“AS VALUABLE AS IT IS AMUSING,” “THE FIRST ENGLISH HANDBOOK ON CONTINENTAL TRAVEL”: RARE FIRST EDITION OF CORYATE’S CRUDITIES, 1611, WITH SIX WOODCUT PLATES, HANDSOMELY BOUND
CORYATE, Thomas. Coryats Crudities. Hastily gobled up in five Moneths travells… London: Printed by W[illiam] S[tansby, for the Author], 1611. Octavo, late-19th century full brown paneled morocco gilt, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $28,000.
Rare first edition of the legendary traveler Thomas Coryate’s “lively and informative” account (Baugh et al., 623) of his prolific travels through the major cities of 17th-century Europe, “the first English handbook on continental travel,” long coveted by collectors, illustrated with six woodcut plates (two folding), handsomely bound by Bedford.
“Thomas Coryate (1577?-1617) studied but did not take a degree at Oxford; [of small stature], he eventually he became a kind of jester in the court of James I, where his learning and wit brought him a small income….Coryate probably acquired some property after his father’s death, which allowed him to embark on a tour through Europe in 1608. He visited forty-five countries in five months and produced a journal of his travels…the first English handbook on continental travel” (Kaplan, The Merchant of Venice). Coryate traveled, by his reckoning, some 1,975 miles, most of which he covered by foot, Coryate found it difficult to find a publisher for his account, so “he applied to every person of eminence whom he knew, and many whom he can scarcely have known at all, to write commentary verses upon himself, his book, and his travels, and by his unwearied pertinacity and unblushing importunity contrived to get together the most extraordinary collection of testimonials which have ever been gathered in a single sheaf. More than sixty of the most brilliant and illustrious literati of the time [including Drayton, Chapman, Donne and Jonson, who wrote of Coryate “he is a great and bold carpenter of words”] were among the contributors to this strange farrago, the wits vying with one another in their attempts to produce mock heroic verses, turning Coryate to solemn ridicule. Ben Jonson undertook to edit these amusing panegyrics, which actually fill 108 quarto pages [of the book]… It was the first, and for long remained the only, handbook for continental travel” (DNB). “He had, and still has, a paradoxical reputation. On the one hand, he was a kind of comedian, a learned buffoon, a butt for courtly wits and poets like John Donne and Ben Jonson, who both knew him well. On the other hand, he was the immensely tough and courageous traveler, whose remarkable journeys through Europe and Asia were made almost entirely on foot….The Crudities gives an exhaustive account of his travels in Europe, but his long peregrinations in the East are more sparsely documented” (Charles Nicholl).
In 1612, with the success of the Crudities, Coryate set out on even more ambitious journey, a 5000-mile trek by foot to India, where he died in 1617 of an illness in the port city Surat. “He is often credited with introducing the table fork to England, and his description of how the Italians shielded themselves from the sun resulted in the word ‘umbrella’ being introduced into English… This volume gives a vivid picture of life in Europe during the time; it is particularly important to music historians for giving extraordinary details of the activities of the Venetian School, one of the most famous and progressive contemporary musical movements in Europe” (View from the Bow). With all plates: elaborately engraved title page by William Hole (often lacking), full-page armorial woodcut (the plume of feathers of Henry, Prince of Wales, leaf b4v) and four more woodcut plates (including two folding); also with decorative woodcut head- and tailpieces and initials. STC 5808. Cox I:97. Lowndes, 528. Langland to Wither 49. Bookplate of Albert Ehrman, Broxbourne Library.
Title page skillfully mounted. Usual soiling on letterpress title, mended tear in leaf R8 entering but not obscuring text. Light rubbing to front joint. A lovely copy in excellent condition.