First edition of the first printed translation into English of a substantial portion of this classic poem of ancient Rome on scientific principles, exploring atomism and natural explanations for the world.
"The rediscovery in the fifteenth century of Lucretius' DE RERUM NATURA was a challenge to received ideas. The poem offered a vision of the creation of the universe, the origins and goals of human life, and the formation of the state, all without reference to divine intervention" – LUCRETUS AND THE EARLY MODERN
Lucretius was a Roman philosopher from the first century BCE who hoped to spread Epicurean philosophy through popular poetry. He presents a worldview that feels now starkly modern, suggesting that the natural world occur follows scientific principles, not the whims of deities. The name of the book hails back to manuscript traditions, before the age of print and the advent of the title page: "De rerum natura" ('on the nature of things') is the opening phrase of the work, the shorthand by which a title was typically known in the age of manuscript.
The work languished for many years, but was rediscovered by Poggio Bracciolini in 1417. This publication contains only the first book; Evelyn had worked on the other books, but permanently stalled on the project after the death of his son. (Lucy Hutchinson translated the entirety of Lucretius into verse in the 1650s, but her work was not published until 1996.)
A key book for observing the English cultural development of modern scientific thought, published only a few years before the formation of the Royal Society in 1660.
Read more: Norbrook, Harrison, and Hardie, editors, Lucretius and the Early Modern; Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.
London: Printed for Gabriel Bedle, and Thomas Collins, 1656. Octavo. 6.5'' x 4''. Modern three-quarter brown calf, marbled boards, raised bands, dark brown goatskin spine labels, speckled edges. Engraved frontispiece by Wenceslaus Hollar after design by Mary Evelyn (slightly trimmed, as common). Latin and English facing text, followed by commentary. Errata at rear. Woodcut headpieces and floriated initials. , 185,  pages. Early ink ownership inscription on recto of frontis, three lines of manuscript notes in likely the same hand on verso of final leaf. Text crisp and fresh.
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