Britannia: or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; from the earliest Antiquity. Enlarged by Richard Gough. William CAMDEN.
Britannia: or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; from the earliest Antiquity. Enlarged by Richard Gough.
Britannia: or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; from the earliest Antiquity. Enlarged by Richard Gough.
Britannia: or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; from the earliest Antiquity. Enlarged by Richard Gough.
Britannia: or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; from the earliest Antiquity. Enlarged by Richard Gough.

Britannia…
Britannia: or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; from the earliest Antiquity. Enlarged by Richard Gough.

London: John Nichols, for T. Payne and Son... and G.G.J. and J. Robinson, 1789.

Three volumes, tall folio (452 x 283 mm); with altogether 155 engraved plates and maps comprising frontispiece portrait, 53 double-page or folding engraved maps and four full-page maps by John Cary, nine double-page or folding and 88 full-page plates of artefacts, views and military plans, engraved and woodcut vignettes in the text; magnificent contemporary crimson straight-grain morocco bindings with sunburst roundels in otherwise open compartments of the spine, title and volume numbers lettered direct in two panels, greek key borders in gilt to the sides, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers with inner gilt greek key dentelle borders.

"The British Strabo": a splendid copy in a superb period binding

A glorious copy of this great book, in a superb binding, perhaps by Kalthoeber and certainly in his style and similar to many bindings done for William Beckford at Fonthill. This is one of the last early editions of Camden's great work, which was the first survey of Great Britain county by county and the first study of Roman Britain as perceived in the landscape of 16th-century Britain. It describes itself as "chorographical", meaning that it is a study that relates landscape, geography, antiquarianism and history. Rather than write pure history, Camden described in detail the Great Britain of his present, and set out to show how the past could be examined within the existing landscape, thus producing the first coherent picture of Roman Britain alongside and within a topographical description of the nation based on actual observation.

A glorious copy of this great book, in a superb binding, perhaps by Kalthoeber and certainly in his style and similar to many bindings done for William Beckford at Fonthill. This is one of the last early editions of Camden's great work, which was the first survey of Great Britain county by county and the first study of Roman Britain as perceived in the landscape of 16th-century Britain. It describes itself as "chorographical", meaning that it is a study that relates landscape, geography, antiquarianism and history. Rather than write pure history, Camden described in detail the Great Britain of his present, and set out to show how the past could be examined within the existing landscape, thus producing the first coherent picture of Roman Britain alongside and within a topographical description of the nation based on actual observation.

"William Camden has some claim to be considered as the founder, not merely of antiquarian studies, but also of the study of modern history. His name was distinguished in his lifetime, and his work enjoyed a long popularity after his death… If Camden was not the first English historian (in the modern sense of the word), topographer and antiquarian, he was certainly the first to relate the three studies. The long tradition of accurate and coordinated antiquarian study in Great Britain is almost entirely due to Camden" (PMM).

"In 1586, a thirty-five-year-old schoolmaster named William Camden published an historical and geographical description of the British Isles entitled Britannia. The book was to be immensely successful: six editions in Latin, each one larger than the previous, were published in England during the author's lifetime; and there were continental editions as well. An English translation, made with the help of the author, appeared in 1610, and was reprinted in 1637; a new edition was published in 1695, and was reprinted several times during the eighteenth century; and still another edition appeared in 1789…

"Each generation of antiquaries, it would seem, summed up their work in a new and enlarged Britannia. That such a book as Camden's should be popular in England is not, on the whole, too surprising. Yet the highest praises of all came from the continent, from scholars such as Justus Lipsius and J.J. Scaliger: "the British Strabo", they named Camden, and in an age which prized its classics, there could be no greater eulogy". (F.J. Levy, 'The Making of Camden's Britannia' in Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance T. 26, No. 1 (1964), pp. 70-97).

This is the first edition of Gough's translation (it would be reprinted in 1806) and is distinguished by its superb series of 57 large-scale maps commissioned from John Cary: "Cary's first known engraved plan is dated 1779. Henceforth, the quality of his engraving established new standards and a new style, with his effective, starkly beautiful, plain design being widely adopted. His firm's cartographic output was prolific and diverse, ranging through maps, plans, atlases, astronomical and educational works, road-books (including works based on surveys by Aaron Arrowsmith the elder, who probably trained him), guides, and globes" (DNB).

A gargantuan project, Gough's splendid new translation of Camden's complete text was "a task that took him seven years. The actual printing took a further nine. He was criticized by some for the method which he employed in retaining the original text entire and relegating all his own and Gibson's additions to cumbersome footnotes at the bottom, and also for the accuracy of some of his translations and additions. He professed himself disappointed by the level of public interest. It was on the whole, however, agreed to be a work of immense value and the product of enormous labour. He had planned the enterprise since 1773 and collected new material assiduously from that date. As well as visiting every county himself, he called upon a network of antiquarian friends and correspondents to seek out information, check proofs, and offer suggestions" (R.H. Sweet for DNB).

This is a splendid copy of this great edition, in a superb English binding, with a distinguished provenance.

Provenance: George Cavendish (with "Cavendo tutus" armorial bookplate with coiled serpent above three bucks' heads in each volume, but his name mostly scratched out), probably George Augustus Henry Cavendish, later 1st Earl of Burlington (1754-1834); Lyons Library (armorial bookplates); Sir Stephen Courtauld (with his Apollo bookplate).

Printing and the Mind of Man, 10; Brunet, 1511 ("bien préférable aux précedentes").

Condition Report: A little spotting or browning occasionally through the volumes but overall in fine and attractive condition.

Price (AUD): $9,850.00

US$7,016.46   Other currencies

Ref: #4505176

Condition Report