The ·xiii.  bukes  of Eneados of the famose poete Virgill  translatet out of Latyne verses into Scottish metir.

London, [By William Copland], 1553.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. ff. [i], Ccclxxxi [i.e. 376], [i]. A²(-A1), B-U⁸, x⁸(x3+chi[=A1?]), y-z⁸, a-2b⁸. First and last blank. Black letter. Title within charming woodcut border, with putti below, historiated and floriated woodcut initials, early autograph Caroli Barnard at head of title, C17 note on first blank concerning the translation, contemporary autograph of George Metcalfe, on last blank. Light age yellowing, first three quires with some thumb soiling, occasional marginal thumb mark, spot or stain. A very good copy, crisp with very good margins, on thick paper in handsome modern morocco by Zaehnsdorf in a contemporary style, covers bordered with a triple blind rule, central scroll worked arabesque gilt at centres, spine with raised bands double blind ruled, a.e.g. spine a little sunned. 

Rare and important first edition in Scots English of the the first complete translation of any major work of classical antiquity into a British language. This translation of Vergil’s  Aeneid  by Gavin Douglas (c.1476-1522), the bishop of Dunkeld, predates by some years the earliest English translation. Earlier translations, such as Chaucer’s Legends of Dido and Caxton’s Eneydos, were very free adaptations of Vergil’s text. “In the early 1500s no major classical work had been translated into English, and Douglas’s Eneados was a pioneering work… Douglas shared the values of the humanists: an antipathy to scholasticism, respect for classical authors, and a zeal for education. He wished to communicate to his countrymen a knowledge of the Aeneid, and also to enrich his native ‘Scottis’ tongue with something of the ‘fouth’, or copiousness, of Latin” (ODNB).

The title of Gavin Douglas’ translation “Eneados” is given in the heading of a manuscript at  Cambridge University, which refers to the “twelf bukis of Eneados.” In addition to Douglas’s version of Virgil’s Aeneid, the work also contains a translation of the “thirteenth book” written by the fifteenth-century poet Maffeo Vegio as a continuation of the Aeneid. Douglas supplied original prologue verses for each of the thirteen books, and a series of concluding poems. In the first general prologue Douglas compares the merits of Virgil and Chaucer as master poets and attacks the printer William Caxton for his inadequate rendering of a French translation of the  Aeneid. Comparing Douglas to Chaucer, Pound wrote that “the texture of Gavin’s verse is stronger, the resilience greater than Chaucer’s”. Ezra Pound, ‘ABC of Reading’. C. S. Lewis was also an admirer of the work: “About Douglas as a translator there may be two opinions; about his  Aeneid (Prologues and all) as an English book there can be only one. Here a great story is greatly told and set off with original embellishments which are all good—all either delightful or interesting—in their diverse ways.” C. S. Lewis, ‘English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama.’ This first edition displays an anti Catholic bias, in that references (in the prologues) to the Virgin Mary, Purgatory, and Catholic ceremonies are altered or omitted probably by Copland In addition, 66 lines of the translation, describing the amour of Dido and Aeneas, are omitted as indelicate.

“The Emperor and his people alike were hooked: within a century of its author’s death, in 19 B.C., citizens of Pompeii were scrawling lines from the epic on the walls of shops and houses. People haven’t stopped quoting it since. From the moment it appeared, the Aeneid was the paradigmatic classic in Western art and education; as one scholar has put it, Virgil “occupied the central place in the literary canon for the whole of Europe for longer than any other writer.” … Virgil’s poetry has been indispensable to everyone from his irreverent younger contemporary Ovid, whose parodies of the older poet’s gravitas can’t disguise a genuine admiration, to St. Augustine, who, in his “Confessions,” recalls weeping over the Aeneid, his favorite book before he discovered the Bible; from Dante, who chooses Virgil, l’altissimo poeta, “the highest poet,” as his guide through Hell and Purgatory in the Divine Comedy, to T.  S. Eliot, who returned repeatedly to Virgil in his critical essays and pronounced the Aeneid “the classic of all Europe.”” Daniel Mendelsohn. ‘Is the Aeneid a Celebration of Empire—or a Critique?’

Pforzheimer describes the Grenville and Bemis copies as resembling large paper copies at slightly over 8 3/4 inches. This copy is almost as large at nearly 8 1/2 inches with some deckle edges in outer margins. 

ESTC S119190. STC 24797. Grolier, Langland to Wither 61. Pforzheimer 1027. Ames III 935. Lowndes 2782.


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