RARE FIRST EDITION OF D’AVENANT’S THE PLATONICK LOVERS, 1636, HANDSOMELY BOUND BY RIVIERE, THE COPY OF CELEBRATED BOOK COLLECTORS DONALD AND MARY HYDE
D’AVENANT, William. The Platonick Lovers. A Tragaecomedy. Presented at the Private House in the Black-Dyers, by his Majesties Servants. London: Printed for Richard Meighen, 1636. Small quarto, late 19th-century three-quarter navy morocco, raised bands, marbled boards and endpapers. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. $4500.
Rare first edition of one of the first English plays on platonic love and arguably the finest English-language satirical play, handsomely bound by Riviere. The copy of esteemed book collectors Donald and Mary Hyde, known for their unparalleled collection of 18th-century English literature.
When Henrietta Maria of France married Charles I of England on June 13, 1625 and became Queen consort, a number of French things immediately came into fashion. Among these was a revival of the medieval cult of platonic love. Sir William Davenant—styled here, appropriately enough, as d’Avenant—became a leading exponent of the new fashion in a number of very popular plays. While Davenant evidently resisted writing in the genre, he apparently did so under pressure. This play, for example, was apparently written at the Queen’s request: “From Court… [the Poet] had command / T’interpret what hee scarce doth understand.” The Platonick Lovers remains well-known as one of the finest English-language satirical plays ever written. In it, Davenant deftly mocked the snobbery of platonic (or courtly) love—in short, he mocked the Queen herself—but did so with such subtlety and elegance that the play was deemed a massive success. In addition to The Platonick Lovers, Davenant also wrote two other plays on the subject of platonic love: Love and Honour and The Temple of Love (a masque written with famous British architect Inigo Jones). Final leaf L1 printed as A4 and bound at end, as usual. STC 6305. Greg 506(a). Bookplate of Donald and Mary Hyde (later Mary, Viscountess Eccles), the famous book collectors. The Hydes spent over half a century compiling their collection, establishing Johnson and Boswell at its center and building it out to include friends and contemporaries as Tobias Smollett, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Alexander Pope, and David Garrick. “With more than 4,000 volumes, approximately 5,500 letters and manuscripts, and more than 5,000 prints, drawings, and objects, [the core of their collection] paints a broad yet detailed picture of 18th century English literature and culture” (Harvard University). However, the Hydes were by no means limited to the 18th century and their complete collection included other rare first editions, manuscripts, and letters drawn from the full scope of English literary history. This work is one such rarity. Interestingly, Mary, Viscountess Eccles, also amassed the second largest Oscar Wilde collection in the world. Following her marriage to her second husband, the 1st Viscount Eccles, Mary eventually bequeathed that collection to the British Library, where it now resides. Pencil owner signature. Armorial bookplate. Two tiny ink notations on title page.
Small hole in type ornament at top of A3, expert paper repairs to corner of B1 and title page without loss, only slight rubbing to binding. An exceptional copy, with an outstanding provenance.