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A very good example of the first edition of one of the earliest county histories and one of the best by the Leicestershire antiquary and topographer William Burton (1575-1645). He was the brother to the English scholar Robert Burton (1577-1640) best known as the author of ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’. This example bears instead of the usual William Kip map of the county a very rare one by WILLIAM SMITH with which this book has a SPECIAL CONNECTION.

The work was originally written for Burton’s private use, but with the insistence of his patron George, Marquis of Buckingham, it was published. He began work on it in 1597 and had probably completed it by about 1604. If it is criticised for anything it is usually that too much was spent on recording various family genealogies. The plates however are highly rated. The portrait of Burton at the front aged 47 is by the great portrait engraver Francis Delaram. The beautifully engraved title page displays figures of Fame (winged) and Truth (naked), the left side bears a woman representing Leicestershire whilst on the right a woman representing ‘Antiquitye’. At the bottom is a plan of Lindley, Burton’s seat. The text consists of an alphabetical list of the towns and villages each followed by short descriptive text including details of notable buildings and families.

Apart from the fact that this example is in particularly fine condition the most interesting feature is the inclusion of William Smith’s map of Leicestershire and Rutland. The usual map is that of William Kip originally published in the 1607 edition of William Camden’s ‘Britannia’. The map is drawn from that of Christopher Saxton but as we are told on the third page of the address to the reader Burton provided 80 new place names for a map engraved by Jodocus Hondius in Amsterdam, “at the request of a friend of mine [such a shame he didn’t name Smith here!] I rectified (certain yeres passed, Christopher Saxtons mappe of this Countie) with an addition of 80 townes, which was graven at Amsterdam by Jodocus Hondius 1602 and since imitated by M. Speed” (Burton). It was from this map that William Kip drew his. This is one of the few contemporary references to an incomplete series of English County maps which had been known popularly as those of the Anonymous mapmaker. Recent research identified them to be the work of William Smith. This superb example of the map was clearly inserted at a later date most likely commensurate with its publication by John Overton, c.1670. This is the third state of the map; the first two are of great rarity. Provenance: bookplate of The Right Honourable Washington Sewallis Earl Ferrers dated by hand ‘Staunton Hants 1848’; Old Hall Bookshop; private English collection; Clive A. Burden Ltd. Catalogue IX (2012) item 44; private English collection. Anderson (1881) p. 164; Deadman & Brooks ‘Leicestershire’ p. 20; Deadman & Brooks ‘Rutland’ p. 18; ESTC S107138; Lowndes (1864) 330; STC (1986) 4179; Taylor (1968) II 1237; Upcott (1968) pp. 481-2.

BURTON, William

The Description of Leicester Shire, containing matters of antiquitye, historye, armorye, and genealogy. Written by William Burton, Esqu:

Printed for John White at the holy lambe in Litle Brittaine near unto Aldersgate Street, London, [1622]
Quarto (280 x 195 mm.), full eighteenth century ornate blind panelled calf, gilt ruled, rebacked ribbed spine with gilt ruled compartments, preserving original gilt dragon emblazoned calf label, gilt title. With ornate engraved frontispiece portrait laid down, pp. (x) 320 (xii), extra illustrated with a large folding map of Leicestershire and Rutland by William Smith inserted, 109 woodcut coats of arms in the text, in Roman and Italic type with printed side notes, errors of pagination as called for, an excellent example.
Stock number: 10960
£ 1,950
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