“ONE OF THE MOST GLORIOUS OF ENGLISH POEMS”: VERY RARE FIRST COMPLETE EDITION OF SPENSER’S FAERIE QUEENE, 1596, HANDSOMELY BOUND
SPENSER, Edmund. The Faerie Queene Disposed into twelve bookes, Fashioning XII. Morall vertues. London: William Ponsonbie, 1596. Two volumes. Small quarto, late-19th century full green morocco gilt, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Housed in a custom cloth chemise. $39,000.
Rare first complete edition of Spenser’s “impressive allegorical epic” (Lacy, 141), finely bound in morocco-gilt by Bedford.
"The Faerie Queene is one of the most glorious of English poems. It is also one of the most seminal; its influence can be traced in a straight line all the way to the 19th-century Romantics. It is no wonder that Lamb called Spenser 'the poet's poet'; he has been a source of inspiration for countless followers" (Kunitz & Haycraft, 488). "Spenser is preeminently a moral poet… The object of his own poem is to make vice ugly and virtue attractive. No other poet has painted with more terrible truth the images of Despair, Slander, Care, Envy and Distraction, the Blatant Beast of Scandal and the brazen dragon of Sin… To Spenser and the men of his age, to all the noble spirits to whom since The Faerie Queene has been an inspiration next only to the Bible and Shakespeare, these things have counted among the most significant forces in the world" (Baugh et al., 498). "Spenser seems to have aimed at nothing less than a comprehensive depiction of 16th-century England, physically, intellectually and morally" (Fantasy and Horror 2-53). Volume I was first published in 1590; the second edition of Volume I was issued with the first publication of Volume II in 1596. Although a reprint of the first edition, this edition of Volume I differs from the first in that it appears without the Ignoto and Twenty-five complimentary sonnets, and the last five stanzas have been rewritten and appear as three stanzas; this edition does, however, contain many alterations for which Spenser himself was responsible. The three commendatory verses appear as in the first edition, and the spaces on page 332 are filled with Welsh words, as with nearly all copies of the first edition. Complete in six books (despite the mention of 12 books in the title, Spenser only wrote six). Full-page woodcut of St. George and the dragon on page 184. STC 23082. Pforzheimer 970 (see also 969). Lowndes, 2476. An English Library, 133.
Text generally clean. A few leaves trimmed a little close along upper edge, just touching running title; leaf Cc1 in Volume I remargined, not affecting text; minor marginal paper repairs to R3 and R5 in Volume I and A2, A3 in Volume II. Morocco-gilt binding quite handsome and fine. A lovely copy.