London: M. Flesher for Richard Mynne, 1634. First English language edition. Translated out of the original Greek; with notes: by Meric Casaubon, Marcus Aurelius' extremely influential expression of Stoic philosophy.
Small quarto (185 x 132 mm), without blank A1, otherwise complete as issued. Mid 20th-century plain calf, spine gilt-lettered and dated direct, double gilt rules, red edges. Engraved plate. Bookplate of the Philadelphia architect Hamilton Vogdes (1893–1979) to front pastedown. With contemporary marginalia and underlining on approximately 50 pages, often struggling to reconcile the text with Christian orthodoxy, a few comments just shaved at fore edge. Light toning to contents, a very copy.
First edition in English, a translation that proved an enduring success, remaining in print into the 20th century. "The charitable-sociable Stoicism of Casaubon's Marcus Aurelius appealed to a peaceful cosmic holism and rational moral duty in urging the pious conformity widely praised by Stuart advocates of the established church" (Barbour, English Epicures and Stoics, p. 195). In the 19th century Marcus Aurelius’ reputation became increasingly contested, on the one hand being praised by liberal Anglican scholars who read his Stoicism as prefiguring Christianity, on the other championed by a number of prominent writers who found it difficult to believe in the existence of God at all.
Copies have occasionally appeared on the market with the Faithorne engraved portrait of Marcus Aurelius from Gataker’s edition of 1652 inserted as frontispiece, but none is called for in this edition. Aside from the initial blank, this copy is complete as issued. The engraved plate in the section of notes illustrates three Roman pots from the collection of Henry Dering of Kent.
“No one would now dare write a book like Marcus Aurelius’ To Himself, or, as we call it in English, The Meditations, and present it to the world as philosophy. He didn’t either. But once published, these, his most intimate thoughts, were considered among the most precious of all philosophical utterances by his contemporaries, by all Western Civilization after they returned to favor at the Renaissance, and most especially by the Victorian English, amongst whom The Meditations was a household book” (Rexroth, Classics Revisited, 112).
STC 962. Palmer, 16. Harris, 100. (Item #1857)