A Monk’s Hidden Erotica

Owen, John. Epigrammatum Joannis Ovven Cambro-Britanni, Oxoniensis. Colegij B. Mariae, (quod vulgò novum vocant) nuper Socij, Quæ hactenus prodierunt libri decem.

❧ Lipsiæ [Leipzig]: Sumptibus Hæred. Thomæ Schüreri, 1620. In Latin. 131 × 79 mm (5.25 × 3 in.). 12mo. [198] leaves. Separate title pages for each section. Printer’s device on the main title page. Previous owner’s ink inscription on title page: Sum Residentia M. Schonfeldt, 1691.” Ink stamp on title page: Franziskaner Kloster Dettelbach.” Ink inscriptions following each section. Underscoring throughout. Good. Bound in vellum, blind tooled on both covers; worn and rubbed. Handwritten spine title, partially faded. Later printed shelf mark at foot of spine. Decorative sewn headbands in alternating blue and white threads. Annotated in an early hand on the front and rear free endpaper. The rear flyleaf reads in part: Cum fex, cum limus, cum res vilissima simus, Unde superbimus, in terram terra redimus.”

The third German edition of John Owen’s complete ten books of Latin epigrams. Owen was born into the Welsh gentry and established a reputation as a wit early in his education. He studied law, and lawyers, as well as other professionals, like physicians, were frequently the target of his bon mots. Owen was immensely popular in England, where he gained the favor of the nobility, to which he dedicated his epigrams: Lady Mary Neville (née Sackville, d. 1612); Lady Arabella Stuart; Henry, Prince of Wales; Charles, Duke of York; Sir Edward Noël; Sir William Sedley; and Sir Roger Owen. His work was also popular on the European continent, though banned by the Inquisition for remarks against the Roman Catholic Church. Owen’s critical stance has been attributed to his efforts to distance himself from Catholic relatives who turned against the English crown.

This, the 1620 Leipzig edition, was the first to introduce an eleventh” book of epigrams, Monosticha Quaedam Ethica et Politica Veterum Sapientum, a rare example of Renaissance Latin literature written for children.” Of interest is their inappropriate (to modern tastes) nature: the gloomy ones that urge the young reader to brace for death’s inevitability, and to mistrust his fellow man, and even more his fellow woman” (Sutton). Scholars now believe this selection of political and ethical wisdom” was lifted from Michel Verino’s Disticha de Moribus and spuriously attributed to Owen.

Vd17 23:297654S


Sutton, Dana F. The Epigrammata of John Owen (Ioannis Audoenus).” The Philological Museum. 1999.

-Bound With-

Schrall, Ignatius :Elisa Ερωτικων [Erotikon] Ignatii Schralli αποσπασμαηον [apospasmaion].

❧ Lipsiæ: Excudebat Andreas Osvvaldus, Anno M.DC.XIX. [1619]. In Latin. 12mo. [32] pp. Woodcut initials and tail-pieces. Colophon: Lipsiæ, Impensis Hæredum Thomæ Schüreri. Excudebat Andreas Osvvaldus. Anno M.DC.XIX.” Minor damage to bottom of title page.

A rare work of erotic verse. The poem is split into 25 sections, each with a separate heading. It opens with a vivid physical description of Elisa, who appears in white and is frequently compared to the brilliance of the sun. Ignatius Schrall narrates how he is driven to insanity and irrationality over his affection for Elisa, who he is trying to be physically intimate with. Essentially, he cannot keep his hands to himself. The eyes and tongue are two more of the lovers’ organs that receive their own sections. In the climactic penultimate section, his desire for bodily contact is either realized or intensely fantasized. The author defends his use of erotic imagery and language in a preface where he defends these feelings and acts are honest and chaste since they are rooted in feelings of love. There is criticism of those who separate the honorable from the beautiful and delightful” (“error vulgi a pulcho & jucundo honestum secernit”) and who command that every mention of love should be made at a distance” (“qui omnem amoris mentionem procul facessere jubent”). The true sin, the author suggests, is in the denial of love and the enforcing of an order against nature. The preface is remarkable in its desire to overturn the dominant moral order by not betraying the better” and destroying the worst” (“ex quo juvenis audivi, meliora prodere concessum non fuit: & satis est, pessima perdere”). The author further seems to revel in what he presumes many readers will see as filth (“Vilitate quoque prosumus”) but also gestures for readers to join him.

