Essayes. - Sir William Cornwallis, The beginning of the English essay.


Cornwallis, Sir William

London, 1600


First edition of Part One,  8vo, woodcut device on title, one of two final blank leaves present, bound in full olive morocco by Mounteney, tooled in gilt, all edges gilt, in a custom half morocco box, 120 x 66 mm. ESTC S108699. A gorgeous copy of a very rare book – including this one, only 4 unique copies appear in sales records.  Fine.


Part Two was released in 1601 – Essayes was possibly originally intended as one book rather than two individual parts.


This copy also possesses a distinguished provenance.  Ex-Philip Bliss, Registrar of the University of Oxford from 1824 to 1853, whose books were sold in 1858.  Ex-William A. White, noted turn of the century collector of early English books.  Finally, Ex-Knohls with their bookplate from the Fox Pointe Manor collection.  Two contemporary names, “Matt Perin his Booke” and “Edwd Gower, Taunton” on the title-page.


“This volume of essays is of more importance in the history of the English essay than its intrinsic literary worth would seem to justify…it introduces the personal reminiscence and self-revelation which later became so characteristic of the essay.”(Scribner)


“Like Montaigne’s, the essays of Cornwallis have the improvisatory, digressive, and eclectic character of the letter of private journal; they are by turns self-referential, confiding, and speculative in manner.  His subjects include such standard essay topics as love, ambition, praise, youth, fame, vanity, and fortune.”(Tudor England: An Encyclopedia)


A special copy of a landmark book - the manner in which we communicate our experiences via writing would forever be changed.

Essayes. - Sir William Cornwallis, The beginning of the English essay.