London: Printed by Adam Islip, 1601. First English language edition. Two folio volumes bound in one, measuring 228 x 355mm. Collates , 614, ; 632,  pages: complete. Bound in 19th century polished calf and recently rebacked to style, red morocco spine labels. All edges stained red. Bookplates of Bryan Faufsett and Marcus Crahan on front pastedown and inserted slip from early owner Jacob Winsor (dated 1656) between pages 234-35 of volume 2. Winsor's marginal notes throughout both volumes, confined to the text's wide margins. Occasional marginal dampstaining not affecting text, but in all an exceptionally pleasing, clean copy of this important work.
The only extant text of the seven titles authored by Pliny, the History was considered the leading authority on natural sciences up to the Middle Ages. "The Natural History of Pliny the Elder is more than a natural history: it is an encyclopaedia of all the knowledge of the ancient world. It comprises 37 books with mathematics and physics, geography and astronomy, medicine and zoology, anthropology and physiology, philosophy and history...Over and over again it will be found that the source of some ancient piece of knowledge is Pliny" (PMM 5). This first appearance in English of Pliny's work expanded the book's sphere of influence, allowing not only the Latin literate to access its contents but vernacular readers as well. While advancements in Renaissance scientific study led most scholars by this time to reject the tome's claims on natural history, Pliny remained an enduring reference for mythology and history for writers including Shakespeare and Milton. By the 19th century, "scholars conclusively demonstrated the historical importance of the Natural History as one of the greatest literary momuments of classical antiquity, and it remains of value to those who wish an honest resume of first century Rome" (Britannica).
Printing and the Mind of Man 5 (in Latin). ESTC S115918. (Item #2778)