'To restore Britain to its Antiquities and its Antiquities to Britain'

CAMDEN, William. Richard GOUGH (translator, editor). Britannia: Or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent; From the Earliest Antiquity By. William Camden. Translated from the edition published by the Author in MDCVII. Enlarged by the latest discoveries by Richard Gough.

John Nichols, 1789


Folio. 3 vols. Contemporary full polished calf boards, sometime sympathetically rebacked, spines with gilt tools and contrasting red and green morocco gilt lettering pieces; pp. cxlviii + 351 + [xxxiv], frontispiece portrait of Camden, 41 maps, plates and tables of which 18 folding; 598 + [xl], 47 maps and plates of which 26 folding; [iv] + 760 + [ii] + [52], 65 maps and plates of which 17 folding; bindings a little rubbed, occasional spotting with browning to a few leaves, generally very clean, very good. Provenance: bookplates of Michael Tomkinson, Franche Hall, Worcesterhire and Ken Tomkinson of High Habberley House, Kidderminster, to front pastedowns. Michael was a wealthy carpet maker who bought the hall and most of the surrounding village of Franche in 1887. The hall was demolished after his death in 1924, being too large to find a buyer. Ken Tomkinson was a descendant of Michael who continued the family tradition fo carpet making and became a textile historian, founding the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster in 2012.

First edition of Gough's translation of, and revisions and additions to William Camden's Britannia. First published in Latin in 1586, an English translation was issued in 1610 and throughout the following two centuries it continued to be revised and enlarged.

Brought up in London, William Camden was educated at Oxford, before taking up a teaching post at Westminster School, eventually being appointed Headmaster. During his time there he used the summer recesses to make tours of the counties of England and Wales for the purposes of observation and research. He even learnt Welsh and Old English in order to translate inscriptions and ancient texts. In addition he availed himself of the writings of others, amassing an impressive library comprised mainly of History and Law volumes and consulting the libraries of other eminent scholars. Britannia was the first county-by-county topographical guide to Britain, combining detailed maps and plates with descriptions of geography, natural history and archaeology of each area. It is valuable as the first coherent account of Roman Britain, but most important as a picture of the Britain of Camden's time and as an exercise in showing how the past forms the present.