‘Easter Wings,’ are ‘pattern’ poems, the lines forming the shape of the subject… Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the 19th century wrote of Herbert’s diction, ‘Nothing can be more pure, manly, and unaffected.’ Herbert was a versatile master of metrical form and all aspects of the craft of verse” (Britannica).

“When ‘brother Ferrar’ sought a license for this ‘little book’ the Vice Chancellor objected to two lines, now well known in the ‘Church Militant’. “Religion stands on tiptoe in our land,/ Ready to pass to the American strand.” Finally he passed them saying ‘I knew Mr. Herbert well, and know that he was a divine poet; but I hope the world will not take him to be an inspired prophet, and therefore I license this book.’” Pforzheimer, p. 468 (1st edn).

STC 13186; ESTC S122109. Lowndes 1048. Grolier ‘Wither to Prior’ 438 (1st edn). Pforzheimer, p. 468 (1st edn).
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