Among his landmark publications are Astrophil and Stella and The Countess of Pembrokes Arcadia, but it was a famous early exercise in literary criticism which sold for $120,000 (£86,330) to an un-named institution.
The Defence of Poesie was printed for the first time in 1595. A copy offered as part of a March 8 sale (as briefly mentioned in ATG No 2334) held by Swann (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) in New York was one of two copies of this enormously influential treatise issued in that year – set from different manuscripts.
Though initially licensed for printing by William Ponsonby, it was first published as An Apologie for Poetrie by Henry Olney.
However, after successfully asserting his claim to precedence, Ponsonby took over the unsold Olney copies and substituted his own title for that of the unauthorised edition.
Generally clean in a late 18th century binding, this copy had been valued at just $6000-9000, but no other example of the original edition features in auction records over the last 40 or more years.
Also part of the Swann sale was an exceptionally rare example of the earliest extant manual on playing chess. Published in Salamanca c.1496-97, Luis de Acena’s Arte de ajedres contains a discussion of 11 openings and 150 problems and features some 161 woodcut chessboard diagrams within woodcut borders.
Thought to be based on a 1495 work in the Catalan language by Francesc – no copy of which is now known to survive – it was preceded in the Salamanca edition by a poem called Repetición de amores, but that work was no longer present in the New York copy.
Soiled and worn, foxed and stained, as well as crudely re-marginned and re-hinged in its old limp vellum binding with thong catches and clasps, it had many faults of condition. However, with auction records showing only another incomplete copy sold for £8200 at Sotheby’s in 1984, this one was bid to $55,000 (£39,570).