Title: An Essay Upon Statius: or, the Five First Books of Publ. Papinius Statius his Thebais. Done Into English Verse by T.S. With the Poetick History Illustrated.
Publication: London: printed for Richard Royston, 1648.
Description: First edition. 8vo., pp.[xiv], 152 including portrait frontispiece. Bound without preliminary blanks. Woodcut headpieces. Small burn hole to leaf C4 affecting a couple of lettters, a few small spots and smudges. 19th-century tan polished calf, neatly rebacked with original spine retained, two black morocco and gilt labels to spine, edges sprinkled grey, some pencilled bibliographical notes to endpapers, A few scrapes to lower board, corners a little worn, but still very good. Bookplate of Christopher Rowe to front paste-down. From the library of Thomas Park (1758/9–1834), antiquary and bibliographer, with his signature to the title-page but sadly without the heavy annotation for which he was known.
The first translation of Statius into English. Stephens (d.1677), headmaster of the grammar school at Bury St Edmunds, claims in the prefatory material that the translation is purely for use by his students. Indeed, it does serve to as introduction to Statius’ poetry during a time ‘increasingly hostile to his aesthetics as well as to his politics’. However, this claim is shown to be a little disingenuous, as Stephens’ Royalist sympathies are quite apparent in his translation. He ‘seems to have seen in Statius’ Thebaid a poem for his times that, translated, could provide an oblique commentary on English politics and the crisis of monarchy.’ (Brill’s Companion to Statius, p.603)
This work appears at a fraught point in the career of its publisher Richard Royston, ‘staunch supporter of the church and the crown’. Imprisoned in the Fleet from July to October of 1645 for issuing an anti-parliament parody of Robert Ram's Soldier's Catechism, by 1648 he was embroiled in the controversial publication of Eikon Basilike, allegedly written by Charles I during his incarceration. ‘Royston's involvement with the publication had begun earlier and by the end of 1648 he contrived to get Eikon into print, using a series of printers, and began distributing it. Although it has been suggested that he was imprisoned for publishing the King's Book, there is no evidence of this. However, in October 1649, nine months after the execution of Charles I, Royston was called before the council of state and was bound in £500 to appear ‘when required, and not to print or sell any unlicensed books or pamphlets in the meantime’ (CSP dom., 1649–50, 524).’ (ODNB)
Bibliography: ESTC R21944; Wing S5335
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