"THE UNFOLDING OF A MIND OF GENIUS IN DIALOGUE WITH ITSELF": RARE 1613 SECOND EDITION IN ENGLISH OF MONTAIGNE'S ESSAYES
MONTAIGNE. Essayes Written In French… Done Into English, according to the last French edition, by John Florio. London: Melch. Bradwood for Edward Blount and William Barret, 1613. Folio (8 by 11-1/2 inches), contemporary full brown calf rebacked, gilt ornamental lozenges, raised bands, later black spine label. $12,500.
Second edition in English of Montaigne's seminal masterpiece, with the important Elizabethan translation of John Florio used by Shakespeare as a source for The Tempest (circa 1611), from the library of noted British poet Peter Scupham, co-founder of Mandeville Press.
"Montaigne startles the common reader at each fresh encounter, if only because he is unlike any preconception we bring to him… His scope and capaciousness sometimes approach Shakespearean dimensions… Montaigne's [is]… the first personality ever put forward by a writer as the matter of his work. Walt Whitman and Norman Mailer are indirect descendants of Montaigne, even as Emerson and Nietzsche are his direct progeny… He represents—not everyman… but very nearly every man who has the desire, ability, and opportunity to think and to read" (Bloom, Western Canon, 147-151). "Montaigne devised the essay form in which to express his personal convictions and private meditations, a form in which he can hardly be said to have been anticipated… He finds a place in the present canon, however, chiefly for his consummate representation of the enlightened skepticism of the 16th century, to which Bacon, Descartes and Newton were to provide the answers in the next" (PMM 95). Here is "the unfolding of a mind of genius in dialogue with itself and with the world" (Hollier, 250). "It is generally accepted that Shakespeare used Florio's translation when writing the passage on the natural commonwealth in his Tempest" (Pforzheimer 378). Initially published in French in 1580, Montaigne's Essayes were first published in English in 1603, with this translation. Continuously paginated with separate title pages for the second and third books; woodcut-engraved title pages; elaborate ornamental woodcut-engraved initials and headpieces throughout. Without frontispiece portrait of Florio; without rear blank. Occasional mispagination as issued without loss of text; a few minor marginal paper flaws. STC 18042. Lowndes, 1588. ESTC S111840. See Langland to Wither 102. With owner bookplate of British poet, editor and co-founder of the prestigious Mandeville press, Peter Scupham. "His formal and technically adroit poems have been seen as continuing the tradition of Hardy, Frost and Edward Thomas… In 1972, together with John Mole and Roger Burford Mason, Scupham edited a series of 'Cellar Press Poems,' each featuring a single poem with an accompanying illustration. From 1974 onwards, he and Mole began to use a 1930s machine press, a flatbed press and a small treadle press to issue editions under the Mandeville imprint, named after the supposed medieval traveler" (Cambridge University Special Collections). Early library inkstamps to title page recto and verso.
Text generally fresh with lightest scattered foxing, title page evidence of bookplate removal, expert restoration to corner not affecting text, occasional faint marginal dampstaining mainly to early leaves, expert restoration to board extremities. An extremely good copy with a memorable provenance.