The First Printing of Dryden and Lee's Extremely Successful Adaptation of Sophocles


(London: Printed for R. Bentley and M. Magnes, 1679). 208 x 150 mm. (8 1/8 x 6"). 4 p.l., 78 pp., [1] leaf (epilogue). FIRST EDITION.

19th century half vellum and marbled boards, smooth spine, black label with gilt lettering. Macdonald 83a; Wing D-2322; ESTC R22022. Vellum slightly spotty and soiled, boards with a hint of chafing and one or two minor imperfections, but the binding completely sound and with attractive marbling; light dampstain across preliminary leaves, top and bottom margins trimmed rather close, occasionally cutting into the running title and with most catchwords and signatures affected, the final line or two of text on a dozen or so leaves either partially or completely cut away, other very minor imperfections, but the contents surprisingly clean and bright throughout.

An imitation of Sophocles' classic tragedy "Oedipus Rex," this work, adapted to the tastes of Restoration audiences, enjoyed immense success and became the preferred version performed on English stages well into the 18th century. In addition to Sophocles, co-writers Dryden (1631-1700) and Lee (1649?-92) also consulted re-tellings of "Oedipus" by Seneca and contemporary French playwright Pierre Corneille to inform their own work, making several important changes to the traditional plotline: a new romantic subplot is introduced, the character Creon takes on the role of the villain, and, most dramatically of all, the play ends with the slaughter of just about every character--either by murder or suicide. Copies of our first edition of this work are rare on the market: in RBH and ABPC we could trace just one copy listed at auction in the last 35 years.

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PJP Catalog: Transatlantic21.031