Life of Merlin

Thomas HEYWOOD

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Item#: 109671 price:$5,500.00

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"HOW GENUINELY AND PROPERLY THEY COMPLY WITH THE TRUTH OF OUR CHRONOLOGIE": RARE FIRST EDITION OF HEYWOOD'S LIFE OF MERLIN, 1641, IN CONTEMPORARY CALF BOARDS

(HEYWOOD, Thomas). The Life of Merlin, Sirnamed Ambrosius. His Prophesies, and Predictions Interpreted; and their truth made good by our English Annalls… London: Printed by J. Okes to be sold by Jasper Emery, 1641. Small quarto, contemporary full dark brown calf rebacked, later red morocco spine label, flyleaves renewed, old endpapers retained. $5500.

First edition of Heywood's compilation of political prophecies and predictions attributed to King Arthur's celebrated seer, with engraved frontispiece portrait of Merlin, in contemporary calf boards.

Heywood, the prolific and popular dramatist whom Charles Lamb called "the prose Shakespeare," did not limit his literary efforts to the stage. He also translated Lucian and other Latin authors; and produced The Life of Merlin, a work based on older English chroniclers including Holinshed and Speed, and "much less concerned with the biography than with the political forecasts of the sage. With the benefit of hindsight, Heywood provided an account that he claimed was Merlin's own prophecy, and which accurately foretold the course of English history up to the coronation of King Charles I. At that point, Heywood wisely paused" (Simpson, "Merlin and Hull," Quondam et Futurus 3:1 [1993], 60). Heywood was somewhat informed by Geoffrey of Monmouth's Prophetiae Merlini (1134), "a sequence of now hopelessly obscure statements" in which Merlin "prophesies a Celtic resurgence which will overthrow the conquering Saxons" (Clute & Grant, 638). Heywood's book, however, "was designed to attract that growing public which, worried and confused by the shadow of the coming troubles, might hope for guidance in this farrago of prognostications in much the same way that the public seizes upon each new economic forecast of today… It appears to have been the forerunner of a flood of 'Prophesies'" (Pforzheimer 478). Frontispiece engraving of Merlin reading a book called "The Red Dragon" with Thong Castle and both real and imaginary animals in the background, "generally attributed to [Wenzel] Hollar" (Wither to Prior 448). With woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces. Wing H1786. Lowndes, 1064. Early owner ink signature to title page, signature and Latin annotations to front flyleaf and rear pastedown; later bookplate.

Text generally clean, engraved frontispiece portrait of Merlin with expert paper repairs to top edge not affecting printing, light expert restoration to contemporary calf boards. An extremely good copy.

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