Argenis, figuris aeneis adillustrata, suffixo clave, hoc est, nominum propriorum explicatione, atque indice locupletissimo.

BARCLAY John (1693)


Please contact us in advance if you would like to view this book at our Curzon Street shop.

Engraved frontispiece and 31 plates, woodcut initials and typographic ornaments throughout. Title in red and black. 

12mo (146 x 88mm). [12]ff, 708pp, [18]ff, [31 allegorical plates (of 36)]. Contemporary vellum over thick pasteboard (vellum stained and discoloured). 

Nurnberg, Wolfgangi Mauritii Endterii, 

Rare edition of this allegorical political romance by Scottish writer John Barclay (1582-1621), the second of four to be produced by the Endter press in Nurnberg. The first edition was published in Paris in 1621. Barclay himself died only eighteen days after it was finished, and so did not live to see this, his most famous work, in print. It was exceedingly popular, going through more than fifty reprints during the seventeenth century, translated into English, French, Spanish and German (as well as Greek, Dutch and Polish), produced in several abridged editions, and transformed into and performed as a play. 

This Neo-Latin romance is a political commentary, moralistic allegory, heroic blockbuster and utopian vision rolled into one. Telling the story of Sicilian princess Argenis and her suitor Poliarchus, Barclay meditates on the 'components of good government; and sensationally portrayed the darker side of the conduct of political celebrities' (Glomski). Providing a commentary on the political wheeling and dealing he observed while attendant at court in Rome, Barclay offers a vision of a successful political system that centres on hereditary monarchy as the most desirable, and successful, form of government. With parallels drawn between this work and other Utopian works by Thomas More and Philip Sidney, this work was, briefly, politically influential and widely read, despite its formidable length and language; it purportedly took Samuel Pepys three years to battle through the volume of the Argenis he bought in 1660. 

Front free endpaper and gathering E working loose, and half of plates working loose or detached. Tear in upper portion of frontispiece, in gutter and through text of p.151, through plate at p.404, with some loss at upper fore-edge. 

VD17, 23:331092B.

J. Glomski, 'From Page to Stage: The Appeal of John Barclay's Argenis', Studia Aurea 10 (2016), 273-91.  

Stock Code: 227967

close zoom-in zoom-out close zoom