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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’. Skelton identifies the true first edition of 1612 as lacking a typographic title page as here and with the maps in their first state before the addition of numbers. This example is lacking the dedication to Henry Prince of Wales and the accompanying engraved portrait. As this is a rebound example it is difficult to identify if it was ever included. I have seen examples in full contemporary binding issued without these two leaves. The date is taken from the date of registration at Stationers’ Hall and of Seldon’s preface. They may in fact be incomplete examples of the 1613 issue as Drayton complained in the enlarged 1622 edition that it was prematurely made available by the booksellers before the preliminary matter was complete. Sales of the first edition were poor as Drayton cites in the preface of the second part of the 1622 edition ‘because it went not so fast away in the Sale’.

The work is illustrated with 18 maps of usually two English counties each. They contain no title, scale or plate number in this their first state. 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: acquired from ArtLynk in 2002 (pencil inscription inside back cover); Dominic Winter 14 September 2016 lot 423. Chubb (1927) 34; Cope (1981) ‘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; Taylor (1968) II p. 51; Yates (1975).
DRAYTON, Michael

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

London, 1612
Folio (270 x 185 mm.), full modern calf, ornate blind panels, spine with raised bands, blind ruled, blind floral design to each compartment, gilt title, later endpapers. Verses describing the engraved frontispiece, recto blank, engraved allegorical title (with title ‘Poly-Olbion’), verso blank, address by Michael Drayton ‘To the Generall Reader’ [A1], ‘From the Author of The Illustrations’ [John Selden] dated 9 May 1612 [A2r-A4v], text of the 18 songs by Drayton, each song preceded by its proper map most probably engraved by William Hole, all in recent wash colour, pp. (10), 303, misprints in pagination 161 for 167, 285 for 258. Resown, with library stamp to A1, all maps re-guarded minor wormhole running through the lower margin, a couple of maps with one above also.
Stock number: 10135


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