Epistolae Ho-Elianae


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Item#: 124030 price:$600.00

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HOWELL, James. Epistolae Ho-Elianae. Familar Letters Domestic and Forren; Divided into Six Sections, Partly Historicall, Politicall, Philosophicall, Upon Emergent Occasions. London: Printed for Humphrey Moseley, 1645. Octavo, later full brown calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, marbled endpapers. $600.

First edition of this important epistolary narrative mentioning events in 17th-century Britain, with wood-engraved title page by William Marshall, handsomely bound in full calf-gilt by Roger de Coverly.

Originally an agent for a glass merchant who traveled widely for several years, James Howell sought to earn the notice of the Court and eventually earned a position doing diplomatic missions to Spain and Denmark. Then, in 1642, just as he was about to become a Clerk to the Privy Council, he was arrested by the officers of Parliament—at that time at war with King Charles I. His association with the Royal Court forced him into nine years of imprisonment in the Fleet. A year after his release in 1651, he was appointed Historiographer Royal (despite the fact that the Restoration was still nearly a decade off). Howell's "greatest literary achievement lies in Familiar Letters. These have been praised by admirers from Anthony Wood, who thought Howell had 'a singular command of his pen whether in verse or in prose', to Thomas Warton a century later, and to Thackeray, who made Familiar Letters, together with Montaigne's Essais, his bedside book. Many observers, from Wood himself to the Victorian historian S.R. Gardiner, have pointed out the chronological inaccuracies in the letters, and scholars have been wise not to rely on them as evidence for the dates of events. While many of them may have been based on earlier letters that Howell either recalled from memory or had at hand in the Fleet [prison], most were very likely invented by him during his confinement. Since the convention of familiar letter-writing in print was well established, however, it would be wrong to presume that Howell wished to fool his readers. The letters themselves contain so many very obvious chronological and factual clues to their later composition as to suggest that Howell never intended to have them read as genuine correspondence; like so much of his writing they represent a concerted attempt to fashion a public self and to support himself in so doing, making him one of the earliest English writers to have earned his living almost solely from the proceeds of his pen" (DNB). While Aphra Behn wrote the first formal epistolary novel, some scholars argue that Howell's Epistolae Ho-Elianae may have preceded it due to the fictionalization of the narrative. Other scholars, however, argue that significant portions of the narrative can be linked to authentic letters, rendering it a work of non-fiction. Wing H3071. Pforzheimer, 513. ESTC R200142. Laid-in bookplate and owner signature of Holbrook Jackson, a prominent journalist during the early 20th century. Jackson began his career in the arts, founding the Leeds Arts Club and infusing it with his socialist ethos. However, London quickly drew his attention and he moved there and began work as a journalist. He eventually bought The New Age with the help of George Bernard Shaw and began co-editing it with a friend. Jackson left The New Age after an adulterous affair broke up the friendship and moved over to T.P.'s Weekly, which he converted into To-Day. During this period, Jackson was an avid bibliophile. His interest in publishing led him to co-found the Flying Flame Press. Jackson expanded that interest to involvement with other small presses, typography, and, of course, book collecting. Jackson wrote extensively about all of those topics and maintained a high profile in the business. An avid book collector, Jackson left a fascinating library of books reflecting the history of printing. Early marginal ink annotation partially trimmed for binding.

Marginal paper repair to edges of engraved title page, interior generally quite nice with just a few spots of foxing, binding quite lovely. A very nearly fine copy.

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