London: Imprinted [by Richard Field] for William Ponsonbie, 1598. Folio, , 576 pp. Title within elaborate woodcut frame. Contemporary mottled calf, raised bands, rebacked. Title within woodcut border, with the initial blank, woodcut headpieces and initials. Preliminary blank absent, title, first, and last leaf washed and pressed, some browning and spotting throughout, pinhole worming intermittently in bottom gutter and tiny pinholes to a few leaves mid-foredge. With some damp stains and spots, overall a good copy complete without the first blank. Leather bookplate of C. A. and V. Baldwin. An acceptable copy of the truly rare third edition of one of the most important Elizabethan literary texts. The Evelyn-Garden-Pirie copy also with some repairs and flaws was the last copy to appear at auction ($56,000 2016). William Ponsonby’s edition reprinted by Sidney’s sister, the Countess of Pembroke, is considered the definitive text of his works to that time, opening with Arcadia, followed by the first printing of Certaine Sonets, which Sidney probably wrote between 1577 and 1581, The Defence of Poesie, and Astrophel and Stella. William Shakespeare borrowed from Arcadia for the Gloucester subplot of King Lear; traces of the work's influence may also be found in Hamlet and The Winter's Tale. Other dramatizations also occurred: Samuel Daniel's The Queen's Arcadia, John Day's The Isle of Gulls, Beaumont and Fletcher's Cupid's Revenge, the anonymous Mucedorus, a play of the Shakespeare Apocrypha, and, most overtly, in James Shirley's The Arcadia. C. S. Lewis describes Arcadia as “Shakespeare’s book, Charles I’s book, Milton’s book, Lamb’s book, our own book” (English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, 1954, 333). The rarity and significance of this 1598 edition was noted by Quaritch in 1930 (cat. 436 English History and Literature #1645): “Very rare... It may be regarded without exaggeration as one of the most important Elizabethan prose works.” Provenance: John Howell-Books (cost code in back): sold to Virginia Hobart (m. Baldwin): C. A. and V. Baldwin book plate: Mary Ann Gibbons (née Baldwin).
STC 22541; ESTC S111864; Grolier/Langland to Wither 215. Britwell Handlist p. 896. Woof, Hebron, and Woof, English Poetry, pp. 47-51. Several copies listed on ESTC appear to be ghosts, electronic versions, or imperfect -- e.g. the Folger has three copies, all imperfect. Item #108051