Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

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This is a book of songs by the Elizabethan poet Michael Drayton (1563-1631) and his magnum opus. He was born in 1563 at Hartshill, near Atherstone, Warwickshire. He began working on his longest poem at least 14 years before publication in 1612. It comprises a series of thousands of twelve syllable rhyming couplets divided into 18 songs or books in praise of the English and Welsh countryside each with accompanying allegorical map. Despite the nature of the text, the work is full of antiquarian and historical detail relating to events and people related to localities. It is relied upon by historians and many of the references are not recorded by William Camden in his opus the ‘Britannia’. This is the true first edition as it is the earliest to include a typographic title and an additional gathering of four leaves containing the ‘Table to the Chiefest Passages’. In the 1622 edition Michael Drayton (1563-1631) complained that the first edition was prematurely made available by the booksellers before the preliminary matter was complete. It is possible that this preliminary matter might also include the portrait. Henry was the eldest son of James I who tragically died of typhoid fever in the same year, 1612.

The work is illustrated with 18 maps of usually two English counties each. Emphasis is placed on the rivers with much ornate decoration. Yates argues that the ‘Poly-Olbion’ was one of the most important attempts during the Stuart era to connect them with the Tudor myth of ‘British’ history. This is best seen in the allegorical title page which displays both the Stuarts and the Tudors as descendants of Brut. It depicts a virginal Albion wrapped in a cloak resembling a map of England. The symbolism suggests that the descriptive ‘maps’ in the work have a serious historical context. Yates asserts that the graceful nymphs displayed on many of the maps recalls the masque of the Tethys Festival given at court in June 1610 on the occasion of the creation of Henry as Prince of Wales. Drayton died 23 December 1631 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Provenance, Charles Traylen; private English collection; Clive A. Burden Ltd. Catalogue IX (2012) item 51; private English collection. Chubb (1927) 33; Cope ‘The Puzzling Aspects of Drayton’s Poly-Olbion’, ‘The Map Collector’ 17 pp. 16-20; ESTC S121632; Shirley (2004) T.Dra 1c; Skelton (1970) 9; STC (1986) 7227; Taylor (1968) II p. 51; Yates (1975).

DRAYTON, Michael

Poly-Olbion or a Chorographicall Description ... By Michaell Drayton Esqr.

London, 1612-[13]
Folio (270 x 185 mm.), full early calf, gilt ruled, rebacked ribbed spine, gilt ruled compartments with gilt date and title. With typographic frontispiece on verso; engraved title trimmed upper right corner; typographic title; engraved portrait of Henry Prince of Wales in the FIRST STATE with some margin restoration; dedication to Henrie Prince of Wales, on the verso verses; address to the Generall Reader [A1]; ‘From the Author of the Illustrations’ (John Selden) dated 9 May 1612 [A2r-A4v]; unpaginated new gathering of 4 leaves of ‘A Table to the Chiefest Passages, in the Illustrations …’; ff. B1r-Dd2r], pp. (22), 303, with 18 double page maps, that of Cornwall with upper centrefold repair, the Gloucestershire with a small repaired tear, several lightly trimmed but all in good condition and dark impressions, otherwise a good example.
Stock number: 10963
£ 4,250
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