Poetry first editions and rare books as well as plays - many signed by the authors and/or illustrators, as well as deluxe limited editions. UK, Irish & American first editions. Condition is key for selection to our carefully curated collections.
First Edition Poetry Books
Poetry is as diverse as it is ancient, with different poetic traditions originating from across the globe, developing over centuries. Its lengthy history incorporates a number of forms and styles, from the epics of the ancient world, to abstract modern poetry, and it is one of the oldest forms of written word. Throughout its history, poetry has always addressed a wide array of themes and had a dedicated interest surrounding it, and many of its most famous and important figures are still well-known names today. The collection here collates some of the best rare and signed poetry books, covering a range of eras and subject matter, with editions for poetry lovers and poetry books for beginners.
One of our rare poetry books is an edition of T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a book of whimsical poems that became the basis for the beloved West End musical Cats. Eliot is best known as the author of The Waste Land, a modernist poem about the contemporary British society after the first world war, and a feeling of disillusionment, but the poetry in this book takes a much more lighthearted approach and is more aimed towards children. We have two editions; a US first edition from 1939 and UK First edition from 1939, with an inscription, both highly collectable books.
In our collection of modern poetry books, we also have several anthologies of poems by Carol Ann Duffy, who was Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2019. Featured among these are collections of poetry books about love and poetry books for kids, which are lighter and often humorous in tone.
Among classic poetry books, we also have books of poems by Romantic poet Lord Byron, known for his development of the tragic protagonist named the ‘Byronic Hero’, based on his own persona as well as characters in his writing. A controversial figure in his time, his poetry has stood the test of time and he is still acknowledged as one of the greatest writers of the Romantic era, along with Percy Shelley, John Keats, and Mary Wollstonecraft. This selected anthology of poems is one of the best poetry books for delving into Romanticism and 19th century writing.
We have a couple of collections of Oscar Wilde’s poetry, written at the end of the nineteenth century among our antique poetry books. Oscar Wilde is perhaps best known for his plays and the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and for his focus on aestheticism and decadence. The poetry books featured are mainly his latter works, and long poems written after his imprisonment.
In addition to rare English books, the collection is also home to several poetry anthologies from Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. An acclaimed poet, he was also famous for his translation of the Old English epic poem Beowulf, with his version being one of the most canonically accepted translations.
Another of the modern poets among our famous poetry books is a selection of poetry anthologies by 20th century poet Ted Hughes, a figure celebrated and condemned in equal parts. All of these books are first editions in excellent condition, many of them very beautifully produced, and several of them are also signed by the poet or the illustrator, making them especially unique editions. In addition to these, we also have a few books of poetry and correspondence by Sylvia Plath, the American poet and novelist best known for her development of a ‘confessionalist’ style and for her novel The Bell Jar.
First Edition Plays
Before novels became more widespread, theatre and plays were some of the most popular forms of entertainment. Among the first edition plays, we have works written from the 16th century up to the present day. Though most plays are dramas intended to be performed before an audience, there is still immense joy to be gained from reading the written manuscript, and there are some playwrights who have no preference as to whether a play is read or performed.
Some of the most notable plays we have in the collection include that of John Heywood, a renowned 16th century poet and playwright. His plays were known for their witticism, and their religious and social commentary for the time, and he served under Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. He is also known for coming up with many proverbs and epigrams which are still commonly in use today, such as ‘All is well that ends well’ and ‘Rome was not built in one day’, among many others.
William Shakespeare is probably still the best-known English playwright, with his work still being admired and performed centuries after it was written, with new adaptations finding relevance in his writing to modern-day life. In the collection we have some Folio Society editions of Shakespeare’s plays, mainly dramas and historical plays, beautifully bound and in fine condition, as well as a collection of his sonnets.
Among our modern plays, we also have several Samuel Beckett plays and collections, notable for their impersonal and tragicomic style. These include a signed copy of his Poems in English, which is a particularly special edition, and a Folio Society edition of Waiting for Godot, arguably his most famous work.
In addition to this, we also feature some of the work of Alan Bennett, the modern humorous playwright known for plays such as The History Boys, whose plays gained acclaim at the Royal National Theatre, and have received numerous accolades.