Publisher: [London:] Printed for Edmund Mattes, 1600 [&] London: Printed for Edmond Matts, 1601.
Edition: First editions of both volumes. Rare.
Bibliographical References: STC 5775; ESTC S108699; NCBEL I, 2017; Pforzheimer 214.
Condition: Calf a little rubbed and worn; vellum soiled and cockled; very good copies.
Book ID: 26967
Description2 vols, small octavo, volume one in late 18th century tree-calf, black leather label, gilt decorations and lettering; volume two in contemporary vellum, spine lettered in manuscript. Vignette title-pages.
CommentsA seminal collection of English essays and the first book by Sir William Cornwallis (c. 1579-1614), who along with Francis Bacon and Henry Peacham - and following the model of Michel de Montaigne - helped to make the informal essay an important part of 17th century English literature. Cornwallis draws from a variety of classical and contemporary sources, including Tasso, Commines, and Guicciardini; he quotes the Old and New Testaments, proverbs, fables, sermons, and commonplace books in his discourses on matters such as fame, affection, praise and glory, resolution, vanity, justice, words, flattery, etc. This is a mixed set of the two volumes; they are sometimes catalogued separately as individual books, but the second series is clearly a continuation of the first: Essays 1-25 constitute volume one and 26-50 volume two. Bookplate of Sylvain van de Weyer and John Clawson in volume one; signature of Thomas Ryme, dated 1615, on the title-page of volume two, and on the final blank is the signature of Samuel Deaken, dated 1727. Bookplate of Robert S. Pirie on the front free endpaper of volume one; the two volumes were purchased by Pirie from bookseller John Fleming in 1966.