“THE SPOKESMAN BEFORE GOD OF A VIRILE, UNCONQUERABLE HUMANITY”: 1640 FIRST EDITION OF JOHN DONNE’S LXXX SERMONS
DONNE, John. LXXX Sermons Preached By That Learned And Reverend Divine, John Donne, Dr. In Divinity, Late Deane of the Cathedrall Church of S. Pauls London. London: Richard Royston and Richard Marriot, 1640. Folio (9-1/2 by 14 inches), contemporary full brown calf rebacked, raised bands, red morocco spine label, new endpapers. $5500.
Rare first edition of the first collection of sermons by “the outstanding preacher of his day” and one of the greatest poets in the language (Baugh et al., 613), a landmark of English literature and piety.
Donne remains a towering figure in English literature no less for his preaching than for his poetry. “Of Donne’s estimated 180 sermons, the extraordinary total of 160 survive— monumental evidence that he was both a prolific and a popular preacher. The reasons for his popularity are clear: the sermons are not only rich in learning and curious lore; they are characteristically personal and powerful in their phrasing… At his most characteristic, he is the spokesman before God of a virile, unconquerable humanity” (Norton, 913, 918). Now considered “very rare,” this volume of sermons is one of three folios issued posthumously by Donne’s son between 1640 and 1660 (Allibone, 513). In addition to Donne’s addresses for major Christian festivals and his masterful expositions of the penitential psalms, LXXX Sermons also contains the first appearance of Walton’s Life of Donne, the standard biographical text, “written with an extraordinary grace and spontaneity” (Keynes, 239). Engraved title page supplied in facsimile; without the first and last blank leaves. STC 7038. Keynes 29. Grolier Club 62. Lowndes, 660.
Text remarkably clean and bright, only minor rubbing to corners of contemporary calf. An about-fine copy.