MONTAIGNE, MICHEL EYQUEM DE [JOHN FLORIO, trans.] The Essayes Or Morall, Politike and Millitarie Discourses of Lo: Michaell de Montaigne...
London: Valentine Sims for Edward Blount, 1603. First edition in English. Period calf, three parts in one volume, the covers (neatly and appropriately rebacked, likely early- to mid-20th century, probably by Riviere), both covers with double-rule borders, each bearing the armorial stamp of Elizabeth I (stamp 28, 67 x 43 mm, see below), housed in a handsome red morocco pull-off case by Riviere, all edges red. 11 5/16 x 7 1/8 inches (28.75 x 18 cm); xx, 664 pp., plus 2 ff. bearing 3 pp. of errata (of a possible three errata leaves that were eventually issued); separate title-pages for each of the three books, woodcut vignettes of altars on verso of first title-page, woodcut headpieces and initials, a few headpieces composed of printer's ornaments, woodcut tailpiece cartouche at the end of the first book. Collates perfect, A^(8) [par.]^(2) B-Q^(6) R^(4) S-2P^(6) 2Q-2R^(4) 2S-3I^(6) 3K^(4) [3L]^(2). Rebacked as noted, with some restorations to extremities. Internally a few marginal restorations, small hole on leaf 3G4 affecting one letter, a little light staining and soiling, but in all a generally exceptionally bright and fresh copy, apparently unwashed and unsophisticated. A few contemporary or near-contemporary annotations, and with the original slip cancel on B1r line 25 ("vyle"). The Reverend Philip Bliss/Paul Francis Webster copy, with Bliss's mark ("P" before the signature notation on B1) and Webster's book label.
John Florio's superb translation of Montaigne is a Shakespearian source-book; Shakespeare almost certainly read this edition of Montaigne, and The Tempest (1610-1611) draws on it for a variety of matters. The British Library has a copy that is supposedly signed by Shakespeare, although the authenticity of the signature has been disputed (though not completely disproven). The publisher, Edward Blount, also issued the first folio edition of Shakespeare's works in 1623.
Montaigne, in essence, invented--or at least vastly refined--the essay form in this work. His subject was human nature in all its manifestations, and of this subject he wrote penetratingly, compassionately and amusingly. The Essais almost certainly influenced Francis Bacon's own great Essays of 1596.
An interesting feature of the present copy is the armorial binding. The British Armorial Bindings database (https://armorial.library.utoronto.ca/) codifies the armorial of Elizabeth I appearing on this copy as their stamp 28; it is not as crisply tooled as the example shown, but in dimensions and form it is identical. The database notes this as appearing on another copy of the present work in the Royal Library of Windsor Castle, and also on the fourth edition of Sir Philip Sidney's The countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia, 1605, in the British Library, so this seems to have been in use 1604-5. We note one other copy at auction also with Elizabeth's arms (sold 1963).
The present copy has a pencilled note on the blank preceding the title "This volume belonged to the library of Cro- Ferguson and was purchased at the sale of his books in 18- by John Scott price £0.7 (Sotheby's)." It was later owned by the collector the Rev. Philip Bliss (1787-1857), and bears his mark as noted. Passing through Quaritch (old collation note), this was later sold in the 1985 Paul Francis Webster auction by Sothebys; it passed through E. Joseph (cataloguing slip) and Black Sun Books in New York (invoice) to the former owner.
STC 18041; ESTC S111839; Pforzheimer 378 etc.
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