Love poetry’s resistance to authority resonates with what scholars have observed in the works of other 17th century poets, like John Donne. There are frequent references to erotic love as light that consumes through burning, destroying the body. In several instances, the poem expresses anxiety about aging and exhorts the characters to live for the present and even to give their lives to each other, and associate their pleasures with death. This association between erotic love and death has been read as emerging sense of what we would now call atheism, rejecting the authority of father and state, religion and church” (Bryson and Movsesian). This is an especially interesting point given that the provenance of the sammelband this work is found in: it hails from the Franciscan convent at Dettelbach, Germany. Donne also used the epigram as a vehicle for erotic poetry, making Elisa’s presence in between works by two epigrammatists suggest this volume would have made a good hiding place for an illicit, openly transgressive work.

There are scant references to this work anywhere, with only a couple of copies in Germany noted in VD17. The book is found in the 1696 catalog for the library of Janus Albinus (thought to be the pseudonym of Johan de Witt or his son, also Johan de Witt), auctioned at Dordrecht by Cornelius Willegaerts. The entry notes that Albinus’s Elisa is also found in a sammelband and it is, as it is here, preceded by an edition of Owen’s Epigrammata, with which it shares a publisher (the third book in the Albinus copy is a description of Westphalia by Werner Rolevinck). There is no suggestion in oclc, VD17, or any other bibliographic reference we could locate that suggests these were issued together, though their appearance together in two different copies (the Dettelbach copy was acquired in 1691, per the inscription on the title page of the first work in this sammelband, and so could not have been the same copy auctioned in Dordrecht) raises that possibility.

The anonymous author claims he is a friend of Zachariah Schurer in an opening letter to him. The Schurer family of booksellers and publishers were active in the 17th century in Witterberg and Leipzig, and there are mentions of the uses and limitations of the popular press in this brief note.

No copies located outside of Germany.

Vd17 23:293100K


Bryson, Michael, and Arpi Movsesian. Love and its Costs in Seventeenth-Century Literature.” In Love and its Critics: From the Song of Songs to Shakespeare and Milton’s Eden. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2017. Web. http://books.openedition.org/obp/4372

-Bound With-

Durfeld, Siegmund :Sigismundi Durfeldi[i] Halâ-Saxonis. Parergon Rostochiense, Exhibens Epigrammata, operis succisibus, in Acad. Rostochiensi, scripta & elogium Germaniæ.

❧ Rostochii: Typis Ioachimi Pedani, Sumptibus Joh. Hallervordei Bibliop. R., 1619. [36] leaves. Signatures: a–d12

Latin epigrams by Durfeldi, issued as the third part of Arbuscula Parnassia but, in this sammelband, precedes the first two parts. Dedicated to Konrad van der Tanne. The collection of brief Latin verse includes lines on a young virgin married (unwillingly) to Priapis, a eulogy on the death of Maria Goldstein, and several works in praise of German nobility and Germany in general; this last theme is central to the concluding entry, which is an elegy to Germanness.

Vd17 23:284070A

-Bound With-

Arbuscula Parnassia tres ramos explicans, I. Emblemata Willichii Westhovii, de Westhofen P.C.C.P. Divo Matthiæ Imperatoru Romanorum augustissimo sacrata. II. Militiam Hominis Christiani carmine Heroico à Ric. B, accuratè descriptam. III. Epigrammata Sigismundi Durfeldii, quinus Elogium Germaniæ in prosâ annexum est. Quæ singula argumentatorum diversitate, sententiarum gravitate, latinitatis puritate, & suavi brevitate vehementer lectorem oblectar possunt.

❧ Rostochii: Apud Joh. Hallervord. Bibliop., 1619. In Latin. 12mo. [24] leaves. Signatures: a–b12.

One hundred epigrams on sundry topics, from famous poets, to mad women” (“rabiori foemina”), to the return of youth. Followed by a poem on Christian military men” dedicated to the Prince-Electors of Germany (a dedication nearly as long as the work itself).

Oclc reports no copies outside of Europe.

Vd17 23:284065G


In stock

Stock Code: 1447A17 Collection: Catalogue:


For more information or to request additional photographs, please send an e-mail.

Search our Inventory

Stay in Touch

Join our mailing list to be the first to hear about new catalogue relases, upcoming events, and special offers. 
logo of mark funke bookseller with white letters "mf"