READ BY YOUNG LADIES
The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia,... with some new additions.London, W[illiam] S[tansby] for Simon Waterson, 1627
Folio, pp. (iv) 624. Lacking initial blank. Roman letter, some italic. Title within elaborate woodcut border with several early manuscript autographs and doodles, also on a few pages of text and verso of last. Title page backed, that and next leaf repaired or strengthened at gutter. Marginal tears to ff. [*2], D2 and Fff6, small repairs to A2-3. Light water stain to lower outer corner of K2 and ink smudges to Fff5, final couple of leaves slightly soiled with the odd spot or mark. A good copy in polished speckled calf spine gilt, circa 1700, 19th century armorial bookplate of Sir Stafford H. Northcote Bart.
First issue of the eighth edition of this pastoral romance which Philip Sidney wrote for his younger sister, the Countess of Pembroke, in his early twenties. The first version of Arcadia, or the Old Arcadia, was completed in 1580, telling the story of two young princes disguising themselves in order to court two Arcadian princesses imprisoned by their father. He began revisions to create the New Arcadia in 1584, but they were left incomplete by his death two years later. In 1593 a version which completed the story of the new edition by affixing the end of the first version was published by the Countess of Pembroke herself. This was collected with his sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella, and his Defence of Poesie, in 1598, reprinted ten times by the end of the 17th century. This copy, which includes all three texts, is modelled primarily on the 1621 edited by the Scottish poet and dramatist Sir William Alexander, in which he attempted to cohesively unify the two versions of the story.
Whilst the romance is light-hearted, the style which blends prose with a wide range of poetic forms and metres, reflects Sidney’s expectations for the future of English literature. The text was widely influential, with elements borrowed or discussed by Shakespeare, John Day, John Milton, and others. The text also includes Sidney’s Defence of Poesie, a seminal work in English literary criticism and particularly influential to Percy Bysshe Shelley, who wrote his own Defence of Poetry in 1821. Written in response to an increasing lack of interest in poetry in Elizabethan literature, Sidney makes a case that poetry’s power is an ability to stir readers to virtuous action, as well as its antique heritage. The work was an essential part of the anti-theatrical movements in the Elizabethan court. It is also notable for being the first recorded use of the name Pamela, which Sidney is believed to have invented.
Sidney was a Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury until his retirement from court after offending Queen Elizabeth I by denouncing a potential marriage being arranged for her in a letter. He later returned as MP for Kent, and was knighted during this time.
The manuscript elements on several pages are primarily autographs and letter-forms apparently belonging to a young child. An early hand on the title page names William Curas, who has also mimicked some words and letters from the text. Notably, the majority of the names on the book are female: f. G3 has been signed repeatedly by a Sarah Doune, and a Sally has added her name three times in the margin of Hh3, with various spellings, as well as practising her letters. A slightly later, more adult hand has signed Anne Somner on K2, and a Mary has left her name on Fff6. On Fff2, an early hand has copied the first few words of the Eleventh Song.
Sir Stafford Henry Northcote Bart, 1st Earl of Iddesleigh, was Chancellor of the Exchequer to
Disraeli as well as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to The Marquess of Salisbury. He attended
Balliol College, Oxford, and was a Fellow of the Royal Society and Lord Rector of Edinburgh University. In addition to books, he also held a collection of Ethiopian artefacts, currently displayed in the British Museum.
ESTC S117301, STC 22547, Lowndes VI p. 2396. This edition not in Grolier, or Pfortzheimer.