7 June 2006
PLATO. His Apology of Socrates, and Phaedo or dialogue concerning the immortality of mans soul, and manner of Socrates his death. Translated by Walter Charleton (1619-1707). London: T[homas] R[atcliffe] and N[athaniel] T[hompson] for James Magnes and Richard Bentley, 1675.
8° (180 x 113mm). Engraved frontispiece by R. White, title printed in red and black. (Without first and last blanks, occasional light marginal spotting.) Contemporary calf, sprinkled edges (covers detached, spine worn, back cover split); boards wrapped in old covering tipped at pastedowns.
FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH of the Apology and Phaedo, AND THE FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS EVER PRINTED OF AUTHENTIC DIALOGUES OF PLATO (Jayne p.139). Plato remained relatively unread in England until the 17th century, so that John Brinsley in 1612 could complain that there was no English translation of any of Plato's works in print for students to use in translation exercises. The idea of Platonic love became fashionable at the royal court, as evidenced in the plays of Jonson, but it was not until late in the 17th century that Plato gained prominence in scholarly circles such as the Cambridge Platonists. The present first edition of two of Plato's authentic dialogues was preceded only by the pseudo-Platonic Axiochus translated by Spenser (printed in 1592 and known in a unique copy only) and a selection of Plato's dialogues printed for school use in 1673. The identity of the translator of these dialogues was revealed when a copy was found presented to John Evelyn by the translator, Walter Charleton (see Evelyn Library sale, Christie's 16 March 1978, lot 1187). Wing P-2405; cf. Sears Jayne, Plato in Renaissance England, 1995, esp. p.139.
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