A Scarce Copy of First Printings of Works by a Poet of Lasting Influence For His "Fertile Imagination, Sensuous Imagery, and Melodic Language"

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(London: Imprinted for William Ponsonbie, dwelling in Paules Churchyard at the signe of the Bishops head, 1591). 182 x 130 mm. (7 1/4 x 5 1/4"). [91] leaves (lacking blank Z4). FIRST EDITION.

Late 19th century green crushed morocco by Riviere & Son (stamp-signed on front turn-in), covers with decorative gilt lozenge centerpiece, raised bands, gilt lettering, gilt-ruled turn-ins. Housed in a modern brown buckram chemise and attractive morocco-backed slipcase. Main title page with woodcut border (McKerrow & Ferguson 117), section titles for three of the poems with woodcut frame, woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces. Front pastedown with engraved armorial bookplate of Charles Lilburn and ex-libris of Kenneth Rapoport. Langland to Wither 235; Hayward 23; Johnson 14; Pforzheimer 968; STC 23078; ESTC S111266. Spine sunned to olive brown, faint fading and soiling to covers, just a hint of rubbing to corners and spine ends, contents lightly washed and pressed (in keeping with bibliophilic fashion at the time of binding), occasional small spot or other trivial imperfection, but an excellent copy, clean and fresh internally, in a perfectly pleasant binding.

This is an appealing copy of one of the less frequently encountered first editions of Edmund Spenser (ca. 1552-99), the first modern English poet to achieve major stature. It comprises a collection of six poems and three translations assembled by publisher William Ponsonby in order to capitalize on the recently experienced success of "The Faerie Queene." In the preface, Ponsonby describes these poems as "complaints and meditations of the worlds vanitie, very grave and profitable." The included works, some dating back to Spenser's college days, are: "The Ruines of Time," "The Teares of the Muses," "Virgils Gnat," "Proposia, Or Mother Hubberds Tale," "Ruines of Rome," "Muiopotmos, or the Fate of the Butterflie," "Visions of the Worlds Vanitie," "Bellayes Visions," and "Petrarches Visions." Six of these are original poems (all previously unpublished), and three are translations (one unpublished and two revised). Unfortunately, "Proposia" was a political satire on the attempts to arrange a marriage between Elizabeth I and the Duc d'Alençon that resulted in the entire volume being banned. That poem was omitted from early editions of the collected minor poems. Day says Spenser demonstrated "with his fluency in many meters and stanzaic forms . . . that English was at least the equal to any other language as a vehicle of great poetry." Although his poetry, particularly "The Faerie Queene," looks backward--as the culmination of the allegorical verse tradition of the Pearl Poet, Langland, and Chaucer--Spenser has influenced with "his fertile imagination and especially his sensuous imagery and melodic language" nearly every important English poet who followed him. Former owner Ken Rapoport amassed an outstanding collection over 50 years, with special emphasis on works of drama and poetry by English and Spanish authors, among them Shakespeare, Spenser, and Cervantes. "Complaints" is scarce, is virtually never found except in a modern binding, and is usually seen in unappealing internal condition.
(ST18266)

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PJP Catalog: 81.165

(ST18266) COMPLAINTS. EDMUND SPENSER.
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