NEO-LATIN COLLECTION OF NATIONAL SCOTTISH POETRY
Delitiae poetarum Scotorum hujus aevi illustrium.
Amsterdam, Iohannem Blaeu, 1637.
FIRST EDITION. 12mo. Two volumes. pp. 1) 1-12, (ii), 13-699, (i): 2) pp. 573, (iii). Roman letter some Italic. Blaeu’s woodcut printer’s device on both titles, small woodcut initials “Bought at Amsterdam Sept. 25 1877, H. A. B.” on front fly. Light age yellowing, the odd marginal spot or mark. Very good copies, crisp and clean; volume I in contemporary vellum over boards, nearly matching vellum, titles inked on spines in same C17th hand.
First edition of the largest anthology of Scottish neo-Latin poetry ever produced, edited by the Fife laird Sir John Scot of Scotstarvit and the Aberdonian poet Arthur Johnstone. The two volumes were printed at the sole cost of Scot and preserved the last fruits of Scottish latinity. Scottish neo-Latinists saw themselves first and foremost as part of an international community of renaissance humanists fascinated by the Classical past. Despite James VI’s accession to the English throne in 1603, and subsequent negotiations over closer Anglo-Scottish Union, the majority of the Scots featured in the Delitiae poetarum Scotorum identified much more closely with the cultural and intellectual life of Continental Europe than they did with that of England.
“The Delitiae Poetarum ltalorum opened the floodgates to a series of national anthologies, all in Latin, all entitled Delitiae, all printed in Frankfurt. Along came collections for France, Belgium, Germany, Hungary and Denmark. (…) There was a strange irony in all this. Neo-Latin was, of course, the international language par excellence, transcending national boundaries. (…) Yet the collections clearly had competitive, nationalistic ambitions. It was as if the new chauvinism and confidence of the Renaissance vernacular languages had been diverted into Neo-Latin. (…) (John Scot of Scotstarvet) had the time, motivation and, most importantly, the money to undertake the Herculean labor. John Scot of Scotstarvet, a Fife laird and a dilettante poet himself, had the education and finances to win friends and influence people, particularly in Europe. What makes the subsequent enterprise of special interest is the fact that we have a detailed account of its progress, for Scot scrupulously preserved all incoming mail. The correspondence, now in the National Library of Scotland, reveals a great deal: how Scot accumulated and edited the material and why it took almost twenty years before the Delitiae found its way into print. (…)
From about 1619, Scotstarvet had been collecting and receiving specimens of Scottish latinity. (…) Work by thirty-seven poets was finally chosen. Many of those included had made a name for themselves abroad: James Crichton in Italy, George Crichton in Paris, Thomas Dempster almost everywhere; John Barclay’s Latin novels were widely read in Europe; John Johnston used European presses almost exclusively; Andrew Melville was well-known among Continental Calvinists; James Halkerston wrote witty epigrams on the Pope and Henri III. (…) The work avoided overt antiquarianism which by this time would probably have lacked popular appeal. Still Scotstarvet could be proud of his labours; the text was sound and Blaeu did it justice. In the next century, Samuel Johnson would call it “a collection to grace any nation.” Perhaps the greatest satisfaction to those who produced it was that the English never had the like.” Christopher A. Upton. ‘National Internationalism: Scottish Literature and the European Audience in the Seventeenth Century’.
Very good copy of this important national anthology.