Special Collections acquires rare 16th-century editions of Vergil and Calvin

Vergil and Calvin

In 1513, Gavin Douglas, a son of the fifth Earl of Angus, completed his translation of the Aeneid, Vergil’s epic account of the founding of Rome, into Scots, a dialect of English spoken in the area around Edinburgh and Glasgow. Written in heroic couplets, this work was the first metrical translation of a classical work to appear in English and was much acclaimed in its time. At the end of the poem, Douglas tacked on his translation of the so-called “Thirteenth Book” of the Aeneid, a continuation of Vergil’s poem written by Maffeo Vegio in the 15th century.

After circulating in manuscript for many years, Douglas’ poem was finally published in 1553 as The XIII Bukes of Eneados of the Famose Poete Vergill Translatet out of Latyne Verses into Scottish Metir. LSU Libraries’ Special Collections recently acquired a copy of this important work. Of particular interest in this copy are the numerous marginal notes in several early hands, as well as a page of handwritten notes pasted in at the end of the book which appear to pertain to word choices and spelling.

Another new acquisition is a rare 1548 edition of the philosopher and Protestant reformer John Calvin’s The Mynde of the Godly and Excellent Lerned Man M. Ihon Caluyne. First published in Geneva in 1543, this is Calvin’s scathing attack on French Protestants who avoided persecution by outwardly conforming to the Roman Catholic Church. It was the second of Calvin’s works to appear in English and is one of only nine surviving books to have been printed at Ipswich by John Oswen, whom King Edward VI had authorized to print religious texts, including works by reformers like Calvin.

With the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth coming up in 2009, Special Collections is pleased to announce its acquisition of this exceptionally rare book.

— Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books

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