Catalog Archive
Auction 174, Lot 806

"The History of the World, in Five Books...", Raleigh, Walter (Sir)

Subject: History Books

Period: 1677 (published)


Color: Black & White

9.9 x 14.9 inches
25.1 x 37.8 cm
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Sir Walter Raleigh, an adventurer and poet, wrote The History of the World about the ancient history of Greece and Rome while imprisoned in the Tower of London from 1607-1614. The book was immediately banned by King James I, apparently due to unflattering portrayals of Babylonian Queen Semiramis and her effeminate son, Ninus. This later edition was published well after his beheading in 1618. The 885 pages of main text is divided into five books with 7 folding plates (of 8), including six maps engraved by William Hole (although none are attributed to him). Of particular interest is the untitled map of the region around Sicily, with miniature bird's-eye views of major towns and a flaming Mt. Etna. The map features two large inset plans: the Siege in Syracuse (214-212 BC) during the Second Punic War in which the city fell to the Romans and thereby united all of Sicily as a Roman province; and a plan of Carthage, which was destroyed during the Third Punic War. The volume also includes a frontispiece portrait of Raleigh and a fascinating allegorical title page centering on Magistra Vitae, a representation of History who supports a globe flanked by the personifications of Good and Evil. Folio, hardbound in contemporary leather (rebacked) with raised bands on spine.

References: Shirley (TP) #35.

Condition: B

The maps are mostly very good with light toning that is more prominent along the sheet edges. Text is good to very good with light toning, occasional scattered foxing, and minor chips along the fore-edge of several sheets. The first few pages (including the portrait) have been reattached using binder's tape and there is a former owner's bookplate on the front pastedown. Rebacked with the original spine label and boards, which are moderately rubbed and chipped.

Estimate: $1,000 - $1,300

Sold for: $500

Closed on 9/11/2019