THE FIRST ACCURATE PARTIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF BEOWULF: PRESENTATION COPY OF CONYBEARE’S ILUSTRATIONS OF ANGLO-SAXON POETRY, 1826, INSCRIBED BY HIS WIFE, IN ORIGINAL BOARDS
CONYBEARE, John Josias. Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry. London: Harding and Lepard, 1826. Quarto, modern half brown calf, raised bands, red morocco spine label, original drab boards. $2500.
First edition, large-paper presentation copy in original boards, which contains the first accurate English partial translation of Beowulf, inscribed by the author’s wife, “From Mrs. Conybeare,” with an autograph note from her laid in that reads, “N.B. The Editor added more than interested me-Please to distinguish his productions from The Author’s.”
“While many a college freshman knows that Beowulf is the oldest English epic”-hailing from as early as the eighth century AD-“we often forget that the poem’s canonization got off to a slow start well into the 19th century… The editio princeps was published in 1815… In 1826, J.J. Conybeare provided the first accurate English synopsis and partial translation of the poem” in this volume (Mancoff, 41-42). Clergyman and Oxford professor, Conybeare demonstrated a “versatility [that] was remarkable. Notwithstanding his strict attention to his clerical duties, he gave some time to chemistry… [and] began to publish upon geology… His devotion to the literature of the Anglo-Saxons was very earnest, and his taste in poetry most refined. In 1826, after his death, his brother, Dean Conybeare, edited and published Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, which contains large portions of the ‘Song of the Traveller’ [i.e., Widsith] and ‘Beowulf” (DNB). Allibone, 420. CBEL I:60. Dean Conybeare-whose editorial efforts the author’s wife gently criticizes in her autograph note-was a prominent geologist and paleontologist.
Interior generally clean, faint dampstaining to endpapers. Light rubbing to spine and joints, moderate wear to original boards. A very nearly fine presentation copy. Scarce.