Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans


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PLUTARCH. Lives Of The Noble Grecians and Romans, Compared Together, by that Grave Learned Philosopher and Historiographer Plutarch… Translated out of the Greek into French, by James Amiot… and out of French into English, by Sir Thomas North… To which are also added, The Lives of Twenty Selected Eminent Persons, Translated out of the Work of… Andrew Thevet… And Now in this Edition are Further added, The Lives of Several Eminent Persons, Translated out of the aforesaid Andrew Thevet. BOUND WITH: Prosopographia: Or, Some Select Pourtraitures and Lives of Ancient and Modern Illustrious Personages. Collected… by Andrew Thevet. Cambridge: Printed by John Hayes, 1676. Thick folio, contemporary full brown calf rebacked and recornered, raised bands, black morocco spine label.

Expanded and highly desirable sixth edition of the first English translation of Plutarch’s Lives, one of the most influential works of the Elizabethan era and a major Shakespeare source. With 25 “Eminent Persons of Ancient and latter times” by Thevet—five of which are new to this edition, including Christopher Columbus and Hernando Cortéz. In handsome contemporary binding.

“The Lives are works of great learning and research, and Plutarch is careful to quote his authorities, whose number indicates a formidable amount of reading… Early translated, by Amyot into French and by North into English, the influence of Plutarch’s method has been constantly manifest in the biographies of the modern great and in the authors who have been inspired by it. Shakespeare relied almost exclusively on Plutarch for the historical background of ancient Rome” (PMM 48). “North dedicated the book to Queen Elizabeth, and it was one of the most popular of her day. It is written throughout in admirably vivid and robust prose. But it is as Shakespeare’s storehouse of classical learning that it presents itself in its most interesting aspect. To it (it is not too much to say) we owe the existence of the plays of Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra, while A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pericles and Timon of Athens are all indebted to it” (DNB). North’s translation, the first into English, was published in 1579. This copy of the sixth edition bound with André Thevet’s Prosopographia (first published 1584; his last published work), written in imitation of Plutarch’s work, with numerous biographies of later classical, medieval and even contemporary American personages; the 25 biographies and portraits include Cortez, Columbus and Gutenberg. George Gerbier d’Ouvilly’s Thevet first appeared with North’s Plutarch in 1657, although the last five biographies (including Cortez and Columbus) first appeared in this edition. Engraved allegorical frontispiece, featuring portrait of Plutarch, with explanation on facing page. Title page of Lives printed in red and black. With woodcut medallion portraits within ornamental borders throughout Plutarch’s Lives and copper-engraved portraits throughout Thevet’s additional Lives. Decorative woodcut initials and headpieces throughout. With extensive indexes. Plutarch: Wing P2634; Brueggemann, 319-20; Moss II:514; see PMM 48. Thevet: Wing T888A. Armorial bookplate. Pencil notation to front pastedown. Manuscript bibliographic description affixed to recto of front free endpaper; manuscript pencil index to verso. Pencil annotations to Prosopographia title page.

Scattered light foxing and mild marginal dampstaining, minor worming to top margins toward gutter, a few small marginal closed tears. Prosopographia with loss to upper corner of title page and lower corner of E2 (not affecting text). Lives with small marginal hole to 2L2 (not affecting text). Handsome contemporary calf professionally rebacked and recornered. An excellent copy.

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