(London: Printed for T. Basset, 1687). 392 x 247 mm. (15 1/2 x 9 3/4"). 2 p.l., xxxii, , 41, , 813,  pp.
Pleasing contemporary sprinkled calf, covers paneled in blind with fleuron cornerpieces, raised bands, original tan morocco label. With woodcut headpieces, decorative initials, and genealogical tables in the text, engraved allegorical frontispiece, portrait of the author, six double-page maps, and two double-page battle plans. Wing R-168. ◆Minor chips to head and tail of spine, short cracks to head and tail of front joint, corners rather bumped, covers with a dozen small patches of lost patina from insect activity, but the completely unsophisticated original binding still solid and generally well preserved. A handful of gatherings with very faint dampstain to top two inches of paper, two quires and one map with faint dampstain to top third--but nowhere is the discoloration anything except barely perceptible, one leaf with small hole in text affecting three words, Sss3 with printing flaw and two-inch tear into text (four words affected), other trivial imperfections, but A REALLY EXCELLENT COPY INTERNALLY, UNUSUALLY FRESH, CLEAN, AND BRIGHT, with pages that crackle when you turn them.
Among the manifold writings of Sir Walter Raleigh, including poetry, travel narrative, and drama, this attempt at universal history, first printed in 1614, is of particular interest in that Raleigh wrote it while in prison. The book begins with the creation of the universe, and the first half is based largely on the narrative of the Bible. Raleigh then sketches Greek history from ancient sources and brings his chronicle down to the doings of the Roman Republic, ending in 130 B.C. Day writes that the work "contains some of the most majestic prose in English. The opening lines on the Deity superbly keynote the theme of how God judges the wicked, and the concluding apostrophe to Death is a brilliant piece of writing." There is considerable irony in the fact that the book was written for Prince Henry, who had ordered the execution of Raleigh's father. Said by Naunton to have been "an indefatigable reader" from childhood, Raleigh lived both an adventurous and educated life. Poet, courtier, explorer, buccaneer, and one-time favorite of Queen Elizabeth, he had an important intersection with American history as the person who attempted to found Roanoke Colony in Virginia in 1587. Raleigh came to a notorious and controversial end when troops under his command attacked and burned the Spanish outpost of San Tomàs after strict royal orders to avoid all further conflict with the Spaniards. Although he was not directly responsible for the attack, he was nevertheless executed as a result of it, becoming a martyred hero ever after to a public antipathetic toward the Spanish, and remaining with unusual immediacy in the loving memory of his wife, who was known to have kept his embalmed head in a red leather bag next to her bed. Our copy of this work is an especially attractive folio edition that is quite pleasing to the eye and to the touch. And while it is certainly not greatly difficult to find some early edition of this work, it is not at all easy to find a copy in such desirable condition. (CMH1825